Raya Sarkar interview: 'Professors accused of sexual harassment promising victims passage to Oxford'

A Facebook post by Raya Sarkar inviting others to name academics who have sexually harassed their students went viral on Tuesday, with 58 professors listed by name and the institution they serve at.

Published: 26th October 2017 01:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th October 2017 12:40 PM   |  A+A-

Raya Sarkar | Facebook Photo

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Raya Sarkar, the 24-year-old law student from University of California at Davis, said that some of the professors she named as sexual harassers in her controversial Facebook post have been calling up their accusers and promising them help in getting to Oxford University.

READ HERE | 58 academics from top institutions named as sexual harassers in Facebook post

ALSO READ | Social media divided over Raya Sarkar's FB post

In an exclusive email interview with New Indian Express, Sarkar explains why she posted the list and what she aims to achieve from it.

What prompted you to post such a list?

People ask victims why now? Why 20 years later? And use that as a reason to dismiss allegations. One needs to understand the power assemblages at work that silence and prevent victims from speaking out. Why am I doing this now? Because I feel Harvey Weinstein's case has started many discussions and people are now more open to believing victims. The #Metoo campaign (started by an actress to highlight sexual harassment) did trigger me to do this, and I took this opportunity to create a list to warn students using first-hand accounts from survivors. The list is primarily for students to be wary of these professors because in my opinion — knowing how college administrations function — these harassers will continue to hold their positions of power. 

Have you faced sexual harassment by academics?

I have not faced any sexual harassment by professors in my university. However, that does not mean other students in universities do not face any. The professors at Jindal Global University where I studied have always maintained professional behaviour with me. 

Activists like Kavita Krishnan, Ayesha Kidwai and others have said your post delegitimises the work of feminists. What is your response to their criticism?

Not surprisingly- the list was not well-received. Even by feminists who hold powerful positions because it rattles the power assemblages, they benefit from. After all, even Donna Karan (American fashion designer), who is a self-proclaimed feminist, blamed the victims and the clothes they wear in order to defend her friend Harvey Weinstein. I think the response by most 'academic feminists' has been similar. Students have reported that professors are calling them incessantly and asking them to make me take off their names and luring them with scholarships to Oxford University. I don't know if they will decide to face defamation charges or not, I think it is worth it — as long as my list saves more victims from being harassed. 

How has been the response from victims?

An overwhelming number of people have shared the list and have supported the campaign and have chosen to believe the victims. I have received over 300 messages from different women — often accusing the same professor of sexual harassment. I am very glad that there are many people in India —men, women and non-men who are open to believing victims of sexual harassment who have risked their career to report to me. 
What do you intend to do next? Do you intend to take any legal action against the people mentioned?

The list was not prepared with institutional action in mind. It is meant to be a cautionary list for students. The victims themselves must consent to approach the courts or a ministry. My friend Aroh Akuth, who is a member of a student-run action committee at Ambedkar University, New Delhi, and I have convinced one of the victims to file a complaint against two professors. But it is shocking how most victims do not wish to file complaints, fearing that they will be bullied, silenced and made a pariah by academic communities. 


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