WB: Assistant prof allegedly forced to Quit over Instagram photos

Assistant professor forced to resign from Kolkata's St Xavier's University  over Instagram pics: Report

A former assistant professor of English at St. Xavier’s University (SXU), Kolkata, has allegedly been forced by the university to quit on the charges of posting ‘objectionable’ and ‘inappropriate’ photos of herself on Instagram. 

The academic, with a PhD from two European universities, was allegedly told by the university that her pictures “besmirched the reputation of the university. She further alleged that during the resignation process she had to go through sexual harassment and deliberate character assassination. 

The academic was called to the university on short notice by the vice-chancellor where a meeting with VC Felix Raj was called. Seven people were allegedly present in the conference room for the meeting, four of whom were women who were called after an ‘emergency committee was formed by the university. 

The university, however, has refuted all the allegations and said that the assistant professor resigned voluntarily.

As per the police complaint filed by the academic, the university had received a written complaint from the father of a male first-year undergraduate student after he saw his son looking at the teacher’s photos on Instagram which were ‘objectionable’ and ‘bordered on nudity’. 

The academic told The Wire that she had posted two pictures of herself in a blue swimsuit as an Instagram story in 2021, nearly two months before joining SXU.

“There was no way those photos could be still accessible since an Instagram Story, by default, is live for only 24 hours. Moreover, my Instagram profile is ‘private’ and not ‘public’, thus only those whom I accept as my followers can view my posts and pictures. Those two pictures could not have been viewed by the said student in October 2021.

“It is a mystery to me to date how the university accessed those pictures. I felt so distressed and humiliated at that moment that I couldn’t bear to examine the rest of the pictures. I was in a meeting where my private pictures were being circulated among people unknown to me, without my consent,” she added. 

Her complaint alleges ‘suspected hacking’ of her social media profile and ‘sexual harassment. The following day, the academic submitted a letter of apology for “offending members of SXU by her social media posts.” She was allegedly advised to resign by the VC because her images had reportedly gone ‘viral’ in the student community. Later, she tested positive for COVID-19, and on recovering, she resigned as an assistant professor at SXU. 

A few months later, on March 1, 2022, the academic sent a legal notice to SXU, asking for a copy of the complaint from the student’s father, the minutes of the meeting that she had with the VC and other relevant documents.

The university responded through its advocate on March 28, saying the legal notice was an ‘ill-motivated’, ‘desperate’, and ‘dishonest’ attempt to open a closed chapter, and contained ‘false, frivolous, fabricated and ill-motivated allegations’.

Later, the university sought an unconditional apology from her and compensation of rupees 99 crores for “causing immense and irreparable damage”  to the university’s “good name, fame, and goodwill.”

The case was transferred to the Techno City police station. Investigating officer Koushik Ghosh said there was no interference from anyone when it came to the investigation. “We have registered an FIR. We have also recorded the complainant’s statement. The investigation has made some progress. Our sources have been engaged to find out whether photos from her Instagram account were unlawfully procured and circulated with some ulterior motive, ” Ghosh told The Wire.