From 2008 to 2010, I was enrolled at LGS Defence, possibly the poshest and one of the most talked about educational institutes in Lahore – but my grades in one subject saw a drastic drop; from a bright shining ‘A’ (the A+ didn’t exist then) in chemistry in O-Levels, to a deformed and depressing ‘D’ in A-Levels. While my attendance in other subjects stayed well above 80 percent, it stood at a staggering 3 percent in chemistry.
A lot of that had to do with our professor, who was one of the most well known chemistry professors in Lahore; prior to exams, students from surrounding cities would come to attend his 3 month crash courses, everyone flocked to his 2 hour long chemistry classes at the tuition centres, only to be squashed in a small room like chickens in a coop. But just like his expertise in the subject was well known, so was his temper and inappropriate behaviour – it was known to all his students, male and female, and it probably must have been known to institutes as well.
A decade later, as stories of alleged harassment involving the former professor and two other teachers are shared online, my friend WhatsApps me in our group, “You remember how girls only ever went to him in pairs and never alone?”
“He ran his hand down my back twice,” replies my other friend.
I preferred the back bench in his classes, since he’d always lay a heavy hand on your shoulder if and when he crossed the centre isle. Somehow he picked up on my dislike of him, and would start his lectures by slowly crossing to the back of the class, placing his hand on my back and guiding me to the front of the class; it made me so uncomfortable that I eventually stopped attending his classes completely. I received multiple warnings from him and the administration to bring my attendance up in his classes, but I couldn’t bring myself to go to a single chemistry lecture – the idea of being in close proximity to him was more daunting than failing my A Level exam.
I wish he had known the boundaries of physical and personal space better, but more than that, I wish my institution had empowered us students enough that we could have come forward and complained about it – the entire cycle would have stopped there and then.
LGS Defence was an all girls school, with not only a female majority staff but a women led administration – how was proper conduct and harassment awareness not on the agenda? Or was the institution’s academic prestige more important than the safety of their students?
The #MeToo movement and shaming and blaming individuals is not the solution – it’s a means to an end because systems and institutions have continually proven themselves to fail those not in power. Over time, the vulnerable have continually been suppressed, not by the other gender, but by those in power and those in a position to enforce change.
A decade later, what I care about is not taking action against him, whatever I say will be one-sided and will not give him an opportunity to defend himself – that is a right he deserves to have.
What concerns me is that more students are not made to feel uncomfortable in their own classrooms, that institutions step up for their students and place value on their safety, wellness and mental health rather than on the monetary value each student represents. LGS Defence failed me and my class fellows more than the chemistry professor did, it created an environment in which students did not feel safe coming forward; and in some cases, students were not even aware of what constituted as inappropriate.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions represented in this article are held independently by the author alone and do not represent the views and opinions of ProperGaanda, or its team.