Published: 29th September 2022
Jadavpur University prof allegedly sexually harassed students for years; formal complaint filed. Officials, students speak up
The students of the Architecture Department together have written a formal complaint to the Pro-VC of the university against the alleged professor, Dr Shivashish Bose
Jadavpur University’s fifth-year students from the Architecture Department have unanimously filed a complaint against one of their professors, Dr Shivashish Bose, for allegedly sexually harassing and misbehaving with female students over the years. The complaint letter lists a number of instances where the professor has been inappropriate with his students. “From taking photographs without asking for our consent to making inappropriate comments to body shame students….A marked and ill-suited attentiveness has been noticed in sir’s inherent observations and comments,” reads the complaint letter which was sent to the Vice-Chancellor and copied to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor.
This complaint letter, which is signed by all the students of the department, comes after two major incidents. The first incident occurred on September 9, 2022, when the professor allegedly clicked non-consensual photographs of a female student during a departmental programme and later refused to delete them. “She was just standing in a corner and the professor kept zooming in and clicking pictures of her. Later, when she requested him to delete them he refused to do so and, in turn, questioned her psychological state of mind for considering this an issue,” said a fifth-year student of the Architecture Department, who was one among the set of students who spoke to EdexLive on the condition of anonymity. She continues, “This girl is one of his targets and he has quite a few of them in the class. It is awkward and uncomfortable to see him around her.”
In the second incident, another female student found herself stuck in a room with the professor who coerced her to meet him there under the pretext of assisting with her thesis, despite her visible discomfiture. She allegedly brought other friends with her to the meeting to avoid any untoward situation, however, the professor insisted that the discussion should be private and proceeded to let the other students out. “He is not even her thesis guide, what is the need for this? In the name of thesis assistance, he had once touched a senior’s thighs and in another instance, someone’s hands,” claims the fifth-year female student from the department.
A repeat offender?
These two incidents were followed by a major uproar amongst the fifth-year students who allege that this behaviour is not new and say that he has harassed both female professors and students over the years. “He would often tell me how beautiful I am and in one instance, for no good reason, he pulled my cheeks. I don’t understand why he would pull the cheeks of an adult woman like that. It was a really uncomfortable experience to attend his classes,“ said a student from the 2008 PG batch. Another student protested about how she received unsolicited advice about her dating life from the professor, “He randomly called me up to tell me how I should secure a commitment from my partner and the physical techniques that would do the trick. It was all very unnecessary.” She further adds, “From crude remarks and casual sexism to suggestive comments and instances of hugging, we have seen it all.”
Students staging protests with posters
Facebook confession page for victims
The students started a Facebook page named “It's_you_Not_US”, wherein, students post confessions anonymously to share the negative incidents they experienced with the professor. The page was created on September 17 and has already garnered 306 likes, 314 followers and 24 confessions from students across batches. A confession from an ex-student read: “He tried to find every single opportunity to touch my face or flirt with me.”
Other confessions were about how he compared architecture to a female body, inappropriate touching and his daily casual sexism. A confession mentions an incident of him asking the bra size and being called out during the #MeToo movement. The confession further goes on to state, “I hear super seniors telling me that he's been doing this for 15-16 years. But again nobody wants to do anything about it.”
Another student from the 2022 batch says how he would ask boys in the department to “score” girls from the Arts department: “In our first year he told our class, 'Most of you are boys, what are you doing in engineering, go to the arts department and Score (girls) And tell me who could score most.' Then he added 'We used to have a competition, who could 'nail' most girls, when we were your age.'"
One confession that particularly sticks out is where a female student from the 2019 batch confesses about the harassment she faced on her review day as a consequence of her refusal to share her contact number or visit his room, “He started asking every detail of my drawing and started rebuking me absolutely for no reasons. Atlast two of the boys from my class told sir to leave me as the review was over but sir told them that 'she should know how it feels when one doesn't keep one's word.' So all the harassment was not because my design was bad ,it was because I didn't go to his room.”
Official complaints and protests
The students took the issue up with their department who asked them to write a formal complaint to the Vice-Chancellor. When EdexLive reached out to the Head of the Department, Dr Mainak Ghosh, he confirmed that the letter was duly forwarded to the authority. When asked about his colleague’s behaviour with female students he said, ”I have personally not received any complaint since I took over the office of the departmental head in June 2021. This is the first time and I’ve duly forwarded it and now the internal complaints committee will look into the matter.” The accused professor has been asked to stop taking the class of fifth-year students, however, he is still continuing to take other classes.
After failing to receive any response from the Vice-Chancellor via repeated emails and visits, the complaint letter was received by the Joint Registrar and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor. The matter has now been taken up by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and they organised a meeting with the students on Thursday, September 22. The date for the next meeting is set after the Durga puja vacation. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof Chiranjib Bhattacharjee, confirmed to EdexLive about receiving the letter and further expressed his disappointment over the issue, “Taking non-consensual pictures of students is not acceptable at all. It is upsetting to hear all the allegations and we are proceeding with the complaint as per UGC rule. Students are demanding immediate administrative action but we cannot go ahead without substantiation by the ICC.”
Another poster put up by the Architecture Department
While the university is awaiting ICC recommendations, the students are also staging protests on the campus with posters and murals. Additionally, the Faculty of Engineering and Technology Students' Union (FETSU) also held a general body meeting with the Architecture Department students on Monday, September 26. SFI member Asif Iqbal of the Department of Computer Science & Engineering stressed the sensitivity of the issue and said, “The issue should be attended to immediately. In the meeting, FETSU decided to issue a deputation to the VC on September 27 for immediate action.”
Other sexual offenders in academia and Raya Sarkar’s list
Sexual harassment has been a pervasive issue on university campuses and academic spaces. On October 24, 2017, Raya Sarkar, a law student who was studying at UC Davis School of Law, published a list of names of sexual harassers in academia on Facebook. The list, which was also called LoSHA (List of Sexual Harassers in Academia) in short, included 75 crowdsourced names from almost 30 higher education institutes across the country and abroad (UK and USA). The 56th name is that of the accused professor, Dr Shivashish Bose.
The list includes the names of nine other professors from Jadavpur University. When we asked a former English department student about the professors from her department who are named on the list, she confirmed their history, “They are big shots and hence, untouchable but it is an open secret that they have forever misbehaved with women in the class. Also, the vehemence to do something is missing amongst the students mostly because no one wants to risk their future career for this.”
Referring to instances like these, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor says, “This is very unfortunate because in other fields, JU is excelling and as a state university, it is competing with the country’s best.”