The University of Mumbai (MU) has banned admissions to a Bandra architecture college for suspending a staff member from work after she had complained about sexual harassment by a colleague.
The university’s academic council decided to stop admissions to the Bachelors of Architecture course at LS Raheja School of Architecture, Bandra, for the academic year 2016-17 and to cancel the college’s affiliation to the university. This is the first time ever that a MU college is facing de-affiliation due to non-compliance of recommendations made by the Women’s Development Cell (WDC), MU, in a sexual harassment case, although several complaints of sexual harassment have been made with the cell.
While the accused was suspended from his job almost a year after the university sent a series of showcause notices to the college, the complainant also faced the same punishment. The academic council said that the college did not follow WDC recommendations on how to deal with cases of sexual harassment.
“The academic council was not satisfied with the replies submitted by the principal and trustees of L S Raheja School of Architecture. It was a unanimous decision of council members to stop admissions to the college altogether,” said a member of the council, on condition of anonymity.
While making its final decision, the council also depended on the recommendations of the Board of College and University Development (BCUD) meeting from November 2015, which called for de-affiliation of the college. “While the action to withdraw affiliation of the institute has been initiated, the college will not be allowed to conduct admissions in 2016-17,” said M A Khan, registrar, MU.
The case at the Bandra college dates back to 2011 when a female accountant from the institute’s office complained about sexual and mental harassment by a senior colleague. While she had filed the complaint at the Maharashtra State Women’s Commission, the case was redirected to the WDC After a year-long investigation, the WDC committee found the accused guilty and recommended termination of his services. “Suspension of the accused came through only a year later but the college management was also clearly told that under no grounds should victimise the complainant or any witness, which they failed to do,” said Kranti Jejurkar, chairperson, WDC.
By 2013, the college barred the entry of the complainant and also allegedly harassed three witnesses, eventually suspending the complainant as well. In 2014, the WDC finally sent their recommendations to senior MU officials stating clearly that the college be derecognised. “The recommendation was made following misleading facts made available by the management in this matter, false statements by college spokespersons as well as the vindictive attitude of the institute towards the victim,” added Jejurkar. She added that a separate inquiry by the state women’s commission also highlighted the same points.
While the process of de-recognising the college has already begun, the management of L S Raheja School on Architecture said there was no reason to punish them. “We haven’t heard from MU (about the ban of admissions), but it is surprising such a decision is taken because we had submitted all the papers and replies that we were asked to. Even the accused has been suspended,” said Arvind Khanolkar, in-charge principal of the institute. Admissions to the next academic year will begin in mid-June, immediately after the HSC results are announced.
WDC recommendations to colleges on how to deal with complaints about sexual harassment and what the Bandra college did.
Form an internal complaints committee to look into this specific matter and other matters, if any, in the future.
The college failed to give any update on the same
*Not to target the complainant or witnesses, post the inquiry by WDC
The college however barred the complainant from entering the college premises and also allegedly harassed witnesses on several occasions
*The management was asked to submit yearly report on the complaints, if any that is received by the grievance cells
The college did not submit any report