A group of 30 activists, journalists and students have urged the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai to set up an inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment against adjunct faculty member Sadanand Menon.

In a statement, they claimed that the institution had refused to investigate the allegation when the complainant approached the Internal Complaints Committee. The committee allegedly said the incident had taken place when the woman “was no longer a student and at a location away from the college”.

Ten students of the 2017-’18 batch of Asian College of Journalism also signed the statement.

The woman had first made allegations against Menon in an article in The News Minute in January. She had not named him, but said it was a person named in a list of alleged sexual harassers in academia, circulated on social media in October. After more women came out with similar stories against Menon, the woman filed a complaint with the college.

‘Alleged perpetrator continued to teach at the institute’

“Even when she [the complainant] pointed out that there have been instances where such complaints had been granted the seriousness they deserve, the ICC refused to relent from its limited, procedural interpretation of sexual harassment,” the statement read. “The fact that the alleged perpetrator continued to teach at the institute made no difference to the institute’s decision to close the file without inquiry.”

The statement said the case “clearly shows how individuals and institutions use the notion of procedure as a convenient alibi to not take sexual harassment seriously”.

The signatories demanded that ACJ “consider seriously the allegations...from the point of view of ethics and accountability”. “This inquiry must not remain a formal procedure but actually lead to appropriate punitive action,” they said. “This is particularly important in this instance, where the individual concerned, Sadanand Menon, enjoys undisputed cultural authority and social power.”

They said the institute also has a moral responsibility towards the students it admits every year.

‘Poorly handled process of resolving sensitive issue’

Nityanand Jayaraman, adjunct faculty at ACJ, said he hoped the institute would respond quickly to the accusations to set right what he called an example of “poorly handled process of resolving an extremely sensitive and important issue”.

“The cat is now out of the bag, primarily because the systems of due process failed to function as intended,” he said in a statement posted on Facebook. “What is being sought is not a legal response, but a moral and ethical assurance that the institute stands true to its declared intent of zero tolerance to sexual harassment.”

When contacted by Scroll.in, Nalini Rajan, dean of studies at the institute, refused to talk about the matter.