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Sexual harassment case at Gujarat institute IRMA takes new turn: Faculty members ask board to hear them

By Nachiketa Desai*
The board meeting of Gujarat’s well-known Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA), is expected to be a stormy on Tuesday with some of the faculty members of the top institute bent on raising the issue of alleged sexual harassment (click HERE to read) of a senior staff member by the IRMA director.
In a letter, a group of faculty members have urged the IRMA board members to give them a hearing saying the director and some anonymous callers have been intimidating the witnesses of the sexual harassment case ever since the victim filed a police case.
"We have received explicit as well as veiled threats even from anonymous callers," the faculty members complained in their letter.
"Over the past few weeks the incumbent director has in many ways tried to coerce and intimidate individual faculty and witnesses putting them under tremendous stress and pressure, issues concerning the safety and protection of the complainant have been raised," the letter said.
"Under these conditions the faculty group strongly feels that they cannot function in a normal manner as long as the current director is allowed to have access to IRMA's resources during pendency of the case." Thus, the faculty members have indirectly sought the suspension of the director.
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Reproduced below is the text of the letter. The names of the faculty members, who have signed it, have been withdrawn on request for anonymity:
"Concerned over the unfortunate turn of events following the recent complaint of sexual harassment fled by a woman employee of IRMA and having utmost regard to gender sensitivity, a faculty group of IRMA met twice (March 31 and April 5, 2017) to discuss and convey its views. The group expressed anguish over the way events have unfolded hurting the image of IRMA and felt that a representation be submitted to the Board sharing the faculty concerns, especially owing to lack of communication between faculty and Board on these issues. It would be immensely helpful for the faculty and the Institute if members of Board of Governors spare time for faculty so that the serious concerns are put forth and draw an immediate attention of the Board.
"The members of faculty brought to light several untoward incidents that have happened following the registration of case with the police. Faculty members, including witnesses in the case, shared that they have received explicit as well as veiled threats even from anonymous sources. In addition, over the last weeks, the incumbent director has in many ways tried to coerce and intimidate individual faculty and the witnesses putting them under tremendous stress and pressure. Issues concerning the safety and protection of the complainant also have been raised. Under these conditions the faculty group strongly feels that they cannot function in a normal manner as long as the current director is allowed to have access to IRMA’s resources during pendency of the case. We urge that the complainant and witnesses be given the necessary safeguards in seeking justice.
"Without doubt, all these have seriously affected the overall morale and functioning of the institute, especially when the crucial admission process of PRM/RPRM is on. The events have their media reporting have put IRMA’s reputation built assiduously over the years under severe scrutiny."
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*Consulting Editor (Political), United News of India

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