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Trigger Warning: Sexual harassment of students

Christ University in Bangalore has already been in the news for the hostile environment it offers to students. From forcing unwell students to get back to class to scolding them for “looking relaxed” during an exam, its absurd rules have frequently tormented students.

But more recently, news surfaced that students at Christ University were being harassed by anonymous proctors during their online examination. When a student asked if she could exit the exam, the proctor responded to her, saying, “Another three minutes, baby”. Another student was also asked to lower her webcam while writing her exam. When students brought such an incident to light with a faculty member, the member suggested that the proctor must have been a “senior member” and that the student should “take it in the right spirit”. 

Christ University invigilate online exams through a third-party app called Mettl. The app takes an audio-visual recording of the exam session, and the identity of the proctor is kept anonymous. That is how Christ University’s faculty members have abused their anonymity to make inappropriate comments to students, finding impunity in their namelessness. 

Christ University invigilate online exams through a third-party app called Mettl. The app takes an audio-visual recording of the exam session, and the identity of the proctor is kept anonymous. That is how Christ University’s faculty members have abused their anonymity to make inappropriate comments to students, finding impunity in their namelessness. 

Screenshots of that NSUI Karnataka had shared on their Instagram handle to raise awareness about what is happening at the Christ University campus.

This is not an isolated issue

Harassment at Christ University is not an isolated issue. Students have come forward reporting a series of instances of mistreatment by staff. Reports by students include those of a 50-year-old head of department calling parents “characterless” because their daughter wore leggings. Faculty threatening a girl wearing leggings that they will call the male staff to “look at her”. A student developing a urinary tract infection because students were locked up in an auditorium, not allowed to go to the washroom. A student was sent home because their kurta was too “distracting”, another student reported. The faculty has been accused of being dismissive of students’ mental illness. Oh! And, someone was reportedly almost sent home for wearing a sweater instead of a blazer when it was cold. Confusing, but is it surprising?

Perpetuating rape culture

All the moral policing, the surveillance on clothing, the absurd rules and victim-blaming boils down to one thing: Christ University has been actively perpetuating rape culture. Rape culture is the normalisation of sexual violence due to society’s attitudes towards sexuality. It is when we sexualise young girls for wearing leggings instead of viewing them as students who should not evoke such a response within the adult faculty, their male classmates and the society in general. It involves morally policing girls while believing it is okay to call them “baby”. It is the need to control women’s sexuality while reportedly having a porn folder tucked away in their desktop called ‘Hot Indian slut girls’. Oh no, students wearing leggings is truly the most pressing concern here, right?

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These spaces are supposed to nurture and transform young, passionate, impressionable minds. But when colleges and schools are more obsessed with students’ sexuality, it turns into a game of control. And control, as we know, is always oppressive.

As a society, we have always been preoccupied with exerting control over women’s bodies. We have feared their freedom and sexual expression, to the extent that we scrutinise their clothing, mobility, and their company in anticipation of them breaking a certain moral code. This kind of control, often internalised by women, allows a certain amount of power to the controller. This power is being exploited by the faculty at Christ University, where they are using the age-old tactic of morally policing students under the pretense of “good behaviour”, without bothering to check whether it is predatory faculty members that are the problem. The University has now reportedly stated that it will be forming a committee to look into the allegations.

We need long-term, structural changes that do not depend on the whims of a negligent administration. We demand that Christ University immediately starts an inquiry into identifying the predatory proctors and mandate sensitisation training for staff and students.

Need for institutional change  

In many instances of student harassment, we have seen that the Head of the Institution, faculty and administrative staff of schools and colleges repeatedly dismiss such serious issues. Be it a lack of sensitivity or an attempt at shielding the organisation’s public image, this kind of negligence prioritises institutional reputation over students’ well-being. 

We need long-term, structural changes that do not depend on the whims of a negligent administration. We demand that Christ University immediately starts an inquiry into identifying the predatory proctors and mandate sensitisation training for staff and students. Sign our petition and take a step towards student safety! With enough strength in numbers, we can take this up with the university’s administration and demand accountability from them. Let us put an end to this vicious cycle of harassment and victim-blaming and create safe institutional spaces for people.


Featured image source: TheNewsMinute

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