In light of the latest developments in the RK Pachauri case, a growing number of former students at TERI University and employees at TERI have been speaking out. The following is a letter from a TERI University alumna who is concerned about the message TERI is sending out by reinstating Pachauri despite the grave allegations against him:
I am an alumna of TERI University. It is the place where I, as a Masters student of Natural Resource Management way back in 2008, was exposed to inspiring teachers and a wonderful peer group. It is where I explored my own interests as a young woman and budding researcher. TERI University served me well and I have proudly watched it expand. Today, TERI alumni hold important posts in prestigious organisations, tackling some of the most critical problems of our generation — from climate change to energy access, from disaster management to environmental policy.
And so, the events of the past year sadden and anger me deeply. What actually happened? In mid-February, 2015, a young female employee of TERI lodged an FIR against Dr RK Pachauri on charges of sexual harassment amounting to molestation and criminal intimidation. Despite these charges, he continued to be the Director-General of TERI and the complainant quit the organisation, frustrated with inaction within TERI. Despite being removed as IPCC chief and remaining under investigation, Dr Pachauri was recently appointed as a vice-chairman with executive powers at TERI.
As an alumna and (until now) proud member of the TERI community, this development is a significant letdown. Over this week, alumni across batches have united to demand the governing council to reconsider its decision to reinstate Dr Pachauri. Several others have taken to social media to put pressure on the GC.
The key points about which we, as alumni, are concerned are as follows:
-Continued silence from the governing council, all of whom are eminent public intellectuals and leaders in their fields, and must surely realise that Dr Pachauri’s appointment empowers him to continue to intimidate witnesses of the case, legitimately.
-The message TERI is sending out to their employees and TERI University students by creating an environment of fear and intimidation — where people may feel persecuted for raising their voices against injustice, misconduct, malpractice, discrimination — or in the fear that the alleged accused will be back in a more powerful position.
-The precedent this sets for the wider discourse of gender discrimination and sexual harassment at workplaces in India.
TERI is an internationally renowned organisation — one that has nurtured a wonderful cohort of intellectuals and practitioners. However, the GC's apathy, Dr Pachauri's continued appointment, and the complainant's year-long fight makes me wonder if TERI deserves the stoic support its alumni has always given it. Across batches, alumni are unitedly saying that they are ashamed to refer to the institution as their alma mater. As professionals and individuals committed to safe and fair workspaces, they are asking the TERI GC to reconsider its decision and reinstate the trust of all its employees, student and alumni in the institution once again.
For without its people and their passions, any institution, no matter how tall, is hollow.
MSc Natural Resource Management (TERI University's batch of 2008)
Here is the petition signed by a number of TERI alumni: