URGENT: PLEASE READ & SIGN THE PETITION!
AND URGE YOUR FRIENDS TO SIGN TOO!!!
Gender Inequality at VIT University (Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India)
S—— C—— is a 4th year B.Tech student studying electrical engineering at VIT University, Vellore (formerly Vellore Institute of Technology). She wanted to be able to stay out long hours and exit the campus freely, as the male students could, so that she could continue her work with Education for Development (E4D) Trust, a nonprofit startup that she helped to found.
S—— approached the chief warden of VIT ladies’ hostels with this request and was redirected to the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Dr. S. Narayanan. When she placed her request to him, she was not only turned down, but also admonished and ridiculed for the same.
S—— described her encounter with the Pro-Vice Chancellor in a post on her Facebook profile. Another female student (who wishes to remain anonymous) supported S——, and wrote some Facebook posts of her own. The posts attracted the attention of the VIT Student Council President, and the two students met with the Council. They were advised to hold an opinion survey, to determine whether other female VIT students also have similar objections to gender inequality on campus.
At the students’ request, E4D Trust created the public survey and began collecting responses from female VIT students, while keeping their identities anonymous. Anonymized results are published here.
On learning of the survey, VIT administration claimed it to be “defaming” for the University, and the two female students were each asked to remove their Facebook posts relating to Gender Discrimination at VIT, at the threat of losing their degrees. Following a combination of threats from VIT administrators and urging from their parents, the two women deleted their Facebook posts advertising the survey.
The survey itself and the daily-updated results are controlled by E4D Director Ted Moallem, who has declined to remove the survey/results, at least until VIT acknowledges the gender discrimination issue and takes concrete measures to address it.
On 2 October, the two students’ parents were called and asked to take their daughters home quietly. They received no written suspension orders, nor has VIT specified when they will be permitted to return. [Edit: The students remain home as of 12 October].
VIT administrators have repeatedly called the students and their families and demanded that the E4D survey of VIT women must be taken down immediately. This, despite the fact that the students have no control over the survey; it is completely out of their hands.
E4D will not take down the survey or results, regardless of the barrage of threats that VIT has directed toward S—— C—— and her family. Rather, we condemn VIT’s behavior in this matter, and we wish to ensure that practices of this nature are no longer tolerated by students in private Indian universities.
Toward this end, we request your support in convincing VIT administrators to allow these two students to return to VIT and continue their studies, without facing any further repercussions for having spoken out against discrimination. At the same time, we wish to encourage VIT to lead India forward by implementing completely gender-neutral student policies.
Letters can be directed to VIT administrators listed here: http://vit.ac.in/contacts/ddaddress.asp
To make your support public, please copy (CC or forward) your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
|From: Maria Ekstrand <email@example.com>
Date: Mon, Oct 7, 2013 at 9:54 PM
Subject: Open letter to VIT administration
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear VIT administrators and staff,As a university professor and researcher, I was greatly disappointed upon hearing about your treatment of Ms Spandana Chervu and other female students at the VIT. Your actions reflect badly on both your institution and on India in general. This brilliant and courageous young woman has simply requested to be allowed to work as hard and under the same conditions as her male classmates. Why on earth would you want to hold her and her female classmates back? We cannot afford this thinking in the 21st century, especially not in a discipline where women are already underrepresented.
My colleagues and I have been so very impressed by the quality of your male and female students who come to our institutions to continue their studies. They are smart, hard working, and so eager to contribute solutions to the many problems that our world is facing. We need to empower these young people, not bully or intimidate them and their families.
Multiple reliable sources have informed me of the events that led up to Spandana’s informal suspension, including her initial very reasonable request to have the same curfews and off-campus privileges as the male students. We also heard of your denial both of this request and of having an open discussion about this topic. Since there appeared to be some doubt about whether Spandana’s views were shared by the larger population of female students at the VIT, an on-line survey of other female VIT students was conducted and the (anonymous) results have been shared on a public website.
