An entire class at Bangalore’s NLSIU turned up for a lecture in shorts to protest a professor’s remarks about a female student’s attire earlier this week.
On Monday April 4, a female student at Bangalore’s National Law School of India University (NLSIU) was called out by a professor for showing up to class wearing shorts. Prof V Nagaraj allegedly made a remark about her clothing in front of the class asking her to “dress properly”, and made comments about her “character”.
To retaliate against these remarks, the entire third year LLB batch came for Nagaraj’s lecture on Wednesday morning dressed in shorts. This sign of protest on behalf of the students was accompanied by the demand for an apology. The professor allegedly refused to apologise and further stated to the class, “You can come to class without a dress also. That is how your character is, I’m going to ignore you.”
In a ‘Statement of Condemnation’ issued by the third year students, which was emailed to the vice chancellor, faculty members, the examination department as well as all law students, they allege that Nagaraj told the girl in question as well as the entire class on Monday, “We all know why parents marry their children off - so that they can have sex. Just because the parents marry off their children for this reason, it does not mean that the children have sex in front of their parents.” The entire Statement issued by the students is as follows:
As many students of the III year batch of B.A., LL.B. (Hons.), NLSIU, we issue this statement strongly condemning the extremely shameful incident in which a Professor has made inappropriate remarks to a III year student in our presence.
We are extremely aggrieved about the fact that:
a. The Professor publicly shamed the student for the clothes she chose to wear, and
b. The Professor cast aspersions on the students character for voicing her concerns.
The incident under protest is as follows:
The student in question, like various other students, had worn shorts to class. On noticing the shorts, the said Professor chastised the student before the entire class by asking her to “dress properly.” The student was deeply uncomfortable with the remark, as were many of us, since we do not think it is correct for a teacher to impose his/her notions about appropriate clothing upon the students. The student in question, who was scolded by the said Professor, thought it necessary to further discuss the matter with him and not to overlook it as another instance of moral policing. Upon approaching the teacher and raising objections regarding his statement, the student, to our dismay, was again rebuked by the Professor and was exposed to a plethora of untoward comments.
In the presence of many of us, the Professor went to the extent of drawing an extremely distasteful analogy as to why the student should not wear shorts and said, “We all know why parents marry their children off - so that they can have sex. Just because the parents marry off their children for this reason, it does not mean that the children have sex in front of their parents.”
Needless to add, we were all stunned into silence on hearing a distinguished member of the faculty make such a crude comment. The student was appalled at this reasoning and respectfully objected to the same. The Professor then proceeded to cast aspersions on the character of the student. He denounced her credibility entirely and went on to state,“You can come to class without a dress also. That is how your character is, I’m going to ignore you.”
This incident left the student in an uncomfortable position with her character being called into question by the said Professor because she attempted to question his method of public censure. As a consequence of this incident, the student has been extremely aggreived and has asked the Vice-Chancellor to look into the matter and we hope that action will be taken by him against the said Professor.
We find such behaviour extremely unacceptable, especially coming from a Professor, who students are expected to consider as a role model. NLS has taught us to value discourse above everything else and to be tolerant of individual choices. The behaviour highlighted above goes against the spirit of this institution. Therefore, we believe it is imperative that such aberrant actions be denounced by the University as a whole with immediate effect. We also demand that a public apology be issued by the teacher in question to the concerned student and the institution as a whole.
In solidarity with the concerned student, and as a mark of protest against the Professor, we choose to exercise our right to personal expression and comfort by wearing shorts to the class of the concerned Professor. However, we would like to clarify that this statement is not merely against moral policing, but also, in particular, against the derogatory remarks made by the Professor.”
In response to the allegations made against his conduct, Nagaraj told Legally India, “Nothing like [what is described in the statement] happened. Students are making false and baseless allegations. It is for the university authorities to examine this incident. This is the first time that students have made such a statement [whereas] I have been teaching for 27 years.” He went on to state that he had already informed the vice chancellor and the registrar about the incident via email and phone, but the university has taken no action so far and so “it has become a free for all”.
NLSIU’s rules have no written dress code provided for students, and Nagaraj has asked university administration to clarify the issue of attire keeping in mind that “certain decorum” is expected from students in class.
Nagaraj commented on the issue while talking to HuffPost India, stating, “The matter has to be objectively investigated by a competent body constituted by the university administration.”
Prof VS Elizabeth, the former in-charge of the NLSIU sexual harassment committee, replied to the students’ Statement of Condemnation with an email that showed her support for their cause. As she stated in the email, “...I must say that it is important that all of us, particularly, faculty should think before we make comments, particularly should not be casting aspersions on people’s character based on what they wear or don’t wear. After all the amount of cloth we use to cover our bodies does not proportionately reflect our morality. Many sexual abusers of children and women most certainly wear more clothes, does it mean that they are more moral than the rest of us?”