Sexual harassment: ACJ has a policy of zero tolerance

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Chennai: The Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) has noted with concern that ill-informed and vague allegations and assertions, most of them made anonymously and with scant regard for the facts and the law, have been published in a section of the online news media about how it handled a complaint of alleged sexual harassment made against Sadanand Menon, a well-known journalist and writer who has been teaching an elective at the College as an adjunct professor. The matter has also been commented on in the social media, mostly without regard to the facts and the law.

The ACJ has issued a statement reiterating that the alleged incident in 2011 at Spaces, a cultural centre in Chennai, had no connection with the College. The person who preferred the complaint in January 2018 to the Internal Complaints Committee, which had been duly constituted as per law and included a well-known woman lawyer, was not a student of the College at the time of the alleged incident and her work at Spaces had no connection with the College.

AcJ has further stated that its Internal Complaints Committee “rightly” decided that as per law it had no jurisdiction in the matter and communicated its decision in writing to the complainant in clear terms. However, the issue has re-surfaced after the ACJ Convocation of May 3, 2018, with the publication of assertions made by some ex-students and others to the effect that the security of students was the issue here and that a moral rather than a procedural or legal approach to the matter should be taken by the College. The ACJ wishes to make it clear that on matters such as this, when unproven allegations that are not within its jurisdiction to investigate or enquire into, are made involving its faculty, whether full-time or adjunct, staff, and students, it has to stand firm on the ground laid down in the law of the land. It cannot make any subjective judgments based on speculation or rumour.

Meanwhile, Sadanand Menon has informed ACJ that after taking into account the overall circumstances and in order to avoid any damage to the reputation of the ACJ, he has decided not to teach his elective course at the College for the coming academic year, and also that he is considering taking legal action against those who have published false and defamatory allegations against him.

The ACJ has made it clear that it has a policy of zero tolerance towards sexual harassment within its jurisdiction, that this policy is backed by appropriate internal institutional safeguards and arrangements as per law to hear and decide on complaints, and that as India’s, and the South Asian region’s, leading journalism school, it provides a secure and world class learning and teaching environment to all who come under its jurisdiction.

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