IBA expels student for highlighting ‘harassment’ on campus. What's next?

Mohammad Gibrail was due to graduate in two months
Sep 30, 2021

The Institute of Business Administration Karachi has expelled a final-year student who highlighted on Facebook alleged harassment with a woman employee on campus by a male staffer. The expulsion has swept social media and IBA, which has been facing anger and accusations of mishandling and overlooking harassment because of what many people have said are “problematic and enabling” disciplinary policies.  

The case surrounds student Mohammad Gibrail, who was enrolled in the BS Economics program (as Muhammad Jibrail) at IBA. He claims that when he went to the finance department, he saw one of its members in a supervisory position, shout at a female staffer: "Mein Raat tak tumhe bithaonga."

According to lawyer Jibran Nasir, who is representing Gibrail, a student can still file an appeal with IBA’s Board of Governors to contest the Disciplinary Committee’s decision. 

“We’re drafting the appeal, gathering witnesses and their statements and we plan to submit it on Monday,” he said.

If no satisfactory action is taken by the board, Jibran Nasir said, they will go to court. Because Gibrail was due to graduate in two months, they will inquire in appeal how long the board will take to respond. There has been no specific time period mentioned in IBA’s policy as far as filing complaints with the Board of Governors is concerned.

A conclusion has to be reached before Gibrail’s graduation, Jibran Nasir added.

The case at IBA

On August 25, Mohammad Gibrail, enrolled in BS Economics (as Muhammad Jibrail) at IBA, posted a note on Facebook to share what he described as “workplace harassment” at the finance department. 

Photo: Facebook/Mohammad Gibrail

According to Gibrail, he had told the woman to file a complaint with IBA’s Anti-Harassment Committee, but couldn't do it himself due to certain "enrollment and finance engagements" at hand. But after he shared the episode on social media, a committee was set up to decide his fate at the institution.

At the Disciplinary Committee’s first hearing, according to Jibran Nasir, Gibrail was asked to issue an apology to the institution and delete his Facebook post. When Gibrail asked why no one responded to his email to the harassment committee, the committee denied having received any such correspondence. Gibrail then printed out a copy of the email and wanted to show it to the committee head, but she had left. When he called her up, she “dismissively” told him that things needed to be discussed no further.

On August 26, Gibrail put up another post, saying that he sent an email to the Anti-Harassment Committee but didn’t receive a response. “If IBA does not take strict action against that culprit and his accomplices, we will approach the Sindh Government and Government of Pakistan.”

IBA expels student for posting about alleged sexual harassment
Photo: Facebook/Mohammad Gibrail

On September 17, IBA students, holding up placards that called for the varsity to "stop sheltering harassers" and demanded justice, protested in front of the administration block at the Fauji Foundation Building.  

Following the protests, the IBA administration assured that no student was being expelled, which mitigated the demonstrations, according to Jibran Nasir.

IBA expels student for posting about alleged sexual harassment
Photo: Facebook
IBA expels student for posting about alleged sexual harassment
Photo: Facebook
IBA expels student for posting about alleged sexual harassment
Photo: Facebook

At the second hearing, Gibrail recorded the audio of the proceedings and took six other students with him to ensure the committee did not “backtrack on its statements”.

Gibrail's expulsion

On September 29, IBA posted a notification, a copy of which is available online, announcing the expulsion of Mohammad Gibrail. 

“We would like to inform you of the recent decisions and actions taken by the Disciplinary Committee of the IBA, to ensure that students are safe, and their concerns are heard and addressed in a timely manner. The IBA is an Institute that is known for its disciplinary rules, policies and the IBA Code of Conduct, which apply to all members of the faculty, staff and students.”

The notice states that IBA provides a number of platforms to students to address their concerns. They include the Grievance Committee, Anti-Harassment Committee, Disciplinary Committee, Office of the Registrar, and the Executive Director’s Office. The varsity has zero tolerance for anyone who chooses to “disrupt the ethics, values and standards of IBA”.

“A student [Gibrail] from the BS Economics program was counselled by various members of the IBA community. However, despite the counselling provided to him, the student refused to adhere to the right channels that are expected to be followed by all members of the IBA faculty, students, and staff.”

The IBA has charged Gibrail with the following offences:

1- Defaming and maligning IBA (especially its Finance Department) on social media and broadcast media

2 - Inciting students to protest against the institution and pitting them against the administration which could have jeopardised the security of both students and administration personnel

3- Attempting to influence the decisions of the committees concerned through dissemination of the incident outside IBA, spreading misinformation and twisting facts

4- Non-compliance of the institutional procedures and posing lack of trust on the institution.

“The student was given multiple occasions to reconsider his actions and was counselled numerous times to reassess his actions. Having failed to do that, the Disciplinary Committee has decided to expel the student as the IBA has a zero tolerance policy towards the violation of its rules and regulations.” 

Gibrail, who was due to graduate in two months with a Bachelors in Economics, will not be awarded any academic tenure with the IBA now. 

The varsity claims that the decision by its Disciplinary Committee has nothing to do with Gibrail’s “whistleblowing” of the alleged harassment, which is being investigated by the Anti-Harassment Committee. 

The same day that the notification was posted, Gibrail shared another post on Facebook, saying that he was certain the Disciplinary Committee would expel him. But he refused to apologise. 

IBA expels student for posting about alleged sexual harassment
Photo: Facebook/Mohammad Gibrail

A large number of students and activists have denounced Gibrail’s expulsion. 

"By expelling Gibrail, IBA Karachi has sent a message to all female staff/students that they should never rely on any eye witness if they face harassment as anyone who speaks up like Gibrail will be expelled, also sent a message to students to keep their heads down when they see injustice,” Jibran Nasir tweeted.

Gibrail is from Lakki Marwat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and was studying at IBA on scholarship.

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