Hardlook: Committees made to check sexual harassment in colleges, universities falling short of markhttps://indianexpress.com/article/education/gaps-in-the-system-internal-complaints-committees-sexual-harassment-complaints-in-colleges-universities-delhi-hrd-ministry-5156588/

Hardlook: Committees made to check sexual harassment in colleges, universities falling short of mark

Complaints of sexual harassment by two Delhi University students this year have put the focus on Internal Complaints Committees, meant to address such concerns. But with insufficient student representation and scant regard for guidelines, many colleges are falling short of the mark. The Indian Express report

The exact number of complaints was unavailable as the cases are sensitive in nature, officials said. (Illustration: C R Sasikumar)

In February this year, a first-year student of a Delhi University college filed a complaint with the varsity, accusing a teacher of sexual harassment. Alleging that she was being threatened with suspension, she also produced video evidence against the teacher. A week earlier, another student had approached Delhi Police, levelling similar allegations against another teacher.

Both students had approached the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at their college, but in vain. “Nothing was happening. My college president helped me approach university authorities,” said the girl who, two months on, is still awaiting action on her complaint.

The two incidents, and the outrage that followed, prompted DU to send out notices to colleges to mandatorily constitute an ICC, with elected student representatives.

“We have had college complaints committees for several years, but with the university’s orders, students are now being elected,” said R K Gupta, officiating principal of Ram Lal Anand College.

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However, The Indian Express looked at the ICCs across DU colleges — and discovered lingering issues. As per University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines, the ICC should consist of nine members — a presiding officer (ideally a senior woman faculty member); two faculty members; two non-teaching staff members; three student representatives chosen through elections; and one NGO representative or any civil society member familiar with issues of sexual harassment.

However, in at least 14 of 61 DU colleges, there are less than three (in some cases, zero) student representatives on the panel, or there are three who were simply nominated instead of being elected. In at least five colleges, women do not constitute half the ICC members, in violation of UGC guidelines.

Moreover, there is little consistency in the composition of ICCs — at least 17 colleges had less than nine members, while 13 others had more.

All these factors add up to a situation where students are hesitant to approach the panel, or are simply not aware that it exists. Most DU colleges either received no complaints, or received “just one-two” in the last year, officials said. The exact number of complaints was unavailable as the cases are sensitive in nature, officials said.

More alarmingly, even the university ICC does not have student representatives. “There are several departments, so we had to find a way to give representation to all. Formalisation had to be done, and a committee has already been formed. In the next academic session, the election can take place,” said DU proctor Neeta Sehgal.

Anamika Prasad, an ICC member from ARSD College, said they received two written complaints but “informal” complaints are “difficult to deal with”. “We try to counsel these students and work with the Women’s Development Cell to help them,” she said.

Khushboo Chaudhary, who was picked for the ICC at Daulat Ram College by virtue of being a college union member, said lack of student representatives defeats the purpose of an ICC. “Students feel more comfortable approaching the body when their peers are part of it, otherwise there is resistance,” she said.

With the notification of the Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment of Women Employees and Students in Higher Educational Institutions Regulations 2015, it became mandatory for all universities and colleges to constitute an ICC.

While the UGC states that “contact details of members of the ICC and complaints’ procedure should be conspicuously displayed”, several colleges don’t have updated information on their websites. Some have no information at all. Most colleges display names of ICC members with no contact details.

Several principals said this is because the websites are being updated. DDU principal S K Garg said contact numbers of the ICC members were not displayed publicly due to “privacy reasons”.

“The university reported the regulation in the executive council in 2017, but there was a delay. It was only after incidents of sexual harassment came into the limelight that the university stressed on forming committees,” said Rajesh Jha, a political science teacher at Rajdhani College.

Abha Dev Habib, a former executive council member and teacher at Miranda House, said the earlier ordinance 15 (D) of DU was better than the ICC. “Then, teachers and non-teaching staff were elected, not nominated. Now, they are handpicked by the principal, so that becomes problematic. The success of these committees depends on how quickly results are produced, but many view this as something against them and tend to cover it up,” said Dev.

Many students who are on the ICC said they had not been briefed of the functions they are supposed to serve.

In JNU, where the ICC has replaced the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), the new body has come under attack by the teachers’ association and the students’ union.

GSCASH included four elected faculty members of whom at least two were women; four elected student representatives of whom at least two were women; and one elected woman officer as well as one elected woman staff member, among others. In the ICC, only three student representatives are elected; other than that, three faculty members and two non-teaching staff are nominated.

