New chat evidence shows same assistant lecturer had dated and kissed a student in ILCS
Two Sherubtse lecturers had been terminated earlier for sexual harassment
After The Bhutanese published news of the harassment complaint of 10 Sherubtse girls against Assistant Lecturer Dorji Phuntsho, two girls from two prior institutions of the lecturer have come forward with allegations against him.
A former student of College of Institution of Language and Culture Studies (ILCS), Yeshi Choki, came out under her own name in a popular facebook page BHUTAN News & FORUMS posting a link of the story by The Bhutanese saying she backs up 100 percent what the Sherubtse girls are saying based on her experience in ILCS with the same lecturer.
The paper talked to Yeshi Choki who consented to her name and identify being revealed.
Yeshi had graduated from ILCS in 2017 where she did her Bachelors in Himalayan Studies. She is currently in Australia having just finished her Masters there.
Yeshi has a facebook chat history message with the professor around seven months after her graduation where the professor admitted to dating one of his students in ILCS and even kissing her. A copy of that chat is with the paper.
Yeshi said that the lecturer started teaching her class from 2016 onwards. She said that initially he was an interesting figure and students liked him, but with time he revealed his real nature.
She said late one night she got a message from some unknown number on her phone and when she enquired who it was, it said ‘someone that likes you,’ and on further enquiry the lecturer revealed it to be his number.
“I was a young girl in college and I felt obligated to be polite to him,” said Yeshey who tried to chat as professionally as possible.
The lecturer kept messaging her and one night around midnight he asked if she was not bored in her room, and offered to take her out for a ‘walk’ in the middle of the night. At the time he did not have a car.
Yeshi decided that enough was enough and she directly told the lecturer that they are teacher and student and if he cannot keep that responsibility then she would do so.
Yeshi said that she soon suffered the consequences. She said he was always pretty good in her studies and especially so in English and so she did not fail in any of her English subjects in the past, but that semester the lecturer had taken the archeology module and she got the third lowest Internal Assessment marks and did not do well in his module.
Yeshi also recounts that he would talk inappropriately with students about them having boyfriends or girlfriends.
She alleged that those students who were close to him would do very well in exams.
After Yeshi’s facebook post on Wednesday afternoon (Australia time) she said that by Wednesday evening the lecturer sent her a friend request and engaged in small talk with her on chat about him coming down to Australia for studies and asking her advice and if she had finished her studies.
She asked him to contact an agent. The lecturer did not bring up her viral post or challenge her on it.
Yeshi’s post was shared by a facebook page called ‘Feminism in Bhutan,’ which also shared a post by a person who was a high school student in 2014 in a Yozerling Higher Secondary school in Paro, where the lecturer was a history teacher where she alleged he was disrespectful with his attention and teaching and that some of her friend’s bra straps were pulled. She said they forwarded their complaints to the class teacher, but it did not go ahead from there.
The assistant lecturer Dorji Phuntsho responded to the above allegations denying all of the above.
On the issue of Yeshi, he said he does not remember asking her to go for a walk and he has no association or involvement with her. He said he denied everything she said.
On the Paro Yozerling Higher Secondary school he said he did teach there but again he said that the allegations made are not true and he denies them.
He said that because of all the hype generated by the article of The Bhutanese some students may be making untrue allegations.
Two lecturers had been terminated in Sherubtse for sexual harassment
However, this is not the first harassment case in Sherubtse this year. Around February 2021 a Sherubtse female student had brought forth a sexual harassment complaint against another lecturer from India named Mr. Jha who taught computer science.
He had said she is ‘simple and hardworking and he likes her’. He went on to even touch her shoulder once or twice in the class inappropriately in the presence of other classmates.
The student filed a complaint and the lecturer was let go.
He had been there for around six years in Sherubtse on contract being renewed every two years, but this time he was let go four months before his contract came up for renewal.
The Sherubtse President confirmed the above complaint and action taken earlier this year.
The above case has led to questions among the girls on if the college could take such a strict action based on the complaint of one girl then why it was not doing the same in the current case where 10 girls have complained.
Before Mr. Jha, Sherubtse terminated the services of a lecturer called Sonam Phuntsho eight years ago after there was serious evidence of sexual misconduct according to the college. The incident happened in a field excursion. This case had not been forwarded to the police.
RUB VC says it will take action based on evidences
The Vice Chancellor of the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) Nidup Dorji has asked for a thorough re-investigation of the Sherubtse harassment case of 10 students against Assistant Lecturer Dorji Phuntsho.