In case you have not yet had a chance to read it, the results to date show that ¾ of the participants report that the VIT hostel confinement system does not make them feel secure. This seems like an important piece of feedback for a university that surely has the students’ safety and welfare as a priority. Instead, the students consider it unfair that only men are able to access VIT labs after hostel curfew and they state that this system has made them lose out on professional opportunities afforded to their male colleagues. In addition, 86% of women state that VIT’s unequal rules leave them less prepared to deal with life after graduation, which must surely be of concern to all educators. In terms of campus safety, 85% of the women state that this is not accomplished by the current discriminatory curfews. Rather, the overwhelming majority (97%) are of the opinion that classes in self-defense and alertness training would be a more effective way to reduce the risk of assaults.
What these students are asking for is simply an open and transparent discussion of the current polices, the survey results and potential solutions that will ensure that female VIT students have the same educational and career opportunities as their male peers, while also ensuring the safety of all your students. Threatening and suspending students will not accomplish any of these goals and is a disappointing response from a school that wants to be known as a world class academic institution. Such a reputation seems incompatible with having rules that discriminate against half its population.
I therefore urge you to put a stop to these actions, re-admit Spandana to campus, and allow an open and transparent discussion of the survey results, in a forum where students can feel free to speak their minds without fear of threats of suspensions, expulsions, or complaints to employers.
Finally, if you want the international academic community to think of VIT as a world class academic institution, your policies need to empower both your male and female students and encourage them to be advocates for peaceful social change. You already have a student population full of bright, hard-working, ethical students, committed to addressing the problems of the 21st century. If you empower them by treating them fairly and encourage them to speak up in a peaceful way, there is no limit to what they can accomplish and, following graduation, their accomplishments will also reflect well on you.
Maria Ekstrand, PhD
Professor of Medicine
University of California
This mail is in regard to the suspension orders of Spandana Cheruvu. When I first came to know about her suspension, I was shocked and really wanted to know what was the reason behind it. The grounds for her suspension was “Taking a survey in which she asked her fellow female students about how they feel about the Gender discrimination in VIT University.”
I have a always been a proud VIT Alumni, but always hated the various rules and regulations enforced on girls. These rules have a more degenerative effect on their self confidence, creativity, thinking. You should allow them to open up. I understand and appreciate your commitment towards the safety of the girls. But, the way you are imposing it is wrong.
Q. Why do boys have the freedom to roam around till 9:30pm when girls are restricted to 8:00pm ?
Q. Why the girls can go out of campus only one day on the weekend ?
Q. Why don’t you have a sex education class or a do’s and dont’s class in the first semester itself ?
And, if this whole news about Spandana Cheruvu and her friend is true, it’s a big disgrace to the whole of VIT. That too over the permission to work for an NGO. I think India has loads of politicians to stamp on the rights, wills and aspirations of civilians. We don’t want even academic institutions to join them. I think you should get back both of those girls with full dignity and appreciate their bravery of being able to stand up and voice their feeling against such a big entity. All these things in a state headed by a female chief minister – isn’t it ironical !
I am not asking you to throw the safety issues and concerns of girls out of the window. I am asking/requesting you to HAVE EQUAL RULES FOR GIRLS AND BOYS. This has been the general opinion since more than a decade. If this is the situation in India’s top 10 ranked university even in the 21st century, then no one can help us.
With Best Regards,
Its disheartening to witness what is happening in VIT. I may not know Spandana Cheruvu, but this matter is not only related to her, it is related to every single girl who dares to voice her opinions openly and thus it does matter to me.
Article 19 of Indian Constitution have provided us with right to Freedom of speech and i dont feel that what Spandana Cheruvu did was wrong in any case. She was just standing up for the voices of many which go unheard in such moral policing.
I respect the fact that every university has their own rules and regulations but then why is there bias when it comes to boys and girls? Why is it that we regulate a particular gender? If you feared safety of girls you could have started lessons to teach them how to protect them , but no this is not about safety, this is about patriarchy, and we need to go above that, above the protectionist attitude.
I also would like to ask how many of the boys were expelled from your college who eve tease girls? Do you think that the safety paradigm is needed only during the night? I guess you need to check the reports on the amount of violence perpetuated on the women and girls during day time. What Spandana Cheruvu did was an act of courage, she wanted equality and that is everybody’s fundamental right.
