By Nanditha Sankar:
When we brought to light the callous indifference of VIT University in dismissing two of their female students over an online survey that they had conducted with regard to gender discrimination, little did we realize that the impact would be so overwhelming. Here are some things that have come to pass since my previous article:
1.Â The petition at change.org, seeking the University to call back the girls who were dismissed, has reached around 1500 signatures which has seen a massive rise of 800 signatures for change in just 3 days.
2.Â The brave soul who first filed this petition, Prof. Theodore Moallem, has been fired from the university. His movement has been restricted and he is required to meet with the Vellore police everyday.
3.Â Those students who have done so much as to even meet him ever since the expulsion have come under the gamut of investigations and questioning. Yet, the outpour of support from VIT students has been unprecedented, be it in the form of vocal support or social media upvotes through “likes”Â and “shares” on the article and also the online petition.
4. The focal point of all this attention, VIT, has turned a blind eye to all activities around its vicinity and not done so much as budge an inch either to revoke the expulsion order or acknowledge the clamour of protests.
Despite this bleak picture, we’ve seen some lining of silver along the darkened horizon. The positive responses to the petition have been overwhelming. Most of the responses to my article on the VIT issue were from people who were scared of letting their names out in public fearing that their academic tenure would be hacked for speaking out against their universities.
One person who wanted to uphold his anonymity for fear of the VIT, chose to call himself “asfdh” and took extreme measures such as using a proxy server and an incognito window to comment on the article. Oscar Wilde once said, “Give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth”. Our voice behind the mask reiterated this statement by confirming that VIT was indeed a hermetic institution where pleas for assistance would only fall upon deaf ears. The comment says “Any problem we face in VIT, there is no one accountable for the mistakes of VIT. Whomever we ask for help says exactly “Am I responsible; then why are you asking me”. Another ex student from the same institute says that her idea of a fully-supportive research institute in VIT was shattered when she had to rush back to the hostel at 8 pm whether or not the work for the day had been completed.
While a lot of VIT students and ex-students have hit out at their alma mater, another interesting aspect comes up from other institute students who claim their stories are no different. Tarangini Kumar, a student of a top-ranked college in UP informs us how she was almost rusticated along with a couple of her friends for taking to the roads against the college.
Here’s a screenshot of the VIT Female Student Survey Results
These are only a few of the several voices that have been stirred to action as soon as they chanced upon this opportunity. But these numbers are not enough. If we are to tackle the issue of gender bias and unfair restrictions, each one of us would have to sign that petition. The story of student repression is universal. It so happened by chance that the story at VIT caught widespread attention. Everyday, unfair laws are used to rein in upon the pliable student population. In the words of a Social Media Manager who chose to remain anonymous to comment on this issue , “ While there is absolutely no doubt on the fact that what has happened in this situation is absolutely unjust, the administrators of this institution are committing what I’d like to refer to as a ‘Class A Screwup’. The more you try to cover up things, the more they come out. VIT administrators might chuck out a professor or two, but can they suspend the entire campus – when it comes out in arms? I doubt it”.
It is high time the centers of learning around us realized that their students make the institute, and they should have a democratic participation and representation in the functioning of the same.