By: Faiza Ilyas
KARACHI: Another case of sexual harassment has been reported at Karachi University (KU) and an inquiry has been initiated into it, it emerged on Tuesday.
This case, sources said, pertained to the social work department for which an inquiry committee had been set up to investigate the complaints made by several students. The inquiry report would be submitted to the vice chancellor within 10 days, they added.
The sources said another case of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ had been reported against a male teacher (of the Urdu department) who took classes at the mass communication department. The complaint was filed by a girl student in writing to the chairman of the mass communication department.
“We have received such a complaint and it has been forwarded to the chairman of the Urdu department,” chairman of the mass communication department Prof Tahir Masood confirmed to Dawn.
According to Prof Masood, cases of inappropriate behaviour and alleged sexual harassment on the part of teachers were gradually increasing and it was time to effectively address the issue.
He recommended setting up of a cell to take up cases of sexual harassment on the campus on an urgent basis.
“It is important that such a cell comprises faculty members whose integrity is beyond doubt and free of any political influence. Only then, impartial investigations and decisions could be made,” he said.
Speaking to Dawn, students expressed concern over sexual harassment cases and said such cases often went unreported. They also supported the establishment of a cell that could take up such cases.
“Few girls have the courage to report a complaint especially that involves charges of sexual harassment and that, too, against a teacher. Imagine if that cry for help goes unheard and unattended, how grave the consequences could be for the complainant?” said a university student.
She also expressed concern over the way the university administration handled a sexual harassment case last year.
“The teacher was reinstated at the Urdu department last November after a gap of two years. We want to ask if the teacher was innocent why the university took two years to establish his innocence and if he was guilty why was he reinstated?” she said.
In the same case, according to sources, the KU administration had instituted two inquiries: the first inquiry found the teacher guilty and recommended punishment for him. But for some unknown reasons, another inquiry was initiated that absolved the teacher of the charges.
The inquiry report was presented at the KU syndicate meeting last November and the teacher was reinstated, sources said.
Fearing that the teacher’s reinstatement could embarrass girl students, some faculty members of the Urdu department wanted restricting his teaching activities and suggested to the university administration that since the teacher had impaired eyesight, he should not be allowed to take attendance and check examination papers. The administration did not give any positive response to the proposal.
During the two-year-long investigations, the accused teacher remained on leave and got his salary.
When contacted, KU registrar Moazzam Ali Khan said an investigation was under way against a teacher on charges of sexual harassment, though he denied that cases of sexual harassment were increasing on the campus.
“The committee is investigating the charges of sexual harassment. I don’t know how much time it will take to complete the process,” he said in reply to a question.
On the Urdu department case, he said the teacher had been reinstated with the syndicate’s approval after he was found innocent by an inquiry committee.
On the cell for sexual harassment cases, he said such a body headed by Prof Shamsuddin, adviser to the vice chancellor, had been set up but he was not sure about its present status.