I stand with her.
Thanks and Regards
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: amandeep kalra <email@example.com>
The suspension of Spandana Cheruvu related to the matter of a public survey conducted to address the gender issues on the campus, came as an unpleasant news.
Though I am well aware of the fact that most rules in our university are imposed keeping in mind the best intentions of the students. But if females in our institution feel that these rules are biased or unjust and if a student tries to present a their perspective. Then a suspension for him/her is not really a correct solution to the problem. Moreover it is quite autocratic on the part of management.
The issue of gender equality on campus is rather grave should be addressed in an open debate.
Sir, Spandana is bright student of our university and I would request you to please accept her back and kindly address the issue of with proper manner that it requires.
From: Akshay Jhawar <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I graduated from VIT University in May 2013.
Recently it has come to my knowledge that a student, Spandana Chervu, who was trying to protest against gender discrimination in our college has been suspended and may even be expelled.
I request you to please look into the matter. I know you people take decisions for the betterment of our college and are all elder to me. I respect you all Sir. But expelling a student on these grounds would really not be a good example for us all. It would tarnish the image and reputation of our university. And I do care about what people say about my alma mater.
I hope you will look into this matter and a decision can be reached where this student can complete her degree and our university’s image does not get damaged.
From: “nitin surya” <email@example.com>
During my interaction with Spandana Chervu, I, NITIN SURYA, realized that she is a clever and active student with bright future. She was trying to express her views on changes in the entry time for girls which differ from that of boys, and I too agree with her views, but not granting her the B. Tech. degree for expressing her thoughts doesn’t seem to be a valid reason.
Being a VIT 2013 passout, I feel that VIT is a great University where India’s brightest minds are studying and University takes utmost care of its students. I believe that boys and girls should be treated equal and Spandana should be allowed to attend her regular courses.
I hope that you will take the right decision and allow Spandana to continue her studies.
|Mr. Sekar Viswanathan
Vice President, University Affairs
VIT University, Vellore
05 October 2012
Greetings Mr. Sekar Viswanathan,
Your institution was well represented at a Medical Hack-a-thon in Mbarara, Uganda recently. As the Program Director of the Collaboration between MUST and MGH CGH I had the opportunity to work with your bright young students. We were all very impressed with their strong work ethic, intelligence, proper manners and modesty. I was impressed that VIT had sent both female and male students as women are often underrepresented in technology.
So, it came as an unpleasant surprise to me to learn that your institution has been unwilling to accept a survey assessing gender issues on your campus. Gender discrimination exists everywhere and on every campus. Institutions committed to success for the future need to be confident enough to assess themselves and make appropriate changes. VIT appeared to be such an institution.
I am personally requesting that you accept Spandana Chervu back to VIT to complete her education. An open and free meeting to discuss this survey would show the world that your institution is indeed confident and forward thinking. The institution could support this survey, make the findings public and develop a plan to improve.
Spandana Chervu has conducted herself peacefully and properly. It would reflect well on your institution to also conduct its business with openness and fairness for the entire world and your international partners to see.
Anna Baylor, M.D.
From: “Sakshi Agarwal” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear VIT officials,
As I see from the webpage of your esteemed college I gather “VIT is a place to learn ; a chance to grow”. You should have mentioned this is applicable only for men, if at all its true.This letter is regarding the ongoing controversy in your university. My judgement on this matter shall not be based on the print as I had a friend in VIT and I have heard a lot about these baised rules which curbed her freedom and stunted her social growth. This recent incident has proved her every word to be true verbatim.Let me ask you why is that a boy can get away scot free with eve teasing and lewd cat calls but dare a girl who expresses the voice of every female in your campus (as proven statistically).If imposing restrictions ensures one’s safety and security then maybe you’ll should live in an isolated island because our progressive society needs protection from tyrannists like your honorary selves.You’ll should take a leaf from Ms.Spandana’s book rather her survey and gather courage and act on her opinion than expelling her.Having a hold of her degree doesn’t imply control over her future. She most certainly will have a glorious one and while she is delivering speeches in several countries about the radical changes she has brought, your university shall be a fitting example of the restricitive society that propelled her career, thus inviting well-deserved ridicule and mockery.
