#MeToo: Indian Student Calls Out Professor at Canada University

#MeToo in Academia: An Indian student calls out her professor in Canada, alleges she was sexually harassed in 2016.

Published21 Nov 2018, 03:30 PM IST
India
5 min read

Video Editor: Vivek Gupta and Rahul Sanpui

Fifteen days after actor Tanushree Dutta accused her co-star Nana Patekar of sexual harassment that she claimed took place ten years ago, 29-year-old Apoorva Kulkarni couldn’t hold it back any longer.

In a series of tweets, Apoorva, a Dharwad-based biologist recalled her traumatic experience of being sexually harassed by her professor, David Logue, two years ago. The Quint interviewed Apoorva and recorded her responses after due consent.

‘For Me It Was Guru-Shishya Relationship’

In 2015, after completing her M.Sc, Apoorva had applied for the Doctor of Philosophy program with a major in Evolution and Behaviour at the University of Lethbridge, Canada.

Dr David Logue was assigned as Apoorva’s supervisor. Everything was fine for the first few weeks, but suddenly, Apoorva noticed an aggressive side of Logue.

Speaking to The Quint, Apoorva maintains that her relationship was that of ‘guru-shishya (teacher-student)’ one and that Logue crossed the line on more than one occasion.

“There were a couple of times in the first four months while I was at the University between January and April 2016, when he crossed the line by saying, ‘I have had affairs with my graduate students in the past’. There were a couple of times when he also commented on my dressing sense and started checking me out which made me very uncomfortable.”
Apoorva Kulkarni, Researcher

‘He Asked Me to be His Body Weight’

Apoorva alleges she was physically abused by her supervisor while they were on a field trip in Puerto Rico. The incident happened in May 2016 when the professor asked her to act like his body weight during push-ups.

Apoorva has alleged that she was asked by her professor to act like his body weight during push-ups.
Apoorva has alleged that she was asked by her professor to act like his body weight during push-ups.
(Illustration: Arnica Kala/ The Quint)
“He used to go gymming quite often and on the field (during research) where there was no gym equipment, he asked me to be his bodyweight. Then he asked me to hop on to his naked body, his shirtless back and I kind of froze because he was very intimidating. (He did) three or four push-ups until I actually said, ‘I can’t do this anymore’. I had frozen to such an extent that I wasn’t able to even say ‘No’.”
Apoorva Kulkarni, Researcher

Apoorva started panting and tried to recollect herself as she forced herself to recall the traumatic incident during a Skype interview with The Quint. She still wonders why did she gave in to the demand of her professor. That was not the end of her trauma.

She was also allegedly pushed by the professor on another occasion when they were misnetting (practice of capturing birds using a fine net) birds on the field and Apoorva’s bag was caught in the net by mistake. Apoorva has also alleged that since they were sharing the same accommodation during the field trip, her professor would often walk up to the clothes line and touch her undergarments, making her uncomfortable.

Recalling another instance when Professor David Logue touched her inappropriately, Apoorva says:

“One day, we were at the beach and I was wearing denim shorts. On our way back to the field station, he was driving, and I was sitting beside him in the car, he stared right at my thighs and said that I am pretty hot. I felt uncomfortable. The next moment he said something completely random and touched my thigh in that context. I shrugged and didn’t approve of it. I didn’t know how to respond.”
Apoorva Kulkarni, Researcher

College Offered Counselling But Didn’t Take Any Action

Repeated instances of abuse and intimidation by the professor led to Apoorva suffering several bouts of panic attacks.

“She (a friend) had finished defending her Masters and we were all eating lunch so it was a very pleasant, happy moment when I got this sudden anxiety attack. I felt like I was getting a heart attack. I threw up blood and just got into this whole thing that ‘something is happening to me’. I was numb and cold.”
Apoorva Kulkarni, Researcher
Apoorva suffered from several bouts of panic attacks during her stint as a researcher at Canada’s University of Lethbridge.
Apoorva suffered from several bouts of panic attacks during her stint as a researcher at Canada’s University of Lethbridge.
(Illustration: Arnica Kala/ The Quint)

In May 2017, Apoorva wrote to the concerned authorities at college as she apprised them of Logue’s behaviour, who would often resort to slurs and racial abuses.

But the college chose to turn a blind eye to her allegations and kept on scheduling appointments with different counsellors at the campus.

Response by the University of Lethbridge

The Quint had sent a detailed questionnaire to the concerned authorities at the University of Lethbridge asking why no action had been taken against Professor Logue till date.

On 31 October, the media inquiries department responded to our mail by saying:

“The University of Lethbridge is aware of an allegation against a faculty member. We take this issue and others like it very seriously and the University’s response to allegations such as these are guided by well-defined policies and also defined in collective agreements.”
Response sent by the University of Lethbridge

In response to a specific query on why was Apoorva being referred to counsellors repeatedly instead of helping her out file a formal complaint, the University said:

“When situations arise where there is a suggestion or allegation of an inappropriate interaction, our first priority is to provide support services, which are offered regardless of whether formal complaints are ever made. There are significant supports available, and those who believe they have been victimized are advised on how to make a formal complaint, safety measures that are available to them, academic and other accommodations, as well as how to access counselling through either Counselling Services or the University of Lethbridge Employee and Family Assistance Program.  Counselling conversations are confidential.  If allegations are potentially criminal in nature, we urge victims to contact Campus Safety and/or police services.”
Response sent by the University of Lethbridge
#MeToo: Indian Student Calls Out Professor at Canada University
Screenshot of mail sent by Apoorva to the university in August 2018.

Apoorva has been coordinating with the Sexual Violence Cell regarding the filing of a formal complaint since August 2018. However, the University, in its response, claims they are still waiting for a formal complaint to be filed:

“Victims of harassment, violence, and sexual violence have the option to report their experiences by filing a formal complaint if they wish the University to begin an investigation.  Information is provided to help them prepare the formal complaint.  According to the University’s policy, investigations will occur as a result of the submission of a formal complaint.”
Response sent by the University of Lethbridge

The Quint had sent a questionnaire to Professor David Logue as well seeking his response to the allegations leveled by his former researcher Apoorva Kulkarni. We will update the copy as and when we receive his response.

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