Published: 16th August 2022
St Xavier’s Professor Row: Petitions, protests and support pouring in from outside campus
The professor was recently slapped with a defamation notice by the university authorities demanding damage compensation to the tune of Rs 99 crore
After a former assistant professor at St Xavier’s University, Kolkata was allegedly forced to resign over the pictures she posted as her Instagram Stories in October 2021, support has poured in from alumni of the university, students of other colleges and gender activists. In fact, over 21,700 people have signed an online petition that demands launching disciplinary action against Felix Raj who is the Vice-Chancellor of the university.
While students of the university have shown solidarity with the professor by organising protests on the campus, students from other colleges as well have also been protesting. “On August 10, different student-run and women organisations held a protest in front of the Park Street campus to show solidarity with the professor,” said Jhelum Roy, a gender activist who was also involved in the protest. The way the professor was terminated was wrong in all ways, she added. “It was wrongful termination of work and violation of a woman’s right to work,” she said. Additionally, she also called out the surveillance of how a woman would conduct herself even after working hours.
The incident took place in October last year after the father of a student complained to the university authorities that he caught his son engrossed in the swimsuit-clad pictures of the assistant professor, according to a report by IANS. In fact, the professor was also recently slapped with a defamation notice by the university authorities demanding damage compensation to the tune of Rs 99 crore.
Students said that they are concerned about the rise in cases of sexual harassment on college campuses. “Not just St Xavier's, one professor in Jadavpur University was accused of sexual harassment and was temporarily sacked,” said Indrani, a student activist in Kolkata. Student activists are also planning a solidarity march in support of the professor this week.
In fact, an alumni of the university, Gaurav Banerjee also launched an online petition on change.org titled, “Launch disciplinary action against Felix Raj (VC - St Xavier’s Kol) with immediate effect,” which now has over 21,700 signatures. While calling out the university’s actions which forced the professor to resign, the petition also stated that, “Every individual has the right to express themselves as they deem fit in their personal space, and as long as it doesn’t explicitly involve the said University or guardian (it’s understandable if the University got offended at a professor posing in a bikini within the university grounds), no authority figure has the right to morally castigate a person for such causes.”
The alumni also noted that there have been cases of moral policing on campus in the past. “In fact, sometimes women students were told not to wear black bras,” he claimed. The petition and other student activists have demanded that the university issue an apology to the professor and launch disciplinary action against the VC. Additionally, they also said that a Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), that is supposed to address issues and grievances related to sexual harassment, must be constituted in the university. “If there was a committee or a stronger committee (if there is already a committee on campus), then these complaints wouldn’t come about,” said Banerjee.
Additionally, support is also pouring in from Twitterverse and these are some of the top tweets that are doing the rounds:
“This is sexual harassment, and there is no denying it. Moral policing, slut shaming and harassing someone for their private business not only creates a hostile work environment but also shows the absolute misogynistic mindset of the university," said Rutuja, a lawyer on Twitter.
“The NCW should protect this female assistant professor who was forced to quit Xavier’s Kolkata for posting gym photos on Instagram because one of her pupils’ dad found his son looking at her bikini pictures,” said Sonam Mahajan, an activist on Twitter.