The findings have been forwarded to the college principal, to take action against the erring professors.

2 Madras Christian College profs found guilty of sexual harassment by internal panelImage for representation
news Sexual Harassment Friday, April 26, 2019 - 18:04

The Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) constituted by Chennai’s Madras Christian College has found the two professors accused of sexual harassment, guilty. The professors – R Raveen and Samuel Tennyson – faced accusations of harassing students during a recent college trip.

In a report – a copy of which was given to the students and the Board of Directors on April 24 –  the committee stated that professors Raveen and Tennyson’s actions amounted to sexual harassment. “…it is the unanimous finding of the committee that the actions of the respondents, Dr Raveen and Dr Tennyson did constitute sexual harassment by creating a hostile work/study environment that resulted in gender discrimination against complainants,” said the report, adding that the committee is forwarding it to the principal for appropriate action against the two professors.

Speaking to TNM, the students said that they are happy with the way the ICC has conducted the inquiry, and its observations. They also stated that they will now wait for the principal of the college to act upon the report of the ICC.

“We will give them a week or more to decide on the action that will be taken. Our aim is to make sure that this ends with our batch, and future batches do not have to face such harassment. It has been going on for 20 years now and it has to stop,” a student said.

Inappropriate behaviour during college trip

The issue relates to multiple cases of sexual harassment levelled against two professors in the Zoology department of the college – R Raveen and Samuel Tennyson – by the students. In February, the two professors had accompanied a group of 50 students to Karnataka for an excursion, when they sexually harassed many of the women.

Speaking to TNM, students from the college recounted that Raveen had passed lewd comments at the students, asking girls to wear more revealing outfits.

“One of my hostel mates who went on the trip stated that Raveen had also barged into one of the girl students’ rooms, and slept next to her,” said a student who wished to be anonymous.

According to a male student from the Zoology department who has been at the forefront of the protests, at least eight girls have face verbal harassment and sexual abuse from both Raveen and Tennyson. “They have touched three or four girls inappropriately. On the last day, when another girl and I fainted due to exhaustion, Raveen attempted to feed her food despite her telling him she was uncomfortable with it. When this girl bent down to take her water bottle, he touched her leg and neck and told her he’d help take the bottle. She even asked him to leave the room multiple times, but he continued with the behaviour,” the student recounted to TNM.

Regarding Samuel Tennyson, the other accused, several complainants stated on record that he stared at them and passed lewd comments during the trip. He even enabled Raveen’s behaviour and openly kept telling girls “to go to Raveen,” the student added. During the trip, Samuel Tennyson also told one of the girl students that he wanted to ‘correct’ her – hit on her and get her to like him – the boy recounted.

Anonymous complaint to HOD

Following the trip, an anonymous complaint was collectively filed by the students who faced harassment from the accused to the Head of the Department. When the letter was ignored, 36 out of the 50 students who went on the trip wrote a formal complaint and added their signatures to it.

Following this, the HoD had called the students and conducted an inquiry of sorts. However, sources within the college added that this exercise by the HOD was a ‘joke’. The inquiry ended with the HOD saying that the department will warn the two professors since no previous complaints have been received against the two. He had also promised the students that their exam papers will not be corrected by the accused professors.

HoD lies prompted protests

When the recent incident came to light, students from the 1997-2000 zoology batch shared similar instances of harassment that they faced from Raveen during a department trip while they were in college. However, when the batch complained to the HoD, the accused was ‘suspended’ for 15 days.

“There is no record of this suspension anywhere. When we asked the students of the batch, they said that his suspension had coincided with the summer holidays,” a student told TNM.

“When we realised that the college department lied to us, we began protests. This is when an Internal Complaints Committee was set up and a formal inquiry began,” a student from the college told TNM.

The committee comprising external member Sheila Jayaprakash – a lawyer – held multiple rounds of inquiry. Following this, the committee reserved its findings on the issue for some time, until it released the report on April 24.