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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

#MeToo at FTII: ex-head of complaint committee says findings were ‘inadequate’

On Monday, a suspended female student wrote a four page-letter to the ministry of information and broadcasting accusing the institute administration of punishing her for reporting sexual harassment. The student complained that no action was taken against the faculty member even as she was punished academically. In her letter, the young woman described the environment at FTII as “highly sexist, misogynistic and toxic” for women.

pune Updated: Oct 26, 2018 14:36 IST
Prachi Bari
Prachi Bari
Hindustan Times, Pune
me too written with chalk on blackboard
me too written with chalk on blackboard(HT PHOTO)
         

Following allegations of sexual harassment by a group of students in 2016 against a powerful faculty member at the film and television institute (FTII), Pune, Shabnam Sukhdev, the former chair of the internal complaint committee (ICC) at FTII, has said that the ICC had submitted its report to the institute.

“The findings into the allegations were inadequate at the time,” said Sukhdev, who is now based in Canada. She was communicating with this correspondent over the Internet.

According to Sukhdev, there was more than one female student who had complained. “Before the committee reports were given, I did speak to the girls who had submitted complaints before and no action was taken. It was against the same person which is being raked up again,” Sukhdev said.

On Monday, a suspended female student wrote a four page-letter to the ministry of information and broadcasting accusing the institute administration of punishing her for reporting sexual harassment. The student complained that no action was taken against the faculty member even as she was punished academically. In her letter, the young woman described the environment at FTII as “highly sexist, misogynistic and toxic” for women.

That the environment within the campus is indeed toxic for women was confirmed by another student (on condition of anonymity) who narrated her harrowing tale of being harassed by another student during her study years inside the campus.

The student has accused FTII director Bhupendra Kainthola of creating a hostile work environment for her and inflicting an undeserved harsh punishment.

According to the student, she faced ostracisation from the student community and was ridiculed by the director for voicing the issue of sexual harassment by a faculty member. She was one of the 27 girls who had signed the letter asking the administration to look into incidents of sexual misconduct.

“The experience I had, when director Kainthola handed over the ICC report to me, in front of a few members of the ICC, told me that FTII had no intention whatsoever to address the rampant sexism and sexual harassment on campus,” she said in her letter to the ministry.

Kainthola responded with a statement that it was an unfortunate step that the student has released a statement unnecessarily dragging the name of Internal Committee (IC) of FTII into a purely academic matter involving her where action was taken by the FTII administration after she was found guilty of professional misconduct by an inquiry committee. “There is no connection whatsoever between the case dealt with by IC after she had complained of misbehaviour against a male classmate, and the case wherein she was proceeded against after it was discovered that she had taken unauthorised external assistance while completing her academic ‘Dialogue film’ exercise,” the statement read.

He said a three-member Inquiry Committee was set up by FTII to look into an incident pertaining to ‘Dialogue film’ exercise of the student wherein she and a student of sound department conspired and made an unsuccessful, unethical attempt to replace the sound mix of the film by an unauthorised sound work. The committee set up to enquire into the matter found that she had attempted to bypass the norms and discipline of ‘Dialogue film’ exercise, and had shown scant respect for her department including the direction department mentor appointed for this particular exercise.

The committee concluded that the “case is of serious breach of trust, lack of respect, breaking of norms, severe disregard for general and academic discipline by the student”. The committee recommended “strict disciplinary action against her, in the form of non-granting of any kind of scholarships, non-participation in any kind of students’ exchange programme and non-participation of her dialogue film or further exercises and projects in any film destival till the end of her academic tenure at FTII,” the FTII director said.

First Published: Oct 26, 2018 14:36 IST

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