On Friday, October 26, Snigda Jayakrishnan and Y.K. Apoorva, two students at Symbiosis Law School’s new Hyderabad campus were evicted from their hostel after they posted on Facebook alleging harassment by assistant professor Srinivas Methuku, including “constant ogling and causing discomfort.” While the college has cited different reasons for their eviction, students, and now alumni from the Pune campus are demanding answers from the Symbiosis management.
The college for its part has released a statement alleging that their actions are based on the two students’ “disciplinary misconduct” in the past. Notably, the statement mention “Defaming the Faculty Members, Institution and Symbiosis System in Social Media” as one of the reasons for their eviction.
The post that Apoorva and Jayakrishnan believe was the trigger for the college penalising them refers to a case in 2015-16 when 60 students unanimously complained about Methuku, Firstpost reported.
Unhappy with the university’s response to those allegations, the students had then filed a formal complaint with the National Commission for Women and Child Development, Ministry of Human Resources Development and the State Women’s Commission on April 1, citing institutional mismanagement of sexual harassment complaints, according to a LiveLaw report.
The letter stated that “an Internal Committee (IC) has never been properly constituted and there [was] no victim-centric mechanism on campus,” Apoorva told Firstpost. Although an Internal Complaints Committee took up the complaints against Methuku after the ministry reached out to the institution, however students said that the ICC posed demeaning questions to the complainants and trivialised their allegations.
While the administration, in a response to the ministry, said that they had “severely reprimanded” Methuku, Apoorva and Jayakrishnan told Firstpost that Methuku was promoted to the head of the examination department soon after this reprimand was issued. A Facebook post by Apoorva claims that Methuku was also made a member of the Symbiosis Law School grievance committee for 2018-19.
A joint statement by the evicted duo posted on Facebook on Sunday states:
On October 25th, Dean of Symbiosis Law School met us and told us we will be rusticated unless we take down our Facebook posts and give an undertaking saying that we won’t repeat it in the future. We didn’t do that. The next day, our parents were called and we were given eviction notices effective immediately. However, no suspension or rustication letters were given to us and we are still unaware of the details of the disciplinary committee action that is said to be taken against us.”
Symbiosis law school alumni from other campuses have also come together to put forward their concerns. On October 30, a group of 606 alumni sent the university’s administration a letter expressing concern about the recent media reports and saying they wanted to open a dialogue with Symbiosis. They have not heard back from the university yet.