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moral policing

St Xavier’s University head denies former teacher’s allegation

No one was forced to quit, says vice-chancellor Father Felix Raj

Subhankar Chowdhury | Published 18.08.22, 05:53 AM
Father Felix Raj

Father Felix Raj

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St Xavier’s University vice-chancellor Father Felix Raj told The Telegraph on Wednesday that the institution did not force any teacher to resign and that a teacher had by herself written an unconditional apology where, according to the VC, she accepted she had “erred” in inviting students to her Instagram account.

Father Felix Raj spoke a week after it was reported that a former teacher at St Xavier’s University had alleged that the authorities forced her to resign last October over an Instagram post in which she was seen wearing a bathing suit in her house.

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The police are probing her allegations of harassment.

The VC also issued a written statement that said: “It may kindly be specifically noted that St Xavier’s University, Kolkata, has not forced any teacher to resign…. (The) University respects the privacy of each of them (teachers) and therefore has made all possible efforts that there is no such breach of privacy.”

The complainant has sought a police probe on how her social media pictures got leaked and circulated on the campus.

The VC responded to several queries from this newspaper.

The Telegraph: Was there pressure on her to resign?

VC: There was no pressure. St Xavier’s has no history of forcing any teacher to resign…. She resigned on her own on October 25 and the university accepted her resignation on November 1.

The Telegraph: In her complaint lodged with Purba Jadavpur police station, the former teacher described the interrogation by a seven-member committee in a conference room of the university on October 7 “as a trial of moral policing and character assassination”. Why should a woman’s outfit in private be a matter of a probe?

VC: Any teacher can say that. In an investigation, there will always be a team sitting opposite you and asking you questions. Absolutely we don’t make any inconvenient or difficult situation for any one of our members. In fact, it was a very cordial meeting.

The Telegraph: The teacher has alleged that though she wrote you a letter of apology on October 8 to save her job, you told her the risk to the “pristine image” of the university was too high and accordingly she “would have to discontinue service”.

VC: That is her presentation. I never told her that her apologies had been accepted (on the same day). Did I give her (the impression) that I accepted her apologies on the very day? The apology letter and the resignation letter are two weeks apart. What happened during this time? The teacher gave her resignation letter on October 25 and I accepted it only on November 1. If she had come back to the campus that reopened on October 21 after Puja vacation immediately, I would have called her and would reprimand her and tell her not to do that again and join. I could have done that. A possibility was there. But she submitted her resignation on 25th, giving no possibility to think differently. (During the course of the interview, the VC read out the purported letter of apology, quoting the teacher as saying, among other things: “I am sorry for my blatant lack of judgement which made me accept the request of students…. As a young professor, I have utterly failed to gauge the implications of my social media posts and am causing the institution a morally embarrassing situation. My social media activities require drastic revision”.)

The Telegraph: Was there a complaint from a parent?

VC: A parent lodges his complaint. As the committee recommended to us, ‘it’s good that we first ask the teacher (about this)’. If the teacher did not accept (the charge), we would have taken action against the parent. She did not deny it. She said those were her photos. Let’s be very frank. Press is only talking about swimsuits, swimsuits. Fine. But you can’t accept these things between a teacher and student…. In any educational institution, a teacher cannot give access to her privacy to any student.

The Telegraph: The photos were uploaded in June 2021, two months prior to her joining the university. Those were, according to her, Instagram stories that disappeared in a span of 24 hours. So there was no way the students could access these pictures.

VC: You (referring to the teacher) have accepted in your apology letter that you have given access to these students…. If you say that these disappear, I don’t think these should have been there. A parent sees his son looking at the photos and the son says ‘Yes, I have access to her Instagram and I have downloaded it’…. Is it right for a teacher to befriend a student in her privacy?

The Telegraph: Did the father come to you and allege that the pictures were morally corrupting the son? Why did you not ask the father how could looking at a picture of a teacher in a bathing suit morally corrupt his son?

VC: In that case, no parent will send his or her daughter to this institution. It’s not my job.

The Telegraph: If you deal with complaints this way, tomorrow a parent can lodge a complaint that they don’t agree with what a certain teacher says. Since you cannot be arbitrary in dealing with complaints, where does it lead to?

VC: We have to deal with it case by case, taking into account the seriousness of the case. Any parent can complain about anyone…. It’s not that every time there is a small complaint and we set up a committee to look into that.

RESPONSE

When The Telegraph contacted the woman for her response to what Father Felix Raj told this newspaper, she said in a text message: “I do not wish to dignify these bizarre allegations with a response. I have already addressed these points in detail in the legal notice I had sent to the university, and both my notice as well as their response are a matter of public record. Several media outlets have already reported on the same, and asking me to repeat the same points doesn’t change the story. I will address these points at the appropriate forum and have already initiated action for the same.

Last updated on 18.08.22, 06:15 AM
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