A leading private university in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) has been embroiled in an ugly controversy in recent months in News today.
A former assistant professor at St Xavier’s University told the BBC that he had to quit his job after sharing a bikini photo on Instagram, a claim the university denied.
A 31-year-old woman, who requested anonymity, accused university officials of “sexual harassment” and said she was “bullied, vilified and morally cracked down”.
She filed a police complaint and sent a legal notice to the university. The university accused her of defaming her and demanded compensation of 990 million rupees ($12.4 million; £1,050).
“I was taken to the interrogation room.”
The assistant professor says he will join the faculty on August 9, 2021, to teach English to undergraduate and graduate classes.
Two months later she was summoned to the Vice Chancellor’s office for a meeting.
She was “taken into an interrogation room” and interrogated by Vice Chancellor Felix Raj, Secretary Ashish Mitra and a committee of five women.
I was informed that there was a complaint from the father of a first-year male student.
“The vice-principal said his son found this parent looking at pictures of me on Instagram where I was wearing only my underwear. He said they were sexually explicit. , requested the university to save his son from such vulgarity.”
“I found myself gaslit”
The photos of her in the two-piece swimsuit were selfies she took in her room, she said, adding that she shared them as “stories” on Instagram — meaning they disappeared after 24 hours.
However, the commission rejected her explanation that the photo was posted on June 13, 2021. This was about two months before she started college and before she accepted a request from her student to follow a private account.
“I was shocked. When I saw the picture of me having a panic attack, it was surreal that my personal photo was being shared without my consent,” she said. I said to
“Once upon a time, I couldn’t bear to look at pictures of myself. They were presented to me and the conversation around me made them look cheap, even to me. I found myself gaslit.” I realized that I was being harassed and started to feel thwarted.”
“Have your parents seen your picture?”
“She asked me why I did that. As a woman, don’t you think it’s bad? As a professor, isn’t it your duty to society to behave appropriately? Women have a dress code.” Did you know that?”
“They said I was bringing dishonor and shame to the college. They asked if my parents were on Instagram or if they saw the picture. Feeling nauseated and traumatized. I was
She was asked to come back with the report the next day.
Apology and “forced withdrawal”
The teacher returned to the vice-chancellor’s office the next day and submitted an apology “written on the advice of some faculty members, including the head of the Gender Cell — a former classmate and assistant professor at the university who was also a member of her of the panel that asked the question.
“I am sorry if my image was interpreted to harm the reputation of the university,” she wrote.
She said it was a “very unpleasant experience”, but she hoped the problem would end there.
“But the vice president told me that the board of directors unanimously recommended my removal. He said your pictures went viral and most students saw them, but they I didn’t take it seriously and said my parents would complain.
If she doesn’t, “I’m going to jail and I’ll be arrested because my parents wanted to file a police complaint,” he said.
“I felt cornered and quit,” she says.
“However, I was very upset and sought legal advice. Because my photos were downloaded, screenshots taken and shared without my consent, my lawyers have filed a complaint with the cybercrime police. I suggested filing a sexual harassment complaint,” she said.
“We didn’t ask her to stop.”
Father Felix Raj declined to comment on whether the committee recommended her dismissal, but denied all allegations against the university and himself.
“We are a sacred institution of learning and knowledge. As her senior and university president, I told her that those pictures should not be posted.”
Still, he said, “I didn’t force her to resign, she left of her own accord.”
“She sent a letter of apology on October 8th. We accepted it. I thought it was a nice gesture. But then she submitted her letter of resignation on her October 25th. This is the day we resumed after the break of Pooja Her Festival.
“I expected her to go back to work after the holidays. I don’t know what happened in the last two weeks.
When Father Felix Raj was asked about her claim that she probably couldn’t post photos on her Instagram feed after entering college, and her accusations of being sabotaged by faculty, he said, ” I’m not a technical expert,” he said.
“Barbaric Forms of Moral Policing”
His behavior towards teachers has been criticized as “regressive” by many students and former students.
Mr Banerjee told the BBC he wanted the university to apologize to the professor and called on the government to take disciplinary action against the commission’s overbearing behavior.
“I’m glad that many people, like me, are horrified that universities do things like this.
Recently, dozens of university students dressed in black staged an impromptu silent protest outside the university cafeteria to show solidarity with their professors.
“I learned about this barbaric moral policing that one of our professors was subjected to,” said one participant.
“This is completely unacceptable. Why should anyone care what I do in my private space? Our personal space should be inviolable.”
“What’s appalling is that none of the committee members, including the five women, thought this was moral policing,” he added.
“I might not win…”
The teacher in the center of the row said, “I am overwhelmed and grateful for the amount of support” for those who have supported me.
“After months of feeling down, I’m seeing how ridiculous people think it is.”
According to her, the right to privacy and self-expression is inalienable and given to us by the Indian Constitution, and this “surveillance” extends beyond the workplace.
“How did my behavior prior to joining the organization violate social media protocols and guidelines?” she asks.
“My firm belief is that I’ve done nothing wrong. I may not win this, but it’s an important battle for me,” she says.