Seema Singh’s behaviour in class ‘criminal’: IIT Bombay’s women alumni

In their letter to IIT Kharagpur director, the women alumni seek action against Seema Singh, professor, for making “casteist remarks” in class.

Seema Singh’s behaviour in class ‘criminal’: IIT Bombay’s women alumni (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Team Careers360 | Apr 29, 2021 - 4:20 p.m. IST
Share Via

NEW DELHI: A group of women alumni of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay have written to the IIT Kharagpur director condemning the actions and words of its humanities and social sciences department teacher Seema Singh, and demanding “immediate action”.

Last week, videos emerged of an online class at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur which had Singh screaming at and abusing students of a preparatory English class for students from the historically-marginalised Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. IIT Kharagpur has set up an inquiry, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes is investigating the matter and Singh herself has apologised via email.

The women alumni, most of whom graduated from IIT Bombay in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, pointed out that they were “students at a time when the gender ratio in IITB was less than 5%”, had experience “many sexist comments from teachers” and, therefore, “recognise today how their actions and statements made an adverse impact on our learning environment”.

The complete text of their letter is given below.

IIT Bombay women alumni’s letter

Dear Prof Virendra Kumar Tewari,

We write to you with urgency on a matter that has been brought to our notice through social media platforms. This is about the behaviour of Prof Seema Singh with the students in her online classroom. We are appalled at this behaviour of a teacher with her students and urge you to take serious note of this and act promptly in the matter.

We are women alumni of IIT Bombay, who studied there in the 70s and the 80s. We were students at a time when the gender ratio in IITB was less than 5%. As minority students on campus we have experienced many sexist comments from teachers and recognise today how their actions and statements made an adverse impact on our learning environment. We hence speak from some personal experience of discrimination in IIT campuses. We were even then aware of the ways in which those who came from marginalised caste backgrounds, were not English speaking, or were from smaller towns were discriminated against.

Some of us have also been part of the student agitation in IITB in 1980 where these issues were raised by the whole student body. Four students sat on a hunger strike against the Institute order cancelling their admission on the grounds that they had a backlog in courses and were not able to cope with the undergraduate program. These students had been granted admission in IITB under the affirmative action guaranteed under the Indian Constitution to those from marginalised castes and tribes as well as under the foreign student quota. We, as students of IITB at that time, stood with these four students.

Although the agitation was quelled and repressed, even today many years later we stand in support of the demands raised then. One of the demands was around giving extra academic support to students who were admitted to the Institute under a reserved quota. We understood then too that just granting admission was not enough. In order to make that admission worthwhile for the student, the Institute not only needed to offer special academic support to all those who needed it but also strive to abolish misconduct and discrimination by faculty, administrators and other students towards students who happened to belong to traditionally oppressed groups in our society. Today, after many of us have been on the other side in academia, our belief in this logic is even more firm. We recognise the role of Institutions in assuring substantive equality to all its students.

Hence the video of Prof Seema Singh teaching a so-called “Prep English Course” (IIT’s course for SC/ST students) so horrifies us. This class we presume is exactly the extra effort that the Institute must invest to make sure that there is some equity amongst students who come from vastly different socio-cultural backgrounds. Professor Singh has blatantly and repeatedly abdicated her responsibility as a teacher by abusing her students when her responsibility was to teach them. How can a teacher make such rude and casteist remarks in any class or to any student? However, her doing so in this class where the purpose is to give self confidence to those coming from social margins is criminal. How can any teacher be allowed to go ahead with this manner of teaching in an Institution that claims to be amongst the best? We wonder what processes of redressal are made available to students so that they can report such actions by their own teachers?

As alumni of a similar institution, as concerned and responsible citizens, and as those invested in the process of “quality education for all”, we are compelled to write to you asking for your immediate intervention in this matter. Teachers have to be cognisant of the various backgrounds that students come from and should empathetically respond to particular needs of those that have struggled hard to reach this stage in their education. Any teacher who cannot do this cannot be trusted in a classroom. The scars left by such action of teachers have harmed too many students already. This cannot be allowed. We implore you to take note of this utter violation of classroom ethics, create a safe space for students to place their grievances and attend to them on an urgent basis with immediate action.

Looking forward to your response,

Name

Degree/ Year

Present Designation

Anupama Krishnamurthy

MSc, 1988, Physics

French Institute Pondicherry, Researcher

Aruna Kalelkar

MTech, 1983


-

Chayanika Shah

MSc, 1979 PhD, 1986 Physics

Retired Lecturer K. J. Somaiya College of Science and Commerce, Mumbai

Deepti Pradhan

PhD, 1986, Chemistry

Associate Director, Research, Yale University, New Haven, CT

Enakshi Bhattacharya

MSc, 1980, Physics

Professor, IIT Madras

Geeta Mahajan

PhD, 1978

Secretary, Bharatiya Mahila Federation

(Thane Samiti) affiliated to NFIW


Harita Pate

MSc, 1980, Physics

Retired Computer Engineer

Mukta Banerjee

Ph D, 1982

Visiting Prof at COMMITS Bangalore

Prajval Shastri

MSc, 1979, Physics

Professor (retd.), Indian Institute of

Astrophysics

Radha Gopalan

Ph.D, 1992

Visiting Faculty, Azim Premji University

Ranjini Warrier

MSc, 1981,

Ph.D, 1986 Applied Geology

Former Adviser, Ministry of Environment,

Forest & Climate Change, Govt. Of India



Rekha

Hatkanagalekar

M.Sc, 1980

Leadership Coach



Rema T K

M Sc. 1981

Retired IT Consultant

Revathi Kasturi

B. Tech, 1980, Electrical

Founder CEO, Laqsh Job Skills Academy Pvt

Ltd.

Rupa Iyer

MSc, 1979, Chemistry

President & CEO TPM Laboratories Inc, New

Jersey, USA


Sandhya Gokhale

BTech, 1979, Electrical

IT Consultant

Shaibani Azam

M.Des, 1986

Professor, Jamia Millia University

Suju George

Ph D, 1977, Physics

Director, Forum for Sustainable Enterprises;

www.fse.org.in



Sumathi Rao

MSc, 1979, Physics

Honorary Professor, Harish-chandra

Research Institute, Allahabad

Sushama Agashe

MTech, 1982, Computer

Science


Retired IT Professional

Svati Bhogle

MTech, 1981

President of a renewable energy association

Tara Banerjee

BTech, 1982, Civil

Retired Civil Engineer

Ushma Kriplani

MSc, 1988, Physics

Argonne National Lab, Strategic Initiatives

Veena Devasthali

Ph.D. 1988

Retd. Prof. SNDT Women’s University,

Mumbai


Vijaya Rao Verma

M Tech 1980

CEO of a Healthcare Company


Write to us at news@careers360.com

Know More About
Download Brochure
Back to top