Supressing a womans freedom doesnt ensure her safety nor does supressing her voice bring glory to your university.
I STAND WITH HER. REINSTATE HER WITH DIGNITY AND HELP MOVE OUR SOCIETY FORWARD.
From: Pooja Jain <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, Oct 8, 2013 at 12:19 AM
Dear VIT Administrators and Staff
After the much publicized injustices to women in India, women have come to accept their right to fair practices. Living abroad since a year, the injustices seem an even bigger ‘thorn’ now. Hearing someone speak up and act feels really good and much needed for our country.
The terms in your hostel are not so different from many other Indian hostels. But here, now, you have a chance to become a leader of change and providing the freedom that is birth right of every human.
For your argument about security, wherever you go you have to be careful, whether a girl or a guy. And the women are not the reason for rape. Holding them in for this reason will only weaken the women and society at large. But giving their freedom will certainly boost their morale and show your trust in them.
Last but not the least, its for a good cause! She has good intentions and showing your approval won’t harm you, just increase respect for your university in the eyes of the world. Do consider the voice of a woman’s right. Do give a fair chance.
From: “ankita bachhawat” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hello respected dignitaries,
I am an Alumni of VIt from 2009- 2011. I am doing my PhD in Wayne State University, USA. I am in complete support of the girl Spandana who has protested against gender discrimination. We in this country (USA) have so much freedom to do what we want. The police is there to take care of the things in case they go wrong. I live in the most unsafe cities in USA- Detroit. THIS IS AN OPEN UNIVERSITY- MEANING THE UNIVERSITY BUILDINGS ARE SCATTERED AROUND THE CITY (RESIDENCE BUILDINGS ARE IN BETWEEN INCLUDING RESTAURANTS) AND NOT CONFINED AND CLOSED AS VIT UNIVERSITY IS. Crime rates are much higher in any other cities in the country like murder and rape. Police enforces strict vigilance. This has not made the school authorities from curbing the freedom of the girls living in the campus. It has provided safe night walk and escort in case they feel unsafe to walk alone. Online emergency police online. Safety emergency alarm throughout the campus that one can access and it alarms throughout the campus and gets the police there within a couple minutes where the alarm rang from. APARTMENTS ARE SAFE AND VIDEO VIGILANCE IS PROVIDED. UNKNOWN PEOPLE CANT ENTER THE FACILITIES/ APTS THEY HAVE TO BE APPROVED ONLY BY THE RESIDENTS. SO i WOULD SAY THE CAMPUS MAKES ME FEEL SO SO SO MUCH SAFER THAN YOU CAN EVER THINK OF INSPITE OF LIVING IN A CITY LIKE DETROIT.
MY POINT IS, IF YOU FEEL THE CITY AND THE SURROUNDING IS UNSAFE, STOPPING PEOPLE FROM COMING OUT OF THEIR HOUSE IS STUPID. THIS SHOWS THAT THE SCHOOL DOES NOT REALISE THE IMPORTANCE OF PROVIDING SAFETY IN THE RIGHT SENSE. POLICE VIGILANCE NEEDS TO BE INCREASED. IN THAT WAY EVERYTHING WILL BE SAFE.
ALSO I AM UPLOADING A SARCASTIC VIDEO HERE JUST SO THAT YOU GUYS CAN INTROSPECT YOURSELF.
From: anoosha reddy <email@example.com>
From: Arjun Gupta <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I am an alumni of VIT who finished his engineering in 2011. I was proud of my university and had the most beautiful memories associated with VIT.
The gender inequality always disturbed me and we criticised it often. I did know one thing about our university that we were independent to talk and take action against what was wrong. I knew this because we were independent to stand for what we believed in and if not anything, we were respected for our opinion.
Reading through the case of Spandana Chervu, I feel disheartened that our university is travelling back in time. For a student to stand up for what she believes is a matter of courage and all she was doing was spread awareness about the current apathy of female students in the University which always existed.
The actions against her are extremely shameful and I condemn them. I request you to reinstate her to the University, if not listen to her demands. You are running a University which is fair and just, not a factory meant to churn out humans fit for jobs.
