Ambedkar University probe finds Lawrence Liang guilty of sexual harassment; complainant dissatisfied

Rohini Nair

The Committee for Prevention of Sexual Harassment (CPSH) at the Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD) has reportedly found Prof Lawence Liang €" its dean for the School of Law, Governance and Citizenship €" guilty of sexually harassing a PhD student, after an internal investigation.

The student €" who is not an AUD alum €" had filed a complaint against Liang in October 2017. In her complaint, she detailed multiple instances, beginning in October 2015, when Lawrence had 'forcibly kissed her' or made other unwanted sexual advances. Incidentally, Liang's name was part of a crowdsourced list of men in Indian academia who had been accused of sexual harassment, shared by law student and activist Raya Sarkar on her Facebook page last October.

As per a report that appeared in Asia Times, the CPSH recommended penal action against Liang, and also advised that he be stripped of his administrative role.

Lawrence Liang. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Lawrence Liang. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Prof Geetha Venkataraman, who heads the CPSH for AUD, declined to comment on the committee's investigation, or its findings and recommendations. She told Firstpost, "All constituents of the University are bound by the confidentiality clause enshrined in the AUD policy on prevention of sexual harassment, approved by our board."

However, a copy of the letter sent by the complainant to the CPSH after it declared its findings was obtained by Firstpost, which details its recommendations for the action to be taken against Prof Liang, and also states the student's dissatisfaction with the measures.

The complainant writes that after reading the committee's report several times, she believes that "despite conviction of perpetrators, which essentially means that the charges of sexual harassment against them €" especially Lawrence Liang, the defendant of my primary complaint [associate professor Ned Bertz is the second defendant named by the PhD student] €" have been proven, there are a number of instances in the course of these proceedings that, I feel, have systematically removed me as a victim€¦ from accessing justice €" both substantive and restorative €" in a more tangible form that could help me heal from the trauma of his repeat sexual assaults."

She lists these instances as including: - Prof Liang continuing to hold his position of power in AUD, especially since he has not been suspended or barred from teaching. - The confidentiality clause that is part of the CPSH's guidelines being used to protect Prof Liang rather than her, the complainant. Neither Liang nor Bertz have been named in the CPSH's report, a copy of which was shared with her. - The CPSH's report including no recommendations about how reparation can be made towards the complainant, when she had previously expressed to the committee her desire for a written apology (from Liang), his suspension, and some form of compensation.

The complainant further writes, "My trauma, the financial and emotional costs I have had to go through, and continue to bear till this day, due to these incidents of sexual harassment in my working environment by powerful men in academia €" who by the way I still might encounter time and again with even more hostility for having spoken out €" have been completely overlooked in the report despite the conviction, leaving basically nothing in it for me to feel restored in any manner, or get justice in some tangible manner that would also make my perpetrator realise what he did to me is not okay, and can never be, no matter who he is, or what becomes of him; that he is wrong to assault me and others like me, and there is cost to the damage that he glibly inflicts upon women."

"If not dismissal from service, at least a suspension for a period of time from all university roles and responsibilities, along with undergoing mandatory gender sensitisation and orientation training, and an undertaking that he understands the ethical responsibilities that come with his position as an educator and how any further complaints of such nature would require him to resign would have felt substantive, or fair to the cause to gender justice," she concludes.

The full text of her four-page letter to the committee:

Compainant's Letter to CPSH of AUD by on Scribd

Prof Liang has said that he is not in agreement with the CPSH's findings and intends to appeal against its report. In response to Firstpost's request for comment, Prof Liang shared this statement:

"The Committee for Prevention of Sexual Harassment (CPSH) at Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD) has conducted proceedings in which I was the defendant. The CPSH has given a report and made certain recommendations. This is only one part of the process provided by the CPSH rules. Those rules provide that both/either party can appeal the recommendations. I informed the CPSH and AUD of my intention to appeal immediately on receipt of the report. I have not commented so far on the matter because of CPSH confidentiality rules. I can, and must, however, say this €" I dispute the report in its entirety, its findings and recommendations included.

Some persons have initiated selective leaks. These persons know that I have signed confidentiality rules and cannot respond. Selective leaks demonize, cause a media trial, and proclaim guilt in advance.

I am passionately committed to AUD, and have worked hard to build the School that I am a part of, and I intend to exhaust every channel open to me to clear my name."

Meanwhile, the Kafila collective €" an online publication which had opposed Raya Sarkar's list, and of which Prof Lawrence Liang is a contributing member €" said they would no longer be carrying articles by him. "Reports in the media indicate that Lawrence Liang, a member of the Kafila collective, has been found guilty of sexual harassment by an internal committee set up by Ambedkar University, Delhi, through due process," the statement issued by the collective read. "He will no longer be writing on Kafila."

Also See: International Women's Day 2018: Saluting the whistleblowers of sexual harassment

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