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‘Harassment’ of students UAF fact-finding committee ‘not mandated’ to file its own report

‘Harassment’ of students UAF fact-finding committee ‘not mandated’ to file its own report

FAISALABAD: The University of Agriculture Faisalabad’s fact-finding committee that quizzed the complainant students a fortnight ago about the alleged sexual harassment by a teacher, has not been mandated to file an independent report on the incident.

The matter was referred by the UAF administration to a ‘harassment committee’ on March 22 through a notification which read, “Vice chancellor had been pleased to send the matter to the Harassment Committee constituted by the Syndicate”.

Despite this order, a fact finding committee (FFC) summoned the complainants on March 24,asking them some specific questions instead of allowing them to narrate the entire episode in detail, a source said.

The university administration had earlier justified the formation of two parallel committees to probe into the issue, saying the FFC was a department-levelbody which would assist the harassment committee.

However, on Thursday responding to the Dawn queries regarding findings of the FFC, the university spokesperson said the committee was formed to identify the facts of the issue only.

He said that no other committee, including the FFC, hadthe mandate to challenge the harassment committee recommendations.

The spokesperson, however, avoided the question how the FFC would help the harassment committee without submitting its findings.

He said the FFC had no mandate to work anymore because the case has been referred to the harassment committee.

The alleged harassment incidents surfaced on March 1 and 2 at the UAF’s National Institute of Food Sciences and Technology (NIFSAT), following six MSc Hons students raised the issue.On their complaints against their supervisor, three bodies — Ethics Committee, Fact Finding Committee and the Harassment Committee — were formed by the varsity administration to probe into the issue.

As per the complainants, some varsity officials and NIFSAT senior faculty members initially tried to suppress the complaint and warned them of the stigma attached to such issues. However, on their insistence on getting the “harasser” punished the committees were formed.

The spokesperson said that so far four meetings of the harassment committee had been convened by its chairperson and it was likely to issue its report by next week.

He said if the harassment committee needed any information about the issue it would seek help from the FFC.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2021

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