London, March 24
The University of Oxford on Tuesday said a probe was underway and that it “investigates thoroughly” every complaint related to harassment or equality, following allegations of cyber bullying surrounding Rashmi Samant, the first Indian woman to be elected President of the Oxford Student Union (SU), who was forced to resign amidst controversy over some of her past social media posts.
Some British Hindu groups have also raised concerns around comments made online by a university staffer from the history faculty with the local Thames Valley Police, urging an investigation into a possible hate crime. The police force confirmed that it had “received a report of an alleged hate incident”.
The comments under scrutiny, posted with an image of Samant’s family on Instagram by Dr Abhijit Sarkar, made references to their Hindu faith and also categorised their home state of Karnataka as a “bastion of Islamophobic forces”. “An investigation into these online comments is ongoing and we must allow time for this formal process to be followed. In cases such as these, student support is provided through their college and department,” an Oxford University spokesperson said.
“The university is fully committed to creating an environment where people of all backgrounds, including our Hindu students and staff, can feel welcome, valued and respected,” the university said, adding that it has strong policies in place to protect staff and students against “all forms of harassment, including online harassment”. Samant has been working on completing her MSc course in Energy Systems at the university remotely from her hometown in Udupi, after she flew back to India in the wake of her resignation. She said the continued “cyber bullying” makes it difficult for her to consider returning to the university at this stage.