Dismayed with ACJ, students demand better handling of sexual harassment cases

This comes after a petition asking the institute to launch a probe into the complaints made against Sadanand Menon was made public.
Dismayed with ACJ, students demand better handling of sexual harassment cases
Dismayed with ACJ, students demand better handling of sexual harassment cases
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A section of students of the Asian College of Journalism put out a post on Medium, on Wednesday, demanding a “more robust policy against sexual harassment” with regard to the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against adjunct faculty member Sadanand Menon.

The statement detailed the chronology of events that led to the post being put out.

“In October 2017, Sadanand Menon’s name appeared on The List of Sexual Harassers in Academia (LoSHA). Menon acknowledged this in his class the next day. ‘There is a list going around with my name on it. If anyone here wants to talk about this, we can,’ he said. Menon proceeded—in his official capacity as a professor, using a platform provided by ACJ—to deride the list and speculate as to who put him on it. The class remained divided in their opinion,” said the post, adding he went on to speculate who could have put his name on the list.

At that time, Menon “attributed it to a misunderstanding arising out of differing values associated with sexual freedom,” says the statement.

However, in January 2018, when TNM published an article by Neerja Dasani, detailing her experience with a prominent culture critic. “While she did not name Menon, her description of the event made it clear whom Menon had been talking about in class. The ex-student’s account was at odds with Menon’s. The lines of consent which had been violated were far clearer in her telling. Various sources (including the ex-student herself), confirmed that she did not put Menon’s name on the list,” reads the post.

When they got in touch with her, the students say they learnt that although she had filed a complaint with the ICC, she hadn’t yet received a reply.

“Out of concern for students’ safety, we began a correspondence with the administration about their policies and committee...Contact details for ICC members and the process for filing a complaint were furnished only on the college website. One individual didn’t even know that they were listed as a member of the ICC, leading us to believe that the ICC was dormant,” details the post.

At the students insistence, the ICC was constituted “but ACJ had only agreed to the most cursory changes in their system”.

However, as more complaints against Menon surfaced, and with the college refusing to order an inquiry based on the ex-student’s complaint, the students called for an open meeting.

Here, the post says, “We specifically mentioned that we did not want the ICC to investigate anonymous complaints, but requested them to go beyond their legal ambit and address the ex-student’s complaint in light of this brimming whisper network about Menon.”

The demands made by the students included, allowing third parties to file a complaint, reaching out to ex-students to uncover more cases of sexual harassment against current faculty members and have student representatives on the ICC.

But, the post goes on to detail, “the attitude of some members towards the allegations against Menon were very troublesome. The new Chair of the ICC at one point told us to consider the man’s reputation before making these claims, even though we mentioned these were first and second-hand accounts that had been verified with journalistic rigour. Several times members told us to ‘name names’ and asked why the victims wanted to be anonymous and why they would complain after so many months. We were constantly asked why said victims haven’t filed a police complaint as yet. The Chair also bizarrely asked a student what she would do if her friend was accused of being a sexual harasser.  Other than this dismaying attitude towards gender justice, we felt that ICC members were constantly stonewalling us and refusing to engage by stating "it is the law". This despite the fact that the members confessed they are not familiar with the law and will consult with the legal counsel.”

It adds, “On March 28, we received a letter from the ICC dismissing the complaints against Sadanand Menon as defamatory and blaming us for using the meeting to make “shockingly wild allegations”. We were further told that our attempt to hold the institution accountable for who it employs, while the person in question has himself discussed his involvement in a sexual harassment incident, was an attempt to character assassinate.”

After the survivor’s statement surfaced, Sashi Kumar, Chairman of the college, denied having anything to do with the ICC or its proceedings. The students, however, allege that this was not the case. “It was clear to us that he was aware of them, and was receiving the emails we wrote to the ICC. Within ten minutes of our meeting, the Committee met with Kumar in plain sight of students,” the post reads.

This post comes after several prominent members of the media from Chennai and students of the college signed a petition asking the college to launch a probe into the complaints made against Sadanand Menon.

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