“We Cannot Be Ill-Treated”: Why Christ University Saw A Silent Protest By Students

Posted on July 30, 2016 in Campus Watch

Submitted anonymously:

To walk around college everyday and know that everything around that place is wrong, and to realise that raising your voice is a far bigger crime is pretty much how most of us feel in college.

We, the students of Christ University, Bannerghatta Road Campus, Bengaluru, initiated a silent protest on Friday, July 29, when students attired in black stood silently in the quadrangle until the faculty agreed to listen to our issues. What initially started off as a discussion, later turned out to be a whole new movement that the university never had to deal with before. Most refused to move when the administration and the security guards tried to intervene. This act showed the discomfort and displeasure among students on the brutal treatment of teachers and the students.

“If you have a problem, do let us know. We would do everything possible to make it work.”
This is what was said to us during our orientation when we first joined. The irony.

Also known as the School of Business Studies and Social Sciences, the Bannerghatta Road campus has seen a lot of friction since it’s inception in June 2016. This campus is an extension of the Main Campus on Hosur Road.

An uncomfortable vibe of superiority always existed where the students of social sciences were forced to follow rules that were exclusive to the business studies students. And no one dared to retaliate. Until yesterday.

So as per Christ University’s rules:

1. The working hours are divided into two sessions, the first session consisting of four periods followed by two periods in the afternoon. Attendance is marked at the commencement of the class. Late comers, therefore, though permitted to attend class by the teacher concerned, will not be given attendance.
2. As per UGC, colleges usually follow a 60%-40% marking scheme where 60% of the evaluation is done through class assignments while the 40% focus lies on written examination.
3. Students must have a minimum of 85% attendance to be permitted to write the examinations.
4. Students are forbidden to organise and attend any meeting within the University without the Vice Chancellor’s permission.
5. Students will not be permitted to make complaints in a body or present any collective petition.

The protest that took place on Friday was a culmination of the frustrations that we have been going through. The whole issue exacerbated when a faculty member from the Economics department was forced to resign and was humiliated mercilessly. And the reason? He spoke up for the students.

A faculty member who taught Economics, and now literally an ex-Christite, spoke for the students by sending several letters to the management requesting them to liberalise the system for the Social Sciences department. Several issues were raised by him which included the University’s futile policy of a 70%-30% learning system where 70% of the marks would be awarded on the basis of various brutal and unending internal assessments followed by a 30% pivot to written exams.

The college claims that the University Grants Commission (UGC) has granted them the permission to keep it that way, whilst the 60%-40% policy still exists in the Main campus. What agitates the students even more is that the second year students were already subjected to the 60%-40% system in their first two semesters (considering they shifted to the new campus when it opened in June) and a sudden change now brings a feeling of insecurity for obvious reasons.

We were told that this system is kept to make more business. The social sciences students degree wouldn’t be accepted when planning for their post graduation and hence they’d be forced to come back to the same institution and do so. Most colleges generally accept students for post graduation under UGC rules and as per their standards, 60%-40% is the accepted format, hence making it hard for students to apply for PG courses within the country.

Another issue raised was the imposing dress code. This professor had requested the management to liberalise the dress code foist on the students. While the management students, back in the main campus also, are forced to keep a clean chin, wear a tie and not fold their sleeves, those rules never did apply well for the students from other departments.

Regardless of departments, students are forced to wear ties, are forbidden from rolling up their sleeves and must have a clean trim without a strand sticking out. Moreover, girls are stopped for not wearing dupattas. However, the security guards stop girls at their own discretion making arbitrary and sexist decisions based on who seems to ‘expose’ more.

Next would have to be the attendance aspect. Christ University is known for having imposing a mandate of 85% attendance on its students or they would have to pay heavy fines ranging between Rs. 1000 to Rs. 5000, if the attendance is between 75%-85%. If it’s below 75%, expulsion is the immediate step.

But the case here in this campus is different. The rules are so brutal that despite keeping their attendance above 85%, students are not given the liberty to use the remaining 15% to their advantage. With college beginning at 8:30am, a lot of students find it difficult to make it to college. Therefore, the most obvious thing that one can do, is to skip the first hour and attend the second.

Well, annoyingly, that doesn’t work either. Students that come late are forced to meet the authorities, who then interrogates the students. If you think that was all, then hold that thought because she doesn’t allow the students to attend the rest of the classes. Many were made to write apology letters too. The attendance fines shows how far Christ University would go to make money and fill deep pockets that are already filled to the brim.

What exactly did that professor do wrong? And was he the only one? The only thing he did was to request the faculty to remove the catch from all the rules which already existed. And does he have the right to? Of course he does. He is a part of the system and he has the right to, just like anyone.

If a student was found walking within the campus for any reasons, the class teacher would be called and humiliated in front of the students.

When the said professor came back to the Bannerghatta Road campus, the security guards stopped him after which he had to struggle to get in. When he went to get his books from his cabin, his room was locked and most of the faculty members refrained to talk to him. When he went to his class to bid farewell, a certain authority, along with two security guards, asked him to leave or threatened that he would be dragged out.

Teachers have now become commodities here in Christ University where their attitude remains, “We pay you, hence you don’t need to be respected.”

Three teachers, including the said professor, have resigned as of now, leaving barely anyone to teach the students considering the fact that in a week’s time, our mid-semester examinations will begin. It’s not just the Economics Department that faced the heat but it the Media Studies Department too.

When they finally agreed to hear us out, the representatives were shunned claiming that they were no one to ask such questions and that they had no authority to speak on what decisions were being made. A group of girls standing were disrespected when the security guards told them that if they didn’t disperse they would have to start pushing them away. Though the mob did later disperse, due to unsatisfactory results, the agitation still stands. Now that the faculty of Media Studies who were defending the students has been summoned, most feel that those teachers would be dismissed too.

A major question that arises is why the students had to pay high fees for no facilities. The average fee of INR 60,000, which for an NRI student is double the amount, is being questioned too, as the Bannerghatta Road campus doesn’t have a fully constructed auditorium, a proper library with the books necessary, a computer lab, a media lab or even a ground for that matter. All this campus is, is just a building of depression that lets down everyone that passes by. Then you could imagine the students that study in it.

Now that the protest broke out, the faculty has been instructed to check students’ phones to see who instigated the whole movement.

The system must change and it’s high time the students spoke up. For most of you who are afraid and are intimidated by the university, please use social media as a platform and write more articles so that the media can take it up. Without your support, none of it will change and this isn’t a small issue. The students must unite to avoid such scenarios later. In a country like India, Christ University is just one institution that functions this way, there sure would be many more. All teachers that were fired must be called back and apologised to. It’s high time Christ University’s rules and policies change once and for all. If not, later on, things could take a turn for the worse.

Freedom of expression is our right and nobody can hold us back on that, not even Christ University. This is a major crisis that is taking place and the college is answerable to us. A college is nothing without its students and that’s where they earn their name and fame from. But this doesn’t give them right to ill treat us. We need to make this an issue and it should be made big.

#InTheNameOfChrist, stop the madness.

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