The student’s two-year suspension has created a great deal of anger among the students and teachers of the university
The two-year suspension of a Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) student who complained of being sexually harassed by a teacher has sparked an outrage among fellow students and teachers.
Earlier, the victim was suspended by SUST’s syndicate – a body consisting of top-level university officials – on December 15, following the syndicate’s 211th meeting.
The university’s sexual harassment and repression prevention cell members also expressed their shock over the syndicate’s decision to suspend the student.
Professor Dr Nazia Chowdhury, chief of the probe committee formed to investigate the matter, said: “The probe committee did not recommend suspending the student; the syndicate's decision is absolutely unreasonable. I believe she could have just been warned at most. However, I have already spoken to the university administration; the decision has not yet been finalized.”
Requesting anonymity, a syndicate member said: “The student has been suspended for two years because the syndicate found her guilty. However, the matter of the punishment will be taken into consideration again.”
This correspondent could not contact the suspended student, and even the provost of the female student dormitory did not answer calls.
On the other hand, syndicate member Professor Dr Zahir Bin Alam told the Dhaka Tribune: “The suspended student, in her complaint, stated that the teacher held her captive in his home for two days in April, but two days after the incident, she voluntarily went to his house.
“Moreover, if the incident happened in April, why did she complain about the incident in September?”
He said the punishment was delivered in the context of the entire syndicate member’s decisions. However, they could come to a decision after further investigation with the help of police, doctor and other experts.
According to many of the student’s friends, the teacher and the student were in a relationship for a long time. However, they could not confirm what transpired between them later.
Meanwhile, when contacted, the dismissed teacher, Plaban Chandra Saha, assistant proctor and assistant professor of the department of economics of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), said he was not aware of the charges he was accused of.
He said even the probe committee’s report was not accessible to him, when he requested the university authorities to provide him with the copies of the complaint and the report.
The former assistant proctor claimed that to be the reason he could not properly defend himself when asked.
He said it all seemed suspicious to him because the student submitted a complaint about sexual harassment on September 19, whereas she said the incident occurred in April.
According to the university’s sexual harassment and repression prevention centre, students have to file for a complaint within one month of the harassment.
On December 15, Plaban was dismissed on the charge of sexual harassment by the university authorities.
Various members of SUST’s syndicate, requesting anonymity, confirmed that the teacher, an assistant professor of the economics department, had been found guilty of the charge.
They also said following the allegation, the economics teacher was removed from his duties as assistant proctor and had been subject to further investigation.
After the allegation was found to be true, a decision was made during the university syndicate’s 211th meeting to remove him from his post as well.
The syndicate also recommended suspending the victim for two years.