It’s been nearly a month since Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad made the news for evicting two students after they posted on social media, alleging sexual harassment by a professor, Srinivas Methuku. Since then, the university management’s problems have only gone from bad to worse. Now, several alumni are saying that Symbiosis Law School is refusing to give them letters of recommendation as backlash for speaking up against the college’s decision to evict the two students.
After reports of the eviction first emerged in October, Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad (SLS-H) countered the narrative by saying the students had been evicted for “disciplinary misconduct”, adding that the students had defamed the university on social media.
Concerned by media reports, about 600 alumni from Symbiosis campuses across the country wrote to university officials, including the director and registrars, asking to know what steps the university was taking in this case and the reasons for it.
At the time, this informal group of alumni was expecting the college to respond in good faith – and so they chose to keep the exact contents of their mail confidential. However, in the weeks since then, it has become clear that the college is not just taking action against current students who speak critically of the college but also singling out the alumni who signed that letter.
One such alum, who chose to remain anonymous, is in the process of completing applications for graduate schools but is now worried about her future because the college is dragging its feet on issuing letters of recommendation and another document confirming the students’ academic details from the institution she graduated from.
Mindful of the time professors need to write good recommendations, she first approached Dr. Shashikala Gurpur, the director of SLS Pune and another professor in mid-October and even tried to see them in person, hoping to speed up the process. However, while she was told that the latter was out of the country at the time, Gurpur’s personal assistant assured the alum that the letter would be signed in the coming days.
After two weeks of follow-up emails, in mid-November, the alum says Gurpur categorically denied her request for a recommendation saying she couldn’t expect to use the college while acting against it openly. After this, the alum decided not to follow up with the second professor.
The Quint reported that Gurpur messaged a student on Whatsapp saying they couldn’t expect a letter from the college if they didn’t have faith in the college.
While LORs are discretionary documents that can be denied (although they rarely are), academic documents that confirm that a student attended a particular university and attended the classes they claim they did – are procedural and mandatory for several graduate applications. However, the alum says she has lost hope of even getting that document because the administrative office told her she’d require permission from the director or deputy to get the letter. Later, they allegedly amended their statement saying they can issue the letter but don’t know if Gurpur, the director, will sign it – without which the document would be meaningless.
With deadlines looming, this alum is not alone in her increasingly urgent predicament, with other alumni alleging similar experiences with Symbiosis in the past few days.
Another alum, who told LiveWire she has given up on her dreams of attending a prestigious graduate university seeing how the university is treating its outspoken alumni, says she personally knows five people who are being denied letters of recommendation.
Alumni seeking recommendations have allegedly received messages and calls from faculty or administrative members telling them to formally withdraw their support for the joint alumni letter and cc its original sender on the email if they want their request to be entertained. But even then, there is no guarantee that the college will actually release these LORs.
LiveWire has emailed a questionnaire to the director, vice chancellor, registrar and other concerned officials to ask for a response to these allegations. This story will be updated as and when they respond.