The vice chancellor of St Xavier’s University in Kolkata on Friday claimed that a former assistant professor, who had alleged she was forced to quit over “objectionable and inappropriate” Instagram photos, had resigned on her own, The Indian Express reported.
“She was on probation,” Vice-Chancellor Felix Raj claimed in an interview with the newspaper. “She served us only for two months. She started in August 2021 and tendered her resignation in October. So there is no question of force.”
He added that the university could have terminated her contract since she was on probation, but that they did not do so to “protect her career”.
The former assistant professor, who holds doctorate degrees from two European universities, had alleged that Raj and Registrar Asish Mitra intimidated, bullied and made “sexually-coloured remarks” about her during a “kangaroo court” held on October 7.
“Not only was I morally policed and harassed for over an hour...but I was also forced to tender my resignation,” the academic wrote in The Indian Express on August 17. “I was told that my failure to voluntarily resign would be punished by the lodging of a criminal case against me for putting up “objectionable” photographs.”
The “kangaroo court” was held after the college said it had received a complaint from a first-year student’s father, who had objected to some of the photos posted by the assistant professor on her private Instagram stories.
The academic was in swimwear in four or five photos she had posted. She said that images were posted on Instagram story in June 2021, two months before she joined the university.
She also said she was confused about how the photographs were sourced as Instagram stories disappear after 24 hours unless a user archives them on their account. The academic noted that her Instagram profile is private – her posts can only be viewed by her followers.
On October 24, the academic had lodged a complaint about alleged sexual harassment and suspected hacking of her private Instagram account against the university administration with the Purba Jadavpur police.
On Friday, Vice Chancellor Raj claimed that the academic had admitted to giving access to her Instagram account to her students.
“When the photos were uploaded is not our concern,” Raj told The Indian Express. “We had to check whether the complaint’s content was correct. She even tendered an apology for the same on October 8.”
The vice-chancellor also denied the allegations that the academic was shamed during the alleged “kangaroo court”.
“I don’t want to comment on the photographs. We have not shown the photographs to anyone,” Raj told the newspaper. “She had lodged a police complaint. When the police came asking about this case, we even did not share photos with them. She has been our professor, we have to protect her. We have not shown the photos to anyone, unless necessary…”
On being asked whether the assistant professor violated any particular rule of the institution, the vice chancellor said that university officials do not have a strict code of conduct.
“We know that teachers should behave as role models,” Raj said. “In a sacred institution, we need to be sacred. We need to vibrate the decent image of the institution…vibrate principles of the institutions.”