Citing the lack of a centralised and transparent system for registering complaints against members of the faculty and staff, the Panjab University Campus Student Council (PUCSC) has been pushing to establish an online portal for registering such complaints at the university since the last four months to no avail.
Meanwhile, many complaints made by students against staff members remain unresolved for months, if not years, or are quashed as they pass through the administrative machinery, according to a member of the disciplinary committee that looks into these complaints.
“We went to the Vice-Chancellor in early November and proposed that we have an online platform where students can make complaints. This way they can choose whether to be anonymous or not, and there will be a transparent system of recording these complaints and eventually resolving them,” claimed PUCSU President Chetan Chowdhary. As of now, there is no way to access the exact number of such complaints registered or to check the status of their resolution, as there is no single avenue through which these complaints are made. “The VC said he will look into the matter, but nothing has happened as of yet. They said they will install places where students can submit their general feedback, but that is not the same as registering a complaint against a professor,” added Chowdhury.
A chairperson of a department at the university claims that most matters are resolved internally within the department, and each department has its own mechanism of dealing with complaints made by students against teachers and non-academic staff. “When I first became chairperson, there was one serious accusation made by a student against a teacher. I realised there was no mechanism in the department to address the issue so I quickly formed a body which would look into such matters efficiently. It is important that students know who to approach,” said the chairperson, while however admitting that most students always fear making a complaint against a teacher because they don’t trust their complaint will be kept discrete, and worry that the staff member they complain against will abuse their power to be vindictive in the future.
Mandeep, a student of sociology at the university said that he does not even know if there is a mechanism for registering complaints against teachers and non academic staff members. “I mean one could always speak to the chairperson informally, but I don’t know if there is a formal mechanism. Even if there was one, I would hesitate to complain because of the power differential between students and teachers,” he added. Another student, who has now left the college, claims that she had filed a complaint against a professor for misconduct five years ago, but the professor faced no punitive action. “I am sure my complaint is rotting away somewhere, I haven’t heard back from the administration about it and the professor and his reputation remain unscathed,” said the student.
Dean, University Instruction, Shankarji Jha, stated that the mechanism for registering complaints is simple and accessible. “One makes a complaint to the chairperson or to my office and if it is serious, we pass it on to the committee which is formed every year by the syndicate to look into such serious charges. After that it again goes through the syndicate and you know the rest of the procedure,” said Jha, confident of the efficiency of the system, which can be termed haphazard by many.
“It is all very vague. Most of the complaints are squashed by higher ups even before it reaches our committee. There are so many students whose complaints just keep piling up for years and nothing is done,” said a member of the committee, on the condition of anonymity. The member claimed that most senior administrative members are afraid about tarnishing the university’s reputation that their energies have been channelled towards quashing complaints rather than addressing them through a proper and transparent mechanism.
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