Symbiosis Law School has suspended its association with the alumni who had criticised the actions of the institution while dealing a sexual harassment case.

Collage of Snigdha and ApoorvaSnigdha (L); Apoorva (R)
news Controversy Sunday, June 13, 2021 - 15:21

Two former students of Symbiosis Law School Hyderabad have called out the institution for ‘vengeful pettiness’, after the college said they have ‘suspended their collaboration’ with alumni who criticised the college during a sexual harassment case in 2018. Apoorva Yarabahally and Snigdha Jayakrishnan — former students of the institution who had ‘outed’ a former Assistant Professor during the #MeToo movement in 2018 — said that the action of the institution was a ‘tactic of intimidation.’

Apoorva and Snigdha, students of 2015-2020 batch, had led a #MeToo movement against Assistant Professor Srinivas Methuku in 2018. Apoorva and Snigdha had shared screenshots of anonymous students who had complained about Srinivas Methuku’s inappropriate behaviour on their Facebook accounts. In the investigation conducted by the Internal Committee (IC) of the college, eight students who had reportedly deposed before the Committee, accused Srinivas of staring at their breasts. Srinivas then reportedly resigned from his post.

According to Live Law, several former students of Symbiosis Law School received an email on June 11, Friday, a day before the Alumni Meet 2021, where the Alumni Committee of SLS informed them that they have ‘suspended their collaboration’ with the students who had earlier criticised the institution for evicting both Apoorva and Snigdha from the hostel due to "vindictiveness."

“...pursuant to your earlier action against the college authorities, we regret to inform you that as per our records, all collaborations with you have been suspended,” the email read, according to Live Law. On October 12, 2018, a total of 606 former students had written to the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor condemning the actions against Apoorva and Snigdha and demanded a fair inquiry into the allegations. While SLS maintains that they had evicted Apoorva and Snigdha for ‘disciplinary action,’ the action against the students were taken after they raised the issue of sexual harassment in the institution.

The email by the Alumni Committee of SLS carried an attachment of an apology ‘template’, asking the students to sign the apology, if they wish to continue their association with SLS and participate in the Alumni Meet.

Responding to the issue, Apoorva and Snigdha in a joint statement on June 12, Saturday said, “It is expected of every educational institution to provide a democratic platform for expression of dissent on any and every issue, political, social, economical or otherwise. Blind adherence to market forces and profit driven corporate entities should not be the singular agenda, even for a private neoliberal educational institution.”

The statement added, “It is dangerous to assume that eerie silence enforced on the student community will help your reputation. We don't see your attempt to seek apology as anything more than a devious tactic of intimidating independent thinking individuals into submission. But we must tell you, even in the most authoritarian spaces, resistance blooms in minute forms.”

Further slamming SLS, they said, “In these difficult times, when the pandemic has gripped this country, when your current students have gone through enormous pressure to attend classes and write online exams in the face of many tragedies, how could you take out time to punish few of your alumni for a letter written years ago, when you very well know that you don't have any control over them. It's time for you to engage with your students on a personal level and be kind to them . Let us end this vengeful pettiness.”

The Director of Symbiosis Law School, Shashikala Gurpur, has said that 90% of the alumni have given apology letters. “Rest of them want to normalise without accountability. We have moved on but the majority of alumni want these to be held accountable. Hence we shared a template so that the database can be rectified,” the Director told Live Law.

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