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At Symbiosis, Students Who Spoke Against Sexual Harassment Denied Recommendation Letters

Symbiosis Law School is allegedly withholding Letters of Recommendation (LoR) from former students and alumni that came out against the eviction of two girls, who accused a professor of sexual misconduct.

About a month ago, two students of Symbiosis Law School at Hyderabad, Apoorva Yarabahalli and Snigdha Jayakrishnan were evicted from their college hostel rooms on account of allegedly ‘manhandling’ the staff. Coincidentally, this was done right after they went live on social media accusing a faculty member, Asst. Professor Srinivas Methuku, of sexual harassment and misconduct.

This was promptly followed by several reports and articles written about the same. Adding to this, over 600 alumni of Symbiosis Deemed University came forward in support of the two students, seeking clarity over exactly how the management was handling the issue and expressing their concern over the eviction of the two students.

This was done in two letters, signed by hundreds of former students of the college. The first letter was sent to the College’s Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor on October 30 2018, and the latter was sent to the Registrar of Symbiosis Deemed University on November 8 2018.

Now, strangely enough, the college is refusing to hand out the Letters of Recommendation to hundreds of its former students, and the common factor that all these students share is the letter, that was sent to the college authorities regarding the eviction of the two students.

The students, out of respect for their alma mater, chose to retain information on what specifically was written in those emails, but it’s sufficient to say the college didn’t reciprocate the good gesture as the LoR requests are going unheard.

The administration allegedly, is flat out looking past them or in some cases, even denying them. With each passing second, deadlines for applying to most reputed colleges are coming close and it’s a crucial time for these students.

While in conversation with Live Law, students claimed that even after following the long procedure given on the website for requesting the LoR, their requests are still not being met with. In fact, most of the students claim that the professors who previously agreed to give them the mentioned letters are now going against their word, some citing their inability to gain permission from their director, Dr. Shashikala Gurpur, as the reason.

There’s also talk about an alleged notice being circulated which states that every faculty member who is being approached for a LoR has to run the particular student’s name by Ms. Bindu George, the director’s assistant.

In the same conversation, the students have also stated the following, “Our director is holding the vengeance on Pune campus students who have pointed out her fault during the Hyderabad campus’ #MeToo episode. She has instructed all the faculty members to not issue any LoRs to any student without her consent. She has even taken away the independence of the rest of the faculty members. Freedom of speech is just preached but not practiced in this institution under her reign.”

Another student also mentioned how the students would be granted the requisite documents if they withdraw their support from the two letters, but there’s no real assurance given about this condition.

The same is also being done with academic certificates. Though an LoR can still be denied, in very rare and extreme cases, academic certificates are mandatory for any institute to give out, as it confirms the presence of the student in that particular university. Denial of the same can potentially hamper the student’s entire career.

The Quint also reported how Dr. Shashikala Gurpur messaged a student on Whatsapp saying they couldn’t expect a letter from the college if they didn’t have “faith in the college.”

Disheartened, the alumni are slowly losing out on all hope and faith they had in their alma mater, and are truly distraught how their genuine concern has led them to this situation; and how a university which they were once really proud to be associated with is slowly but quickly destroying their entire lives, just for speaking out.

The institute, however, has issued a statement of truth, explaining their redressal mechanism established under UGC Guidelines and Regulations on their website.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Image source: SLS Hyderabad/Official Website; Ravi Choudhary/Getty
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