This, they say, makes the body susceptible to administrative influence. Former JNUTA president Ayesha Kidwai said, “Through the process of election (for GSCASH), I could evaluate each candidate for their experience, knowledge, and attitude on the subject of sexual harassment, past record, impartiality, and freedom from pressure from powerful people in the university. With the ICC, I have no chance to make any such assessment and know that the people who serve on it are nominated because they are close to people in power. How can I have any confidence in them?”

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Colleges & Committees

Maitreyi College
Number of members: 7
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3

Miranda House
Number of members: 9
Women: 9
Student representatives 3

Motilal Nehru College (M)
Number of members: 6
Women: 4
Student representatives: 0

Subhasish Haldar, Principal: “Only two student representatives filed nomination so we couldn’t hold the election. We have written to the Proctor asking them to notify the new date but it has not been listed so far. We will write to her again.”

Motilal Nehru College (E)
Number of members: 4
Women: 3
Student representatives: 0
* Principal did not respond to calls, messages

PGDAV College (M)
Number of members: 9
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3
Mukesh Aggarwal, Acting Principal: “We put notice for elections. Three students filed nominations so we declared them elected.”

PGDAV College (E)
Number of members: 9
Women: 9
Student representatives: 3

Rajdhani College
Number of members: 9
Women: 5
Student representatives: 3

Ram Lal Anand College
Number of members: 9
Women: 7
Student representatives: 3

Ramanujan College
Number of members: 9
Women: 5
Student representatives: 3

Ramjas College
Number of members: 9
Women: 5
Student representatives: 3
* However, students allege no election was held. “Students from different departments filled the form, they selected three and their name was put on the notice board,” a student said.

Satyawati College (M)
Number of members: 11
Women: 7
Student representatives: 3

Satyawati College (E)
Number of members: 9
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3

Sri Aurobindo College (E)
Number of members: 7
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3
Monika Rikhi, ICC presiding officer: “Through consensus, students were nominated as we did not receive enough nominations. Now, exams are around the corner; maybe in the next academic session we can have an election.”

Shaheed Bhagat Singh College (M)
Number of members: 10
Women: 7
Student representatives: 3

Shaheed Bhagat Singh College (E)
Number of members: 10
Women: 7
Student representatives: 3

Shaheed Rajguru College of Applied Sciences for Women
Number of members: 9
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3
Payel Mago, Principal: “The election was not held. We had advertised but no student came, so we nominated some good students and asked them to become members.”

Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies
Number of members: 9
Women: 5
Student representatives: 3

Shivaji College
Number of members: 12
Women: 11
Student representatives: 3

Shri Ram College of Commerce
Number of members: 9
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3
Deepashree, ICC presiding officer: “We have been holding student elections to this body for the past three years.”

Shyam Lal College (M)
Number of members: 10
Women: 7
Student representatives: 3

Shyam Lal College (E)
Number of members: 9
Women: 8
Student representatives: 3
Pravin Kumar, Principal: “The governing body is yet to be formed. Once it is constituted and gives approval, we will notify it on the website and the notice board.”

Shyama Prasad College for Women
Number of members: 10
Women: 7
Student representatives: 3
Sadhna Sharma, Principal: “Students were nominated. All students were not present, so we could not hold the election.”

Sri Aurobindo College (M)
Number of members: 4
Women: 3
Student representatives: 0
Vipin Aggarwal, Principal: “We have not been able to conduct election as there was some governing body problem going on, and now students are in examination mode. I called them and had a word.”

Lakshmibai College
Number of members: 9
Women: 7
Student representatives: 3
Pratyusha Vatsala, Principal: “We have co-opted three student representatives from the college students’ union. There are no clear rules that there have to be separate elections for ICC; it just says elected members. Maybe next year we will hold separate elections.”

Sri Guru Gobind Singh College of Commerce
Number of members: 8
Women: 8
Student representatives: 3

Sri Guru Nanak Dev Khalsa College
Number of members: 8
Women: 6
Student representatives: 2
* An official from the college said the students were nominated and not elected. “From this year, there will be elections,” the official said.

Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College
Number of members: 9
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3

Sri Venkateswara College
Number of members: 10
Women: 7
Student representatives: 3

St Stephen’s College
ICC Election held but committee yet to be constituted
Number of members: 3
Women: 3
Student representatives: 3

Swami Shraddhanand College
Number of members: 8
Women: 6
Student representatives: 2

Vivekananda College
Number of members: 9
Women: 7
Student representatives: 3

Zakir Hussain College (M)
Number of members: 14
Women: 8
Student representatives: 3

Zakir Hussain College (E)
Number of members: 9
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3

Acharya Narendra Dev College
Number of members: 9
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3
Manish Jain, ICC presiding officer: “The three student representatives were Gender Champions; they’ve been screened. We got the notice for student representative elections quite late, so it wasn’t possible to hold them. No other student, even by elections, would justify being members of the ICC more than these Gender Champions.”

Aditi Mahavidyalaya
Number of members: 7
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3
Mamta Sharma, Principal: “We had notified elections but we received only three nominations, so they became the student representatives unopposed.”

Atma Ram Sanatan Dharma College
Number of members: 6
Women: 3
Student representatives: 0
Anamika Prasad, member of ICC: “Elections to the student representatives will take place on May 2 so we’ll fill up the slots then. When we got the notification for elections, our college fest was taking place and then the ICC chairperson fell sick, so the process got delayed.”

Aryabhatta College
Number of members: 9
Women: 4
Student representatives: 3

Bhagini Nivedita College
Number of members: 9
Women: 4
Student representatives: 3
Parminder Sehgal, ICC presiding officer: “We only received three nominations for the student representative posts, so they became representatives unopposed. Next year, we hope to have it with DUSU elections so we get more volunteers.”

Bharati College
Number of members: 10
Women: 10
Student representatives: 3

Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Sciences
Number of members: 10
Women: 7
Student representatives: 3
Rizwana, ICC presiding officer: “The current student representatives are nominated, all from the final year, on the basis of their merit, because there were no clear guidelines earlier on. By the time we got the notification, it was too late for elections. From next year we’ll think of holding elections.”

College of Vocational Studies
Number of members: 9
Women: 4
Student representatives: 3

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Daulat Ram College
Number of members: 10
Women: 7
Student representatives: 3
Khushboo Chaudhary, ICC student representative: “Earlier, the body did not have student representatives, but now the college student union members have been nominated. We feel students find it easier to approach the body this way.”

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College
Number of members: 9
Women: 4
Student representatives: 3

Delhi College of Arts & Commerce
Number of members: 9
Women: 4
Student representatives: 3

Deshbandhu College
Number of members: 6
Women: 5
Student representatives: 0

Chandrika Gulati, ICC presiding officer: “We don’t have student representatives, but if we have a case relating to students, we can co-opt students. As per my knowledge, according to the Act, there is no provision for students or their elections, it’s a nominated body.”

Dyal Singh College
Number of members: 7
Women: 5
Student representatives: 3
I S Bakshi, Principal: “We had notified elections for student representatives but we received only three nominations, so they got elected unopposed.”

Dyal Singh (E) College
Number of members: 10
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3

Gargi College
Number of members: 6
Women: 4
Student representatives: 2
Promila Kumar, Principal: “As per guidelines given to us by the university, only two student representatives had to be inducted, so we have done that.”

Hansraj College
Number of members: 9
Women: 5
Student representatives: 3

Hindu College
Number of members: 8
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3

IP College For Women
Number of members: 9
Women: 8
Student representatives: 3

Janki Devi Memorial College
Number of members: 8
Women: 8
Student representatives: 3
Swati Pal, Principal: “There were only three students who sent in their nominations, so it was a walkover for them. Maybe next year, we’ll see more students interested.”

Jesus & Mary College
Number of members: 9
Women: 8
Student representatives: 3

Kalindi College
Number of members: 9
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3

Kamala Nehru College
Number of members: 10
Women: 8
Student representatives: 3

Keshav Mahavidyalaya
Number of members: 9
Women: 5
Student representatives: 3
Madhu Pruthi, Principal, “Out of the nominations we received for student representative elections, only three were valid, so they automatically got selected.”

Kirori Mal College
Number of members: 9
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3

LSR College For Women
Number of members: 7
Women: 7
Student representatives: 3

Maharaja Agrasen College
Number of members: 9
Women: 6
Student representatives: 3
Maneesh, ICC presiding officer: “We had advertised for elections but only three nominations were received, so they were made ICC members. Everyone got a fair chance.”

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M: Morning College
E: Evening College
(Data for B R Ambedkar College & Mata Sundri College for Women is unavailable. The principal of Mata Sundri college did not respond to calls and messages; no information on ICC is available on its website)