I write this piece with a lot of pain and fear. I write this piece to talk about rampant sexual abuse in private universities in India. As a student from a private university in Sohna, Gurgaon (the institution runs more than 40 educational institutes all over India especially in Delhi NCR region), like many other young minds, I joined the undergraduate program with a lot of dreams and enthusiasm. However, that dream has shattered.
In the previous semester, a teacher joined in the Department of Travel and Tourism. He soon started approaching a female faculty member who had joined around the same time as him. When she refused to engage with him sexually, he started blackmailing her and also threatening to harm her physically. As a result, she is traumatized and quite bewildered. In good sense, she warned the students about him and advised us to avoid him as much as possible. Thankfully, this female faculty is extremely student-friendly and always tries to help us in whichever way she can. But she is clearly unable to stop the sexual harassment of students at the hands of the man.
He is hounding us and making untoward advances. Just before the end of semester examination, he asked me to accompany him to an out of station road trip. When I refused, he insisted and tried to lure me with his brand new car. Later, I heard he made similar advances towards two more of my female friends and when both of them refused, he threatened them with ‘consequences’. He keeps mentioning that his relationship with the Assistant Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science (SOHSS) is “something else” so no amount of complaint will work against him. I am afraid that this is true, because when my friends and I went to report him to the Assistant Dean, who has a PhD in Psychology from IIT Bombay, she refused to listen to us. Till now, we have approached her more than once and her excuse each time is – “I am busy” or “Who knows, you might be lying” or “Go and study instead of wasting time on such trivial things else you will fail in your semester exams”.
This is a classic example of how patriarchy is dominated by men and channelized through women. Here, the male professor with his candid sexual advances is clearly exploiting the patriarchal structure of a male-dominated society through which he draws his power. He is effectively exercising his power through a female boss – the Assistant Dean of the school, who unleashes authority on her students because she holds a chair that legitimizes power. The students stand at the bottom of the power structure, thereby, the worst victim.
To add to our misery, there is no gender sensitization or sexual harassment cell in the entire university where we can report our case of repeated sexual harassment by a male professor on students and faculty at large. There is no active students’ forum either.
Under such circumstance, through this piece, I would like to inform the University about the male professor and the shameless shielding of a sexual predator by the Assistant Dean of the School. If she keeps shielding him like this, we will stay very scared and traumatized just like our female faculty to even step into the university premises as the new session begins next week. The Assistant Dean must realize that by siding with a perpetrator, she is equally participating in the offence and could be implicated too.
In the wake of sustained inaction and deliberate shielding of a sexual predator by the Assistant Dean of School of Humanities and Social Science of my university, I am left with no choice but to tell the world about my #MeToo moment. I stand in support of all survivors and feel responsible to carry forward the conversation around sexual harassment at educational institutions.
*Name of the writer has been changed to protect identity. The writer is a student of humanities and social science at a private university in Gurgaon.