The problem of ragging has existed in Sri Lankan universities for years, and though it is portrayed as a mild initiation rite for inducting new students into the university, in reality the nature of such ragging has gotten worse over recent years and has proceeded unabated.
Many reports received by the authorities at the universities, the University Grants Commission and the Police, indicate a rather horrendous and sadistic form of violent and degrading behaviour being perpetrated upon new students, by seniors as well as peers who have been compromised and made to act on behalf of seniors. This has resulted in physical and mental trauma to students, drop-outs, serious injury, deaths and suicides, as many of these reported cases have shown.
The latest case reported this year was where a large tractor tyre rolled on a student had resulted in serious injury to the student who is only slowly recovering with remaining disability.
The Coalition Against Violence Harassment in Universities, an independent, apolitical advocacy group of academics, professionals and concerned citizens which aims to persuade authorities to end all violence on campus has, as part of its advocacy, organized a webinar on the subject of ‘Eradicating ragging and violence from universities & higher education institutes’.
The webinar brings together an eminent panel who will bring to bear their knowledge, insights, ideas and different points-of-view from their own roles and expertise. They are Vidyajothi Prof. Harendra de Silva – Co-Facilitator, Coalition Against Violence in Universities, Founder Chairman of the National Child Protection Authority and Professor Emeritus of Paediatrics, Prof. Sujeewa Amarasena – the current Vice Chancellor of the University of Ruhuna and Senior Professor in Paediatrics, Dr. Wijaya Jayatilaka – Director, Center for Poverty Analysis and a Coalition leader who was co-chair of the Standing Committee on Gender Equity and Equality of the University Grants Commission that was entrusted with the topics of Gender Justice in Universities and Eliminating Ragging, Dr. Prabha Manuratne – Senior Lecturer, Department of English, University of Kelaniya, Malsirini De Silva – Deputy Head of Legal Research at Verité Research and an international human rights lawyer, and Dharsha Udayanga – a Political Science Undergrad of University of Ruhuna who has come forward as a survivor to speak about his experiences from ragging and what it did to him and his family. The webinar will be moderated by the well-known management consultant and author, Deepal Sooriyaarachchi.
The webinar will explore several areas and questions related to the issue: including the practice of ragging and why there is no justification for it to continue in its nature of violence and harassment as we now know to be less the exception than the rule; who has the responsibility to act, and why action has not been taken over the years or has been inadequate; the roles of the various stakeholders in the university system from the Vice-Chancellor, Deans, Faculty and Administration to the students themselves; the punishments available within the University and beyond in the legal system; why reporting and whistleblowing may be subdued, risky or ineffective; whether there is a tendency in the university system not to ‘rock the boat’; and what steps could be taken going forward by all stakeholders to eliminate violence and harassment in our universities.
The webinar is partnered by the Advocata Institute, an independent policy think-tank that seeks to promote sound policy ideas compatible with a free society, and Hype Sri Lanka, a youth empowerment incubator with a network of 65 affiliated youth organisations, and will be held on Monday 15th June from 5 p.m. to 6.30 pm, on the Zoom platform.
Those wishing to participate could register on the organisers’ Facebook pages or using the link https://forms.gle/NJrGKnPLiDjhknAB8 and direct questions, via the slido.com platform using the Event Code: #ANTIRAG. The webinar will also be live-streamed on the Facebook Pages of the organisers.