Over 1000 alumni of SASTRA University in Tamil Nadu have written to its management seeking immediate investigation and action into the various allegations of sexual harassment against its staff that came to light on social media. They have also demanded that the university put a child protection policy in place to address the concerns faced by students who are less than 18 years of age.
As social media continues to buzz with allegations of sexual harassment by teachers and other staff members in various schools in and around Chennai, several former and current students of the Thanjavur-based SASTRA University also came out with their experiences of similar harassment allegedly at the hands of a few staff members including professors. The experiences ranged from passing sexually coloured remarks to inappropriate touching and violating the physical, emotional and sexual boundaries of the students. The testimonies by several students of the university were collated online by a Twitter user and a former student Ramita Raja. The letter also pointed out that several complaints made to the members of the university management have been allegedly ignored and no action was ever taken on those complaints.
In this backdrop, around 1300 alumni of the university came together to sign a petition seeking immediate response and action from the management on the sexual harassment complaints and also expressed their solidarity with the survivors of trauma from the university staff. The full list of demands made by the alumni to the SASTRA University management included setting up of an Internal Committee (IC) as per the guidelines of Prevention of Sexual Harassment at workplace with elected student representatives and external members. They also demanded that if an IC is already there in the university, then regular sessions be conducted for the students about the procedures, remedies available to them and whom to contact in case of problems. ‚Äú(We also demand) to investigate and take necessary action against the accused professors/ staff irrespective of their current employment status with the university, since the incidents occurred when they were still part of the University‚Äôs faculty,‚ÄĚ the letter added. They also sought that the university set up a child protection policy for the benefit of fresh undergraduate students who are less than 18 years of age.
‚ÄúTo conduct gender sensitisation programs for all the teaching and non-teaching staff, to conduct sexual health and safety awareness programs for all students as part of the orientation program in the first year,‚ÄĚ the list of demands highlighted. They also sought employment of qualified, trained and trauma-informed mental health professionals and to publicise their contact details to all the students.