College students boycotting classes as a mode of protest is not rare. However, it is unusual to see a university’s administration suspend classes as a counter to peaceful student protests. The administration of the Central University of Kerala suspended classes from July 19, 2017, to July 30, 2017, because students of the University were protesting against the lack of hostel accommodation facilities.
The number of seats in most courses at CUK was increased this academic year because of which the University is facing an acute shortage of hostel seats. According to a student of the University, the administration claims that it had increased the number of seats to maintain a balanced student-teacher ratio.
While many colleges across the country do not have hostel accommodation, the problem in CUK is severe since the campuses of the university are located in rural areas. “I personally met a student who cancelled admission because of this reason,” said *Vinod, a first-year PhD scholar at the University’s Department of Social Work. Moreover, the private hostels around the campus are quite expensive.
*Rose, a student pursuing a master’s degree in International Relations and Politics from CUK, told Campus Watch, “Even before the commencement of the new academic year, the senior students had approached Dr G Gopakumar, Vice Chancellor of the University, stating that the existing hostels could not accommodate more students but no action was taken.”
On July 17, 2017, some women students started the movement by staying back in the campus at night. Soon, more students began to occupy the campus premises after the classes which led to the beginning of the ‘Students Refugee Movement‘. The movement received participation from almost 200 students and had support from student political parties as well.
Students engaged in peaceful protest and demonstrations after classes without disturbing the academics of the campus. It was the administration that issued a circular stating that classes would be indefinitely suspended from July 19, 2017, until students stop protesting. To ensure that this doesn’t hamper the academics of the institution, PhD scholars and other seniors conducted alternative classes for students.
It was only on July 30, 2017, that the University administration resumed taking classes, and told the students that they could use the hostel facilities of Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) and Kasaragod campus of Kannur University. Hence, the protests in the University stopped. However, since there is no written assurance, students are apprehensive whether the administration will fulfil its promises or not.
Even though students were told that they could avail the hostel facilities of these campuses, no one has been allotted rooms yet. When we contacted Dr Amruth G Kumar who was the Dean of Students Welfare, CUK, during the movement, we found that talks are still going on to arrange the temporary hostels in KAU and the Kannur University campus in Kasaragod.
Siddharth M J, a first-year student of M.A Public Administration and Policy Studies student, gave us an update regarding the matter. He said, “My room is meant to accommodate two students, but there are three students in it. I was also given the same room after getting permission from the existing two inmates. If the basic facilities had been increased when the number of seats was increased, this problem wouldn’t have been there.”
Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister of Kerala in a Facebook post said that Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for Human Resource Development, has approved the proposal of building two hostels for the University. Whether the University will live up to its assurances of temporary arrangement or not is yet to be seen.