An online campaign seeking action against St Xavier’s University vice-chancellor Fr Felix Raj, who stands accused of forcing a teacher to resign because of clothes she wore in private, garnered over 13,000 signatures in less than 48 hours.
The campaign was started by a former student of St Xavier’s College, Kolkata. Those who have signed and commented on it include past and present students of the college, the university and institutions across the country and abroad.
The former teacher of St Xavier’s University has alleged that the authorities forced her to resign last October over a personal Instagram post in which she was wearing a “bathing suit” in her house.
Gaurav Banerjee, who started the online campaign on change.org, has listed several points explaining what prompted him to do so.
“The (assistant) professor had uploaded these photos on her personal Instagram page, which is a private page... whether it be a private page or not, the personal IG handle of any individual has no link with the prestige of the university, and nor does it warrant the distress of a guardian to an extent that the professor be relieved of her duties... every individual has the right to express themselves as they deem fit in their personal space,” he has written.
He has appealed to people to sign and share the petition if they feel the university has wronged the teacher and set a “dangerous precedent”. “This is a petition… for launching disciplinary action against VC Felix Raj and the committee (whose members were at the October 2021 meeting),” he has written.
The university had cited a purported written complaint by a student’s father about the pictures to initiate proceedings against the teacher, also a former student of St Xavier’s College, Kolkata. Among the signatories is a student of the university who said she did not care if the institute initiated “stringent measures for signing this petition”.
Preeti Pal has written: “I signed this petition as a student of this institute, which makes me ashamed of the institutional heads... I strongly... demand disciplinary action against the VC and the other authoritative figures who were a part of this harassment to our beloved and respected teacher...”
In an apparent reference to the student who was allegedly gawking at the teacher’s pictures, Millie Khanna from New Delhi wrote: “The student should be penalised for violating the professor’s privacy and the professor must be compensated for the loss of job.” Calls and text messages to Fr Felix Raj went unanswered.
The former teacher told The Telegraph: “After a long, lonely and thankless battle, this feels like some vindication. The response is very heartening... I would like to thank everyone for standing by me.”