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University heads asked to crackdown on ragging as campuses open on Monday

Entrance to the Sri Jayawardenapura University – file photo

ECONOMYNEXT – The University Grants Commission (UGC) has instructed all heads of Universities, to forward all complaints of ragging and gender-based violence to its Chairman, within seven days of receiving such complaints, along with the immediate actions taken by the relevant institution regarding the complaint.

The instructions sent to all Vice-Chancellors of the Universities, Rectors of Campuses and Directors of Institutes, on August 10, by Chairman of the UGC, Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunge echoes efforts made by the previous administration to crack down on these acts of violence.

Amaratunge has requested that complaints from both students and staff members who are harassed be forwarded to the UGC.

He points out that violence, which includes ragging and sexual and gender-based harassment has become a fundamental problem that universities are dealing with, resulting in students committing suicide, and many others giving up their plans of higher education.

The circular states that while thousands of new entrants are harassed, abused and bullied by seniors, most incidents are under-reported and no action is taken against perpetrators.

The Chairman states that while universities have introduced various ad-hoc measures to contain the issue, with varying degrees of success, none of those actions have resulted in a ‘positive and sustained organizational culture that is zero tolerant of violence.’

In fact, the UGC which has been grappling with the issue of worsening university violence introduced an online-complaints mechanism nearly two years ago to encourage victims to inform authorities of the harassment and abuse they face at universities.

As well, in November 2019, then Chairman of the UGC, Professor Mohan de Silva sent out a similar circular to all heads and relevant officials of universities, where he outlined a series of strategies and actions universities should adopt to arrest university violence.

The circular which called on all universities to develop relevant by-laws based on specified strategies stated that awareness programmes for students and staff must be held to educate everyone on the 1998 Act number 20 on the Prohibition of Ragging and other forms of Violence in Educational Institutions as well as the 2015 Act number 4 on Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses.

The circular also instructed university authorities to monitor how many new entrants sit the end of first semester examinations,  determine the reasons why anyone had failed to sit the exam and to also submit to the UGC  the list of drop-outs after the first semester examinations are held. (Colombo, August, 15, 2020) Reported by Arjuna Ranawana






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