St Stephen's Principal Valson Thampu on Sex Harassment Claim by Student

A chemistry student at Delhi University has accused an assistant professor at St Stephen's College of sexual harassment and alleged that Principal Valson Thampu tried to protect him. This is Rev Thampu's response.

Bad news for those who want to revel at the expense of the College.

To begin with - I would like to clarity that the complainant is not a student of St Stephen's College. She's a registered research student of Delhi University. Her research guide happens to be a faculty member at Stephen's. As per regulations of the college, research students who come to labs are required to sign an attendance register which the complainant utterly refused to do.

I give below the chronology of events, for facts do not lie.

(1) 10 December 2014.  The complainant meets the Principal with the grievance that Dr. Satish Kumar, her research guide, subjected her to sexual harassment in 2013.  She complains further that Dr. Kumar was not taking any interest in her research work. The Principal advises her to file a complaint with the Internal Complaints Committee, a statutory body meant to address such cases. The complainant resolutely refuses to do so, saying all she wants is to earn her Ph.D degree and the Principal should help her in this respect.  She tells the Principal that her father and sister want to meet with him and an appointment is granted.

(2) A week later the father and sister of the complainant together with her meet the Principal in his office. With folded hands, the father pleads with the Principal not to turn this into a complaint of sexual harassment as it could result in a scandal and also affect his daughter's chance of getting a Ph.D. The Principal should prevail on the research guide to help finish the doctoral work quickly. The Principal promises to help.

(3) A few days later the Principal calls a meeting of the complainant and the accused at which both agree on completing the work latest by the end of July 2015.  The complainant does not utter a word about sexual harassment. The Principal also offers to the complainant that he could see if a different guide could be secured for her.  The complainant insists on completing the remaining research with Dr. Kumar.

(4) On the 9th of January 2015, the complainant meets the Principal and for the first time, submits a written complaint alleging sexual harassment as well as sexual assault on the part of Dr. Kumar (going back to 2013). But she reiterates her keenness to continue research under Dr. Kumar as, according to her signed statement, "80% of my work is finished". The letter states, "I am really thankful for your support and I trust that you will take all necessary steps to help me take my Ph.D degree".  The Principal insists that given the nature of the complaint (i.e. sexual assault) it needs to be registered with the ICC.  The complainant then writes on the same complaint, "I don't wish this to be treated as a case of sexual harassment.... the matter should be treated as closed."

(5) On January 10 2015, the complainant meets with the Principal with a handwritten request reiterating the request made on the previous day (9. 1. 2015) "not to pass on the document to the internal complaints committee of the College" as she needs "time to re-think". Requests the Principal to wait till she files another written statement.  The Principal tells her it is impossible to wait indefinitely. Gives her three days to make up her mind.  At this stage the complainant reveals that she had filed a complaint of sexual harassment with the University Department. She wanted to go and withdraw the same.

(6) 14 January 2015: The complainant does not turn up. The Principal files all relevant papers with the Internal Complaints Committee.

Ironically, the complaint was filed not by the complainant but by the Principal. Yet he is accused of shielding the culprit and brain-washing the victim.

These are the bare facts, all supported by documents submitted by the complainant. They are being shared with those who care to know the truth and in defence of the image and integrity of St. Stephen's College.

It is absolutely certain that the complainant, on her own, would not have made these wild allegations against the College or the Principal. Fortunately many people know the forces playing behind all these.  As the old proverb goes, a wolf in wolf's clothing is not as dangerous as a wolf in sheep's clothing. The clothing is question is already like the Emperor's clothes. It is completely see-through.   

The complainant is not a student of St. Stephen's College. The Principal does not have, as such, any authority over her. He could not have prevented her from seeking redressal from the relevant committee. The Principal has no coercive power on her.  

As usual, any rumour about St. Stephen's is a media goldmine. It is this that encourages certain unscrupulous elements (here I am NOT referring to the complainant) to seek sadistic media limelight at the expense of the college.

(Valson Thampu is the Principal of St Stephen's College, University of Delhi.)

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