As alumni of the institute, we feel there is a significant lack of awareness around gender sensitivity in the administration, faculty and student body. In the aftermath of the Delhi gangrape, a striking fact came up during discussions on the institute’s alumni FaceBook group – the pitifully low level of awareness and available information on who is responsible for addressing Sexual Harassment (SH) issues as a part of the Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee in the different centres of ISI. There have been known cases of Sexual Harassment in the past for which the perpetrators have been penalized via suspension or no-promotion/no-increment. There is a possibility that not all cases have been reported because most of the women are not even aware of whom to go to in case of such an issue. We demand the following:
(1) Promote awareness on Prevention of Sexual Harassment and provide information on redressal mechanisms on the ISI webpage, notice boards in the institute and the hostels as per The Vishaka Judgement of 1997 and Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill passed by the Lok Sabha in 2012. Under the bill, which also covers students, employers and local authorities have to set up grievance committees to investigate all complaints and communicate the grievance redressal mechanism clearly.
(2) Arrange an Orientation Day at the beginning of the graduation/post-graduation academic year around August - for students to get to know each other in the classroom environment in the presence of facilitators from either final year Students or Research Fellows or Faculty. Ensure that the orientation day promotes awareness of gender sensitivity and basic dos and donts for both genders. Such an Awareness Day should also be held another time - maybe around January and cover the faculty, administrative and support staff as well. There needs to be face to face communication on this issue in the classroom, institute premises, hostel and staff campus. Just paper communication is not enough to show commitment towards solving the issue - it must be done in person as well.
The percentage of women students in the graduate courses (B.Stat/B.Math) at ISI varies from 0 - 10% each year with a slight increase in percentage the post-graduate courses (M.Stat/MSQE/M.Tech). It is understood that ISI does not have any influence in encouraging school girls to study mathematics and science. However, once a girl has qualified to study stat/math at ISI, it befits the institute to recognise that the significantly low percentage of women students can deprive them of the benefits of adequate peer companionship. It also puts them at a greater risk of Sexual Harassment (SH) from the opposite gender (both in the student body and faculty) who outnumber them in a classroom in ratios of 10:1 upto even 20:1. With graduate class sizes at ISI often being just 20 and most out-station students being resident scholars, it can pose a significant risk to the out-station single girl studying in a class full of boys of encountering a hostile environment created through sexist jokes/cartoons /text messages in class or within the hostel campus or social media. The risk is even greater if the perpetrator of Sexual Harassment is from the faculty, who is in a position of power over the student in terms of grading assignments and examination papers.
The guidelines in the Vishaka Judgement additionally state that “Appropriate learning environment should be provided in respect of study, leisure, health and hygiene”. Leaving aside the topics of adequate leisure facilities, there have been instances where even a few classes or exams would get rescheduled based on some decisions taken in the Boys Hostel without adequate consensus or communication with the women in the Ladies Hostel.