#MeToo: Former TISS student accuses professor of sexual misconduct

Oct 28, 2018, 07:20 IST | Pallavi Smart

In FB post, student says prof forced her to sit on his lap, pleasured himself

#MeToo: Former TISS student accuses professor of sexual misconduct

A social media post by a former student from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) made a shocking revelation, regarding assault on campus at the hands of a professor. According to the post, between 2004 and 2006, there were several instances when the complainant, who was an MA student, was repeatedly assaulted by her professor during her thesis. After finding out about the social media post, the institute immediately reached out to the complainant.

The post, which went viral on Saturday, is by Preethi Krishnan; she has named the accused, Prof P. Vijayakumar, who continues to be faculty member with the institute. "To put my name in public, like this, is hard," she writes. "All the women who listened and participated in the #MeToo movement, led me to my moment of courage, and so, let me say it. P. Vijayakumar abused his power as my graduate advisor in TISS, exploited my vulnerable position, and sexually harassed me."

Krishnan has further written, "I went to speak to VK about my research. At the end of our discussion, he suggested that I drop by his apartment that night... This time, I knew there was something wrong because he implied that he would be alone. There was alcohol, but I cannot remember if I had any. At some point, he tried to kiss me. I remember telling him that this was wrong since he was married. At that time, I wasn't cognisant of the actual 'wrong' happening in that moment — the abuse of power." She continues writing, "After that night, there were a few more encounters, in his office and his apartment.

I have erased many details from my memory. I do remember the time he made me sit on his lap. When I got up in disgust, he continued to masturbate in front of me. I remember feeling exhausted at his sex jokes. I remember my discomfort as he talked about how his penis grows." While commenting on the power structure in academia, she states, "VK could easily claim that these encounters were 'consensual'. He may even have many appeasing emails from me. I accommodated him in person. I thanked him in my TISS MA thesis acknowledgment, after all. VK also wrote the recommendation letter for my Purdue admission (see how Academia keeps power structures in place?). Saying NO to someone in authority was extremely difficult for me at that time."

Director of TISS, Prof Shalini Bharat, said, "Our institute takes this seriously. Necessary action will be taken after completion of inquiry." The TISS students' union has expressed solidarity with Krishnan. Jit Hazarika, president of the students' union, told mid-day, "We demand that the administration takes required steps in the case. We are appealing to other former and current students, as well as current students of the same professor, to approach if they too feel any trouble." Prof Vijayakumar hadn't responded to our calls till the time of going to press.

Also Read: #MeToo: Innocent Till Proven Guilty, Say Mumbai Institutes

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