TISS students circulate message to garner support against predator professor
With TISS professor accused of sexually harassing a student in premier institute continuing on campus, students are canvassing for similar accounts from others
With Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) initiating an inquiry into sexual harassment allegations against Professor P Vijayakumar, a message is being circulated among former students, encouraging them to write to the institute if they have had similar experiences with him like the one shared by Preethi Krishanan via a Facebook post on October 28.
Even though after Krishanan's post went viral on social media many ex-students came out in support of her, this message is being circulated so that a pattern can be established and more support can be garnered for her.
According to Krishanan's social media post on October 28, between 2004 and 2006, when she was an MA student, Vijayakumar harassed her during her thesis. She writes, "P Vijayakumar abused his power as my graduate advisor in TISS, exploited my vulnerable position, and sexually harassed me. I went to speak to V K about my research. At the end of our discussion, he suggested that I drop by his apartment that night... I knew something was 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."
She further wrote, "After that night, there were a few more encounters, in his office and his apartment. I remember the time when he made me sit on his lap. When I got up in disgust, he continued to masturbate. I remember my discomfort as he talked about how his penis grows."
The message, which is being sent to former students, reads like a note from the complainant. It says "Thank you so much for your overwhelming support. I'm truly grateful for each one of your comments. The institute's internal committee approached me to address the matter. It will help my case more if we can establish a pattern. I understand that not everyone has had the kind of experience I had, but if anyone can recount such behaviour on the part of V K that was sexually motivated, it will help. One of our seniors has already emailed saying that V K had invited her to his apartment, but she did not go, as she felt uncomfortable around him.
However, it doesn't take away the fact that he invited her." The message further mentions the email address of the committee officer and also ensures that the names of witnesses would be confidential.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former student of the institute said, "Whatever has been posted by Krishanan is very disturbing. It is great that the institute has taken serious note of the issue. The message, which is being circulated among TISSians, is a way of garnering support for the complainant."
Another student shared, "Other students have had weird experiences with the same professor. But since they responded in the negative, they did not face sexual harassment per se. But it is important to speak about these things." When contacted, an official from the institute said, "A formal complaint has been submitted by Krishanan. The case is being investigated."
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