“My mentor has asked me several times to fetch him tea and take care of his paperwork in the library. He has also threatened to cancel my dissertation because I do not share the same ideology as him,” says a Ph.D. student at Jawaharlal Nehru University. The student, who does not wish to be named, said several victims of such “mental harassment” by their mentors had submitted a memorandum to the 10-member faculty committee formed to check gender harassment on campus.
This committee, which was formed post the July 31 assault by a male student of his female classmate ostensibly over unrequited love, is expected to submit its report on Monday. The committee’s brief does not cover these students’ plight but this did not prevent the students from hoping.
“We have to do something; the School of International Studies for Ph.D. is rife with such mentors. There are about five people who have made our lives miserable, our dissertations are at stake and so we have kept quiet until now. I was researching on Muslims in a country wanting separate statehood and my mentor wanted me to simply say they were terrorists. When I refused, he called me a Marxist and threatened to cancel my dissertation which took me around two years,” said a student, adding that the arbitrary way in which the school worked had shocked all of them. Another student said their mentor had a peculiar issue. “This man signs our fellowship forms only on the last date set by the administration. He sometimes denies that we have sent him things. I sent him a synopsis of what I needed to do in October, he approved it and I started working on it. Then last month he tells me that he hasn’t received anything like it.” she said, adding that when they had started their signature campaign, around 51 students had come forward within two hours. “However, there are several other victims who are not coming forwarding fearing reprisal. Their Ph.Ds and years of hard work depend on these “mentors”. We want our mentors changed, or some mechanism that does not give them such complete authority over us.”
The committee members have been instructed not to speak to anyone from the media for reasons best known to them, but The Hindu managed to glean through certain deliberations that went on behind the scenes. “We discussed how the student-teacher ratio was changing, how compulsory counselling was needed for the students, especially the B.A. and M.A. and whether to make gender studies compulsory for everyone,” said a committee member when pressed. He added that for starters, faculty members needed to make an extra effort.
“These days, there are many among the faculty who are outsourced from other institutions and are not part of the university. It is not like before, the sense of belonging and being a mentor in the true sense is not upheld, especially the language courses where blackboard teaching is the norm,” he said.