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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Five students protesting against Madras University authorities suspended

The students claim that they were intentionally given low marks or failed during an internal assessment by the HOD as they were part of an earlier protest against a hike in hostel feel.

Written by Janardhan Koushik | Chennai |
Updated: March 22, 2021 9:51:52 pm
The students have been protesting since the last six days outside Madras University. (Express Photo)

Five students, who have been protesting outside Madras University for the past six days demanding action against the head of the Department of Archaeology for allegedly “manhandling” one of their women colleagues, were suspended on Monday.

The students claim they were intentionally given low marks or failed during an internal assessment by the HOD as they were part of an earlier protest against a hike in hostel feel. When they confronted the HOD regarding the marks, the latter allegedly “pushed their female colleague”.

N Mathivanan, the registrar in-charge of the University of Madras, told indianexpress.com that the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) will submit its report on the incident and based on that, they will initiate necessary action.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Siva Prakash, one of the students who have been suspended, said the professor gave them low marks deliberately as they had earlier demonstrated against the administration for a raise in hostel fees. “We protested a couple of months ago. The management had tried to convince us then but we held our ground. Eventually, they accepted our demands and promised that no department would take any action against us.”

He added, “In February, we were out on an excavation trip in Vellore when the University authorities asked us to call them and get out results. There are three ways by which an institute can declare a result —upload it on their website, mail it or put it up on the notice board. When we called, we found that the department had failed some of the students and reduced the marks of others. We approached the Register for re-evaluation but nothing happened. We staged a sit-in and after two days, officials said they will re-evaluate our papers. In the re-evaluation done by a former professor, everyone scored above the pass mark. So, it is pretty clear that the HOD deliberately wanted to fail us.”

The students claimed that the Registrar told them that the department will initiate action within two weeks and re-publish the results, but nothing happened even after four weeks. When the students approached the authorities, they were asked to contact the HOD.

“On March 16, we went to the HOD to get our results. He abused us and asked us to leave. When the victim (the female student) asked for a response, he pushed her on her chest. This happened thrice and when one of my colleagues asked the professor as to why he is assaulting her, he was beaten up as well. We wanted him to apologise for his actions and waited outside his room. He went to meet the Registrar but he didn’t come out for a long time. After a while, he came, took his bag from his room, and was about to leave. We stopped him but again, he pushed us and asked us to do whatever we can.  The girl then approached the university’s sexual harassment cell and lodged a complaint,” he added.

The college has formed an Internal Complaints Committee headed by a former professor. The committee had asked little about the assault she faced and was more focused on the counter-complaint filed by the accused professor against her and other students, the students alleged. The professor has claimed that since he belongs to a lower caste, he is being targeted.

The female student had also released a video and claimed that she has been subjected to harassment.

On Monday, police asked the students to leave, claiming that suspended students cannot stay on campus. The students alleged that the police used force to disperse them, because of which some of them, including members of other organisations like Madhar Sangam who came in support, suffered injuries.

The CPI(M) has called for a protest against police officers for using force on students.

Mathivanan, the registrar in-charge, said the students can appeal against their suspension.

“After the alleged incident on March 16, the students approached us to initiate action against the HOD. A committee, comprising syndicate members, members from Controller of Examination and campus directors was formed. The students wanted a separate committee to inquire into the sexual harassment complaint against the professor but we explained to them that the whole issue started around the examination and hence the committee of campus directors and members of COE were required to be present, but they were not ready to listen to us,” Mathivanan said.

He added, “The students staged a demonstration without seeking any approval. Despite several attempts by the committee, the students did not turn up for the inquiry. The disciplinary committee found them violating each and every norm of the university, including distributing notices around the campus and encouraging other college students to take part in the protest. Taking these things into consideration, the committee unanimously decided to suspend them. However, if they appeal and the committee approves it, their suspension will be revoked.”

On the sexual harassment charge, the registrar said, “The complaint against the professor is being probed and if he is found guilty, the committee will initiate necessary action against him.”

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