The St. Xavier’s University in Kolkata is under heavy fire currently after it came out that they forced an assistant professor to resign from the institute after the father of a student complained against her.
Now, you might think that there is nothing wrong with that, perhaps the teacher was at fault and did something harmful to the student. However, the complaint made against the teacher was quite strange and was an invasion of privacy along with blatantly misogynistic rather than any actual wrongdoing.
A Teacher’s Instagram, A Father’s Complaint
This whole issue started last year in 2021 when on 7th October, Nandini Guha (name changed on request) a then assistant professor at St Xavier’s University (SXU), Kolkata was told to present herself for a meeting with vice-chancellor (V-C) Felix Raj that day.
The meeting started at 4.30 pm and when Guha entered the conference room there were 6 more people besides just the V-C, among them, included the registrar of the university Ashis Mitra and her departmental colleague and head of the gender cell of the university, Medha Bhadra Chowdhury. The other four women were members of the university’s ’emergency committee’.
It is here that she was told of a complaint made against her by a first-year male undergraduate student’s father. Apparently he found his son looking at some images of Guha that he felt “bordered on nudity” and were ‘vulgar’ according to him.
The man called B.K. Mukherjee by the institute in his complaint wrote “Recently, I was appalled to find my son looking at some pictures of Prof. [Guha*] where she has posed in a sexually explicit way causing deliberate public exposure.
To look at a teacher dressed in her undergarments uploading pictures on social media is utterly shameful for me as a parent, since I have tried to shield my son from this kind of gross indecency and objectification of the female body… It is obscene, vulgar and improper for a 18 year old student to see his professor dressed in scanty clothes exhibiting her body on a public platform.”
The teacher in her defence stated that the images were never meant for public consumption and never shared directly with that or any other student. She explained that the images were uploaded to her private Instagram account as ‘Stories’ and this was before she had even joined the institute. She raised questions on how the student got their hands on those photos since Instagram Stories expire after 24 hours.
As per The Wire, she stated that “There were two pictures of me in a blue swimsuit taken in my room which I had posted as an Instagram Story in June 2021, nearly two months before joining SXU. There was no way those photos could be still accessible since an Instagram Story, by default, is live for only 24 hours.
Moreover, my Instagram profile is ‘private’ and not ‘public’, thus only those whom I accept as my followers can view my posts and pictures. Those two pictures could not have been viewed by the said student in October, 2021.”
Guha made a police complaint against the university Purba Jadavpur police station on October 24, 2021 and stated that she was forced to resign and the process was almost to the level of “sexual harassment and deliberate character assassination.”
During her meeting with the V-C and others, besides the written complaint, her images that were found objectionable were also circulated in the room and she was asked to confirm if these were hers or not.
She stated “It is a mystery to me till date how the university accessed those pictures. I felt so distressed and humiliated at that moment that I couldn’t bear to examine the rest of the pictures. I was in a meeting where my private pictures were being circulated among people unknown to me, without my consent.”
Further, Guha also recalled how one of the committee members told her that she “had a duty to society to appear appropriate, and it was objectionable to put up such posts which might corrupt the minds of young men,” while she was a part of the institute.
In her police complaint, Guha said that “The only way in which such Instagram Stories can be accessed by other parties is by hacking or if someone had taken screenshots of the pictures when they had been posted and subsequently circulated them…”
Guha speaking to The Wire said that “For close to an hour, I was slut-shamed and harassed…” and when she submitted an apology letter for “offending members of SXU by her social media posts” the V-C essentially told her to that she could either be fired or she voluntarily resign since her images had already gone viral among the students.
On 25th October 2021, she chose to resign from SXU. When in March 2022 Guha sent a legal notice for SXU, Kolkata to provide “a copy of the complaint letter from the guardian, the minutes of the meeting of October 7 and other relevant documents” the university said that the notice had ‘false, frivolous, fabricated and ill-motivated allegations’ and denied any of the allegations made against them.
On top of all that the institute, as per The Wire, not only asked for an unconditional apology from the teacher but also “compensation of Rs 99 crore for ‘causing immense and irreparable damage’ to the university’s ‘good name, fame and goodwill.’”
Read More: “Was Forced To Remove Her Bra After The Metal Detector Beeped”: Female Students Asked To Remove Innerwear Before NEET Exam
This issue has been raised up again on social media, with a lot of people bashing the institute for discriminatory practices and wrongful harassment of a female employee.
The invasive nature of the complaint, where the teacher clearly said that the images were private and not meant to be seen by the general public, and yet the student got their hands on it somehow, and in all of it is the teacher who has to bear the humiliation and professional consequences without even doing anything wrong.
All this certainly raises some very important topics for us to look at and correct within the society.
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Feature Image designed by Saudamini Seth
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