The Symbiosis International University (SIU) has decided to send Anupam Siddhartha, director of the Symbiosis Centre for Media and Communication (SCMC), on leave pending an inquiry. The decision comes a day after it received a petition signed by 106 students, both current and alumni of SCMC, who gave graphic details of years of alleged harassment and abuse at the hands of the SCMC director.
Confirming the development, Vidya Yeravdekar, principal director of SIU, said, “There was already an internal complaints committee, which had been set up to look into the allegations raised in the past, some of which were against Siddhartha for not taking action on complaints of harassment against other faculty and in earlier cases. However, in the midst of this, we recieved this letter on Friday evening, signed by 106 students. While Siddhartha was known to be a disciplanarian, some of the allegations were shocking and we immediately referred it to the ICC, who called him on Saturday for investigations. Based on the recommendation of the ICC, which has said that he should stay away from campus duties pending an inquiry, he will be sent on leave from Monday.”
Over the last 10 days, SCMC has been caught up in its MeToo moment, as several accounts of alleged sexual harassment faced by students of the campus from classmates, faculty and even during internships have come out on social media. Students have sent more than 200 suggestions to end the “toxic” culture on campus.
An internal complaints committee was also commissioned to look into the allegations of sexual harassment against faculty members and students, including allegations against Siddhartha, which claimed that he was aware of the incidents and didn’t take any action.
In the midst of this, a petition was mailed to SIU’s dean of academics and administration, Dr Bhama Venkatramani, which was signed by over 100 students. The petition stated that the “sudden outburst by SCMC Pune students regarding sexual harassment and abuse cases is due to bigger, institutionalised structures of unadulterated power and bullying, which continue to be actively perpetrated and promoted by Siddhartha”
From incidents like allegedly threatening female students that they will be dragged out of the college campus by their hair to personal comments on dressing and make-up , the director has been accused of manipulating students psychologically, and even accused of ragging students.
Yeravdekar confirmed that this was an interim action by the institue and the ICC investigation was still ongoing. “We will announce the final decision after receiving the ICC’s complete report,” she said.