A woman assistant professor working in a private college at Aruppukkottai in Virudhunagar has been placed under temporary suspension after a group of girl students in the college complained to the management that she tried to lure them into doing sexual favours for higher officials of Madurai Kamaraj University to get marks and money. A phone conversation that took place on March 15 was recorded by the girls and has been doing the rounds in social media. The incident resurfaced on Sunday as a private Tamil news channel telecast the response of the faculty member to the complaint.
An audio clip, allegedly of the professor’s telephonic conversation with the girls, was leaked online on Sunday.
In the audio clip running for about 20 minutes, Nirmala Devi, a faculty member of the Mathematics Department at Devanga Arts College, allegedly tells the girls, whose identities have not been made public, that an “opportunity” has come for doing certain things “secretly” for a very senior official of the Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU) to which the college is affiliated.
In return for their cooperation Nirmala Devi tells them, “On the academic side, I can take the four of you to a big level, I can assure you that. He is that big an official. I will make sure that your marks are not affected. You will get financial support and academic support also. I don’t know if you will tell your parents or not. We will open an account for you and will put money for you.”
When the students ask her to elaborate on what needs to be done, she says, “In order to finish some things successfully they are expecting college students. Till now, I have not gone down to that level. I can only say so much. I believe you will understand what they expect. If you accept this scheme, MKU will be your backbone.”
She further threatens them by saying that if the news were to come out, the girls will be subjected to negative comments. But she claims that agreeing to this ‘opportunity’ will take them to a ‘big level’.
When the students repeatedly reject this offer, it falls on the deaf ears of the professor.
One of them says, “We are not interested and not willing to talk about it further.”
When the professor offers them part-time jobs as well, a student says, “We don’t want to study further. We want to join government posts.”
On hearing this, the professor then claims, ” You are small children. Even to get a Vice Chancellor post you will need political influence. For TNPC paper evaluation also you need. You all just think again. I will speak to you next week. They have an important assignment next week and so there was a requirement. That is why I am asking now. Otherwise, I wasn’t planning to bring this up till you are in the third year. You won’t get another opportunity like this. You think about it again.”
At one point in the conversation, the professor even claims to have access to the ‘Governor’.
And when the students continue to reject her offer, she finally says, “I am going to the next level. I just wanted to take you with me.”
‘Attempt to malign varsity’s reputation’
When TNM contacted college authorities, they admitted that the four students came up with a complaint against Nirmala Devi on March 19.
“We took down the report and immediately contacted the professor. She was away for some course but she was made to come back to college immediately. We then suspended her and she remains suspended till now,” says Ramasamy, principal in-charge of the college. “We don’t know who exactly the higher authorities she is referring to is. We have to check the veracity of the complaint. She has to reply to the allegations and then an investigative committee will be initiated,” he adds.
The professor in question, Nirmala Devi herself has admitted that it is her voice in the clipping but claims that offer has been misconstrued by students and denies that she lured them into sex work.
The Vice-Chancellor of Madurai Kamaraj University, to which the college is affiliated, has meanwhile said on Sunday that the issue was an attempt to malign the reputation of the varsity and its officials. He has also commented on professor constant’s mention of ‘higher officials’ being involved.
“Any person can misuse anybody’s name. That does not mean it is true. If we receive a complaint on the incident, I will direct the University Registrar to file a police complaint,” he has told The Hindu.
The faculty member admitted that it was her in the conversation with the girls, but said it was wrongly understood by the girls.
“There was no reason on record for my suspension from the college, but when we inquired we came to know that it was due to this (audio conversation) reason. They said the committee will investigate further, but they have not called me so far,” she told the reporter on television.
When questioned further about the conversation, she said, “I only spoke and I already admitted, but the message was not how it was understood by the girls.
When contacted, Virudhunagar superintendent of police M Rajarajan said they have not received any complaint so far.