Violence in State-managed Universities

An open letter to the President and the Prime Minister

19 March 2020 01:52 am - 6     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


 Senior students arrested over a ragging incident at Ruhuna university in 2019

  • Victims of corporal punishment in school has a higher likelihood to be perpetrators of violence as adults

As you know, violence in state universities have been escalating in recent times. What we saw last week at University of Sri Jayawardenapura (where the young person is still battling for life in the ICU) is one grave atrocity amongst many, which have been taking place in all universities.     

Pasindu Hirushan

Due to the serious escalation of violence in universities in the past several years, the University Grants Commission steered a study during 2018 to identify the extent of the problem and the causative conditions. The findings are given below in summary:   

  •  In the years 2016-2017, about 88,000 university students were accommodated in 17 state-managed universities   
  •  Although 106,000 students qualified to enter universities, only about 19,000 (<20%) were given placements About 45-55% of all students are subject to violence and abuse, conducted in the guise of ‘ragging’. Some undergo extreme violence in the form of 17% physical abuse, 11.4% sexual harassment, and 44.4% psychological abuse   
  •  About 1989 students left university during 2015-2017, about 200 students are receiving treatment for mental health related issues, and over several years 17 students have committed suicide, triggered by ragging   
  • Students who get high z-scores, males, those who reside in hostels and clergy are mostly at the receiving end of this harassment   
  • Extreme fear of students, the indifference and passivity of academic staff and lack of action by law enforcement agencies against perpetrators (except in few cases), have led to the escalation of violence, and to the extent of brutality and serious torture   
  • Outcomes of ragging include sleep deprivation, anxiety and depressive symptoms, suicidal tendencies and suicide. Particular students are isolated and socially excluded. Ragging promotes an unhealthy campus culture which discourages individual initiative, idealizes mediocrity and gendered academic spaces. The culture distances students from staff and silences some students   

A related situation occurs in the form of physical and emotional punishment to school children, leaving mental scars that have serious consequences. It is also documented that victims of corporal punishment in school has a higher likelihood to be perpetrators of violence as adults.    

Due to the serious escalation of violence in universities in the past several years, the University Grants Commission steered a study during 2018 to identify the extent of the problem and the causative condition

The Coalition against Violence in Universities facilitated by Prof. Harendra de Silva, Dr. Tara de Mel, Prof. Piyanjali de Zoysa is an independent and apolitical group of academics, professionals and concerned citizens which aims to persuade authorities to end all violence in campus.   

We would like to draw your attention to the gravity of this issue and to kindly consider the following suggestions in relation to eliminating all criminal activity in educational institutions.   

1. Publicly condemn and renounce all forms of physical, sexual and emotional violence in universities and genuinely pledge to take remedial action immediately   

2. Invite all Vice Chancellors with Deans, for a discussion on the atrocities taking place in their universities. Describe with pictorial and other evidence, this extremely disturbing situation. Emphasize their role, and the need to be responsible and accountable for violence within their respective institutions.   

3. Develop a scheme of rewards for university academics, Deans and Vice Chancellors who pro-actively denounce violence in any form. And, who demonstrably take action to eliminate violence, to be rewarded academically and nationally through honors or other mechanisms. Whereas for academics who are complacent whilst knowing that violence continues to be meted out to freshers, appropriate action to be taken. This mechanism to be woven into the academics’ key performance indicators (KPIs) structure with necessary penalties as well as rewards.   

4. Ensure that the authorities overseeing university education (including the Minister, Deputy Minister, and the UGC) are fully empowered to initiate inquiries and to take violence-related disciplinary processes to completion, so that they can work with the Police and all relevant institutions without any form of interference - political or otherwise.   

5. Enable a robust Victim Protection System and a Witness Protection System so that complaints can be made by those affected, sans fear of intimidation.  

A silent protest was recently held urging authorities to impose a total ban on raggingPic: Nimalsiri Edirisinghe


  Comments - 6

  • Citizen Friday, 20 March 2020 09:04 AM

    Dear Mr. President, Please involve to this issue

    Samson Friday, 20 March 2020 01:03 PM

    Govt is silent and the thugs at work.

    Tamil Friday, 20 March 2020 09:51 PM

    For a such a dynamic President,his showing of total lack of interest in this appalling situation that is continuing in Sri Lankan Universities without abating is a Mystery.

    S.H.Moulana Friday, 20 March 2020 11:08 PM

    When will we see an end to this in our country?

    Sam Saturday, 21 March 2020 12:29 AM

    It’s well known a political party is behind these thugs, one way to curb this is rejecting them from mainstream politics by general public

    Dr , P Thilakawardena Wednesday, 25 March 2020 08:04 PM

    We faced the ragging way back in the late 60's We had to do exercise in the cold (we were at Peradeniya campus),control traffic in Kandy town , go on blended knees and declare our love to campus girls, do imaginary acts. But the difference was ,we were never subject to inhuman ragging. They were firm but never cruel,NEVER TOUCHED US PHYSICALLY. THE BEST THING WAS WE WERE TREATED TO A GRAND DINNER AT A TOP HOTEL AT THE END OF 2 Wks. And we made lifelong friends. Totally and sadly different from what is happening now . If the powers that be acted firmly and expel a few seniors who were responsible , I three early years and publish the facts , things would have been different

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