Following law student Raya Sarkar’s ‘Name and Shame’ list of professors accused of sexual harassment, student communities, media outlets and teacher unions are holding them accountable for sexual harassment cases. The latest to come under the scanner is Sadanand Menon, an adjunct professor at Asian College of Journalism. He conducts classes in ‘Arts & Culture Journalism’ and ‘Photojournalism’ in the institute.

THE CASE

There have been speculations about what kind of harassment happened and who has accused Menon. To clear this, a woman who was a mentee of Menon a few years ago, wrote down her account of harassment when the Raya Sarkar list came out. She also wrote that the list mentioned a professor who she considered her mentor and like a ‘father figure’.

She did not name the professor. Instead, she wrote about how the incident made her feel and how her thoughts have evolved through the years. She also commented on the “elite, self-protective circle of people, who believe they know what is best for the people of this country and righteously dismiss those who don’t act in accordance to their worldview”.

People who have spoken to the woman knew who the accused was. But his name emerged only when environmentalist and another ACJ professor, Nityanand Jayaraman, posted his stand on the issue, clearly naming Menon. He shared an article by The News Minute naming Menon in the case. He also mentioned that the woman is not the only one who has gone through such an incident, but he has heard several stories involving Menon in sexual harassment cases.

HOW IT INVOLVES ACJ

As the Menon case came to the fore, activists, journalists and ex-ACJ students united to write a statement urging the premier institute to set up an inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment against Menon.

“We were horrified at the stories we heard, especially of those that involved minors and members of the LGBTQI+ community – he had allegedly made sexual advances at people who used the well-known Chennai cultural arena, Spaces, with which he is associated. We found out too that he had done the same in at least one other educational institution where he had taught earlier,” said the statement.

While the incident did not reportedly occur inside the institution and when she was a student of ACJ, the institute still allows Menon as an adjunct professor. Does not having it happen in the institute absolve ACJ of all its responsibility of ensuring safety within the campus?

Jayaraman, in his write-up on Facebook, said, “One should not see the complaint within the narrow framework of law. The Institute is accountable to the 200 odd students that it admits each year, and to their parents. ACJ should not take this public statement as an attack on the institute. Clearly, the manner in which ACJ seems to have shut itself of the case without as much as an enquiry is not becoming of an institute known for its efforts to instill progressive values among its students.”

The woman even lodged a complaint against Menon in ACJ’s Internal Complaints Committee, which it set up after the list came out last year. But even after three months of constant reaching out, the institute said since the incident happened when she was no longer the student, it cannot take it forward.

The ICC forgot to consider that Menon still goes on to conduct his classes in the institute and remains an accused of sexual harassment.

The statement has made a list of demands from ACJ, insisting on ensuring safe environment for students on campus. “This inquiry must not remain a formal procedure but actually lead to appropriate punitive action.”

WHAT ACJ MUST DO

Anandhi Shanmugasundaram, who is also an adjunct professor at ACJ, told SheThePeople.TV, “ACJ must at least come up with a statement that he being the faculty member, the event should not have taken place and that we are ensuring the safety of the students. As an institution, ACJ must take a stand against this incident, at least in writing.”

“In this case, they can only abstractly say that this case will ensure some security, not just from Menon but all faculty members. This is the moral obligation that ACJ should adhere to. Every institute must take cases of sexual harassment seriously, so they must chalk out a plan of action. ACJ must give some warning to Menon that he will not be interacting with girl students in the campus. It must make certain rules for male professors and female students and make these norms public so everyone who joins the institute knows about them.”

ALSO READ: Are Sexual Harassment Cases Silenced on Campuses?

ACJ’s STAND

Responding to all the allegations and question of accountability, ACJ head Shashi Kumar said: “The harassment, as the complaint alleges, happened outside the college and at events that were not associated with the college, nor the students of the college. They should approach the court of law or the right forum,” reported News 18.

“We have not received a single written complaint that alleges harassment in the college. I can’t help thinking that this entire thing is an attack on the college for being a liberal campus,” he added.

This is not the time for ACJ to free itself of accountability because the incident did not happen inside the walls of the institute. It is time for it to show to everyone that it doesn’t just talk the talk of progressiveness, gender equality, feminist ideas but also walks the talk. This is probably the best time for it to at least condemn the situation and make its stand clear that women’s safety comes first for the institution.

Picture credit- Youtube

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