With deep regrets
It is disheartening to see that a student of your college, and a very dear friend of mine, is being tormented by the college authorities for voicing her concern against the discrimination against girls in the College.
Firstly, what she is pointing out is correct and must not only be heard, but also respected and the rules should be changed accordingly. In this day and age, where women are, if not superior, but at least equal to men in every aspect of life- be it academics, sports or politics and society. When women are at par with men and are performing so well in all walks of life, why should there be rules restricting their movement. Is this a hangover of the centuries of male dominance over the females and the hypocrisy of the men in saying that it is for their safety?
Secondly, if the Administration does not agree with her point of view, it should atleast appreciate her courage and her ability to raise her voice. I’m sure the college is aware of Art 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of the country which grants every single citizen the freedom of speech and expression. Spandana was peacefully and harmoniously voicing her concern against such a Draconian rule. In any case, the path taken shouldnot have been taken by the College as it is her Fundamental Right to do what she did.
Sir, i honestly feel that in a world where women cannot even ask for their rights, to institutions with such high reputation as yours, all this big talk about female empowerment and equality is futile. I think no one is going to say that what Spandana did was wrong. If you go and ask your own daughter or niece about it, they would not think twice in backing Spandana.
When her cause is so noble and her means are within the law, why is she being targeted by the Administration? Kindly, understand the my point and stop the ordeal that you are making my friend face. It is a humble request of a friend, a law student, and a girl.
From: Devashish Shankar <email@example.com>
I am a VIT alumni who graduated in May, 2013.
It has come to my notice that a student, Spandana Chervu, was suspended because of posting a survey on gender inequality. I was really shocked on hearing this news. A student should not suspended just because she was expressing her opinion. I agree that the University has created the rules, keeping in mind the betterment of students. But taking a harsh action like suspension, just because someone voiced their opinion is not a good decision on part of management.
I kindly request you to look into this matter. I strongly believe an amicable solution can be reached if the management listens to the voices of students and considers their point of view. Spandana is a brilliant student and I don’t think an issue this small is a good enough reason to suspend her. I request you to reinstate her.
Batch 2013 Alumni
Loving your chains- an open letter to Spandana Chervu
from Akhila Kumar
I think I was among the first to hear about events as they unfolded- a few of us, who were worried about ——-, got together to try and come up with a plan to help her out [keep her from getting suspended]. We agreed that the only wise course of action would be to beg forgiveness- an unfair in-time is hardly something that warrants a response as extreme as throwing your education away. Which is probably why I haven’t supported your efforts so far- I though your response was disproportionate to the problem.
Today, I read this- [Letter to Malala Yousafzai by a member of the Taliban]
“You have said in your speech yesterday that pen is mightier than sword, so they attacked you for your sword not for your books or school. There were thousands of girls who were going to school and college before and after the Taliban insurgency in swat, would you explain why were only you on their hit list???”
There are thousands of girls successfully getting an education under the Taliban, why is it that you alone have a problem? – sounded a lot like my sentiments about you. I survive just fine with an in-time. It doesn’t kill me to have to ask for permission every time I want to leave [it’s not pleasant but so many things in life aren’t]. I wouldn’t have killed you to either. Just like it probably wouldn’t have killed Rosa Parks to give up her seat on that bus.
Was the bus driver evil? Wasn’t he just an ordinary law abiding person who had grown accustomed to a way of life that he no longer cared to examine? What was she going to achieve by defying him- he wasn’t the root of the problem? Isn’t the administration at VIT [in all its sinister glory] just pandering to the widely held opinions that society in India has about women and how they should be ‘kept’? Does defying VIT really even address the problem? Maybe, maybe not. It worked out one way for Rosa, but she wasn’t the only one.
Rosa Parks wasn’t the first one to refuse to obey an unfair law- many before her had resisted the segregation and been arrested. She happened, however, to be the straw that broke the camel’s back I don’t know whether you will be the next Rosa Parks or one of her less known predecessors. I do however admire the reckless courage that drove you, outside the confines conventional reason, into an audacious act of defiance.