A group of concerned academics, professional and citizens is calling upon the government, the Vice Chancellors and Deans to take the strongest possible action against the continuing violence that takes place in universities.
In an open letter dated March 15, 2020 addressed to the President and the Prime Minister, the group, the Coalition Against Violence in Universities urges the government to empower all those in charge of education to be able to, “take violence-related disciplinary processes to completion, so that they can work with the Police and all relevant institutions without any form of interference – political or otherwise.”
The letter also requests the President and Prime Minister to ‘Publicly condemn and renounce all forms of physical, sexual and emotional violence in universities and genuinely pledge to take remedial action immediately.’
The Coalition calls on the President and the Prime Minister to emphasize to the University heads their “role, and the need to be responsible and accountable for violence within their respective institutions.” They suggest rewards for university staff who are pro-active in denouncing and acting against violent behaviour while appropriate action is taken against those who knowingly ignore the violence that takes place in universities.
Meanwhile, the letter to the Vice Chancellors and Deans draws their attention to the 1998 Act 20 (The Prohibition of Ragging & other forms of violence in Educational Institutions) and points to the stipulation ‘that a court can direct a vice chancellor to expel any student found guilty of any of the offences under the said Act e.g. ragging, criminal intimidation, hostage taking, wrongful restraint, unlawful confinement.’
The letter to the University Heads further states, “Indeed it is the abundant duty of a VC to file a complaint with law enforcement authorities if any student commits acts that fall within the scope of any of these offences. The Circular issued by the former UGC Chairman (December 2019) also highlights and reminds you of your responsibilities in this connection.
As senior academics responsible for the welfare of your students we urge you to take serious note of this grave situation, and not be negligent and indifferent to this grave human tragedy.”
The letters also list the findings of a study by the University Grants Commission in 2018, to identify the causes and determine the extent of violence that takes place in local universities.
The Coalition is made up of concerned academics, professionals and citizens, which came together within days of a violent incident at the Sri Jayawardenpura University earlier this month, when 21 year old Pasindu Hirushan was critically injured by a tyre that hit him, reportedly at an end of ragging party, organized by the seniors for the new entrants. Five students are currently in remand over the incident, while authorities continue their investigations.
Prof Harendra de Silva, founder Chairman of the Child Protection Authority, Dr. Tara de Mel, former Secretary, Ministry of Education & Higher Education and Prof. Piyanjali de Zoysa, Professor in Clinical Psychology, Faculty of Medicine, Colombo are the facilitators of the Coalition. Counterpoint publishes the letters in full, below.