The VC said he has informed the President to look into all the aspects covered in the last issue of this paper.
The VC said that Dorji Phuntsho is one of the candidates who have applied for further studies but he has told the HR Department to put that on hold for now.
“I have instructed the President for a thorough investigation to have a legal basis to take action against him and if need be to also involve a legal person,” said the VC.
He said that the RUB has a code of conduct and depending on the severity of the wrongdoing they can take action with can even involve termination if he has done all these things.
The VC explained that without getting all the evidence, taking any administrative action is not advisable given their experience in the Taktse ICLS case. He said the Taktse lecturers took the RUB to court (over their removal) but students were not forthcoming with the evidence even though he had earlier visited the college, and the students there had poured out their complaints to him.
He said in Taktse the students were not willing to give it in writing or come to court and so as a result the case has been going on for two years.
The RUB is keen to ensure all the evidence is in place before taking any action as they want to avoid being dragged to court like in the Taktse case.
The VC said after reading the article he followed up with the Sherubtse principal who said they have done the investigation through a committee. He said its is possible that the girls did not share with the President or the Committee certain evidences.
The VC said, “I categorically told him (Sherubtse President) and other senior members there that it cannot stop with it just coming out in the paper, but we need to be objective and dig deep into the issue for the truth and take appropriate action.”
Given the action of the college so far on the issue the paper asked if the RUB can rely on the same team to investigate the case who have not taken appropriate action the first time, despite the evidences.
He said if there is any attempt to protect the assistant lecturer by the college then he can send his own team from RUB and take appropriate action.
The VC said that the RUB has a code of conduct that applies to all employees and the above issues are covered though it does not go into great detail, but such things like this should not happen.
“We are quite serious about sensitization and creating awareness and Sherubtse College itself has invited several people to talk on these issues,” said the VC.
He said that by and large people make casual remarks, but when it hurts the other person it is serious and so there is a need to sensitize and educate people. However, he said that it is very different for somebody doing it deliberately.
The College President Tshering Wangdi said that the college, as advised, has collected all the minutes of the meeting, documents, statements and evidences and have sent it to the RUB and are waiting for any direction or decision they make.
The President said that once the committee had taken a decision the 10 girls had been called and they were told that if they are not satisfied then they can take up the matters legally or with the police which the college will facilitate.
After coming under heavy criticism for not taking stronger action, the President clarified that the committee felt what the Assistant Lecturer had done was very bad which is why his promotion has been withheld for three years. He said he does not support the actions of Dorji Phuntsho or the person.
He said the lecturer is being made to attend counseling and every two weeks he has to give a report.
The President said the lecturer is on the last warning and on probation and so even if he commits any other offence not even related to this one then he will be terminated without benefits.
The President also said that the decision against Dorji Phuntsho was taken by a committee comprising of 10 to 11 faculty members of the college and he said that it is not true that the college did not try to protect the girls.
The Assistant Lecturer said that he was not aware of the RUB looking into his case and thanked the paper for letting him know.
Meanwhile, the Director General of the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) Karma Dukpa said that they are also following up and looking into this case.
Intimidating atmosphere in college
In the meantime, according to some girls the assistant lecturer who cannot teach third year students has been going around proclaiming his innocence to the junior classes. He has been denying the claims and has even come up with a new defence that he was not the one to chat from his phone. Some of the students especially boys and in the second year are supporting him in a group chat.
As a result, the victims are facing indirect pressure from some fellow students with mostly boys and some girls saying that the 10 girls cannot take a joke etc.
A victim said that some of the students in the group chat are saying that the girls must have made the complaint after the lecturer did not give them preliminary examination notes or that the girls would have gone for the ‘ride’ if he drove a Prado.
Some of the students supporting the lecturer are also making fun of one of the victims for saying she has suicidal thoughts by saying such a statement is an exaggeration.
On the other hand, there are also students supporting the victims and some of them even suggested bringing out an article in the college magazine.
There is also discreet and indirect enquiries being made within the campus on which girl contacted The Bhutanese or why they did so.
The paper has also learnt that some parents of the victims have started calling them blaming them for the chaos in the college instead of supporting them.
The result is an atmosphere of fear and indirect intimidation of the victims.
While faculty, fellow student and even parental support is missing or even against the victims, there is a lot of public support for the students.
An online petition to remove the assistant lecturer has already garnered around 1,100 signatures by friday evening.