The Coalition Against Violence and Harassment in Universities is urging Vice Chancellors and Directors of public universities to come together to eliminate ragging and all forms of violence at universities and to also protect leaders who are committed to doing so.
The appeal has been addressed to the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Directors of public universities in an open letter dated June 6, 2020, by the Coalition.
In March this year the Coalition wrote to the President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa as well as to all Vice Chancellors, drawing their attention to the escalation of violence and brutality in universities.
Counterpoint publishes below, the letter, titled CVCD should stand together to eliminate ragging and violence in universities in Sri Lanka which is addressed to the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Directors of public universities.
“As universities and other academic institutions are gearing to reopen after the COVID-19 lockdown, students will be returning to an unsafe space as demonstrated by incidents just prior the lockdown and before. The Vice-Chancellor of a university is the chief executive of the institution with the responsibility and the requisite power to reinstate universities as institutions where students learn, question, and re-learn in an environment free of violence and harassment. There is a groundswell of public support for such chief executives in universities who are taking the lead. In a widely acclaimed TV interview conducted in September 2019, The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ruhuna stressed the importance of university leaders standing up to pressures from politically motivated student groups, in order to protect innocent students. In his interview, he claimed that ragging even involves the rape of female students (??? ?????? ??????? ????? ??? ???? ?????). Though his interview revealed many unsavory aspects of university life, in our opinion, the interview created a positive image of the universities as institutions on their way to becoming safer places for students and being more open to the public. In contrast, it is concerning that the acting Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has given a counter interview where he misrepresents the statements made by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ruhuna to say that a certain Vice-Chancellor has claimed that ‘all women students are raped’, then he goes on to label him as being of an ‘unsound and distorted mind’. The media company, of course, takes that misstatement to label the video with the title ‘Ruhuna VC is crazy (????? VC? ??????)’. University leaders may have different opinions about the extent to which internal problems of universities should or should not be shared with the public, but it is unacceptable that an acting Vice Chancellor insults a Vice-Chancellor who has shown remarkable leadership in eliminating ragging and violence.
We urge the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Directors of public universities to come together in eliminating ragging & all forms of violence, and to encourage and protect leaders who are committed to such.
The letter is signed by Co-Facilitators of the Coalition, Prof. Harendra de Silva (Founder Chairman Child Protection Authority) and Dr Tara de Mel (Former Secretary Ministry of Education & Higher Education).
The Coalition against Violence in Universities (CAVIU) is an independent and apolitical group of academics, professionals & concerned citizens which aims to persuade authorities to end all violence on campus. Secretariat: Dr Wijaya Jayatileka (formerly, University of Peradeniya, & CEO, Centre for Poverty Analysis) & Prof Shamala Kumar (University of Peradeniya). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org