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KU sexual harassment case still undecided

BY: Faiza Ilyas

KARACHI: The Karachi University authorities have yet to take action on the recommendation of an inquiry report that some three months ago had found a teacher guilty of sexual harassment, giving credence to the rumours that he might be reinstated as had been done last year in a case related to the Urdu department, it emerged on Thursday.

The report, which recommended termination of his service after finding evidence against him including his confessional statement about ‘inappropriate behaviour’, was submitted by a four-member inquiry committee to the vice chancellor in March 2015.

However, sources said, the teacher who had been suspended continued to receive salary and other benefits.

The students said they had seen him twice on the campus in recent days, apprehending that he would be reinstated.

“It was June last year when we started receiving phone calls from the teacher, asking each one of us out. The teacher asked us to meet and befriend him outside the campus, threatening us that he would fail us if we didn’t please him or told anyone about his phone calls,” the students said. It took the students some time to open up and share the matter with each other. They were shocked to learn from each other that the teacher of the social work department had threatened at least 10 of their class fellows.

Finally, the students mustered some courage and shared the problem with some other teachers, who along with the department head and former chairperson of the department Prof Shama Aziz reported the case to the vice chancellor in writing.

The sources said the vice chancellor formed an inquiry committee comprising four senior teachers who were selected by himself to investigate the case. The committee recorded statements of the students against the teacher and took around six months to finalize the report, the sources said, adding that it was finally submitted to the vice chancellor in March.

Speaking to Dawn, students of the department expressed anger and disappointment over the delay on the part of the university to decide the case. “A few days ago, around 30 students of our department also went to the vice chancellor’s office to register our concern over this matter. However, we couldn’t meet the vice chancellor, because he was not in his office,” said a girl student on the condition of anonymity.

She said that the administrative delay was giving credence to rumours circulating on the campus that the teacher might be reinstated.

“We feel threatened because we have seen him twice this month in the university. Besides, the university has just suspended him and he continues to receive salary and other benefits so his reinstatement is quite possible,” said another student.

The sources said the teacher had been expelled from two private universities earlier on the same charges yet some teachers, part of Karachi University Teachers Society, were supporting him.

“This is a baseless allegation,” said Kuts president Prof Jamil Kazmi.

“It’s true that the accused teacher met me and my colleagues and shared his grievances, but the society would never support indecent behaviour on the campus or back a teacher who is guilty of such a demeanour,” he said.

Sharing grievances of the accused teacher, he said he believed that he was being victimized on religious and ethnic grounds.

Expressing reservations over the composition of the committee, Prof Kazmi said the vice chancellor should have let the syndicate set up the committee.

“The report must be shared with the teachers and presented in the syndicate without further delay,” he said.

KU registrar Moazzam Ali Khan said that if the vice chancellor permitted, the report would be placed before the syndicate in August, as “we don’t have syndicate meetings during a semester break”.

“The syndicate will take a final decision,” the registrar said, adding that he hadn’t received any complaint relating the accused teacher’s presence on the campus.

Dr Nasreen Aslam Shah, holding the dual charge of the KU social works department and the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Study, expressed her all-out support for the students and resolved that she and her faculty would never let that teacher return to the department.

“My students are asking me every second day about the case and I have no answer. But I have assured them that we will never accept that teacher back and will close the department in protest if the university administration or the syndicate decided the case in his favour,” she said.

Earlier, the sources said, an Urdu department teacher had been reinstated two years after being accused of sexual harassment. In that case, the KU administration had instituted two inquiries, they added. The first inquiry found the teacher guilty and recommended punishment for him, but for some unspecified reasons another inquiry was initiated that absolved the teacher of the charges.

The syndicate approved the findings of the second report and reinstated the teacher, the sources said.