From Mulayam Singh Yadav’s “Boys will be boys,” to Satyapal Singh’s “Darwin’s theory is scientifically wrong,” to Azam Khan’s “Rape cases have increased due to misuse of mobile phones by the younger generation,” those in power have not been shy of spewing ignorant and absurd statements.
Like all years before this one, 2018 was no different. Here is a compilation of a few such comments and actions taken by authorities of various colleges in response to certain actions by their student bodies.
After an incident of sexual harassment in late November this year, which shook the student community throughout the country, the warden of the hostel where the incident happened responded with the above statement to the students as they complained about the accused. Under the garb of typical victim blaming, the students were also told that it was because of their short clothes that incidents like the above happened.
It was not too late after these comments that the Vice-Chancellor of the University also made the news for blaming the students of “making an issue out of nothing,” as this video clearly shows.
Following days of discussions with the administration regarding their degree’s recognition by the Indian Nursing Council, the students of IMS staged a sit-in in response to the authorities’ silence on the issue. In this protest, the students, who were armed with nothing more than posters, were met with the acts of slapping and dragging by the chief proctor, Royana Singh, as can be seen in this video.
The student, who was slapped by Singh during the clashes between the two sides, also suffered damage to her left year. Singh denied the use of force by her and claimed that all that happened were just talks.
After a range of allegations was put forth against the former VC of Hidayatullah National Law University, Dr Sukhpal Singh, he was cross-questioned by the student body of the institute in a general body meeting. During this meeting, one of the points put forward was the inability of the administration to upload necessary documents on the university website. The students alleged that they were held from making important academic decisions due to the lack of important information.
To this allegation, Dr. Singh responded with the above statement, as can be seen from the recording of the meeting, at the 26:50 mark and again at the 1:33:00 mark, as he asked the students of the “substantial loss” that they had incurred.
In 2017, BHU saw one of the most agitated protests in the history of Indian education. A sit-in and a march, which started against the university’s lack of regulations to counter the prevalence of sexual harassment on campus, soon turned into a widespread revolt which also included a pushback by the police forces of the region. After a year of the incident, in April, the chief proctor of the university, Royana Singh commented on the sponsored nature of the protest and accused the students of being supported by external financial sources.
In early May, the students of the institute protested against these remarks by Singh, accusing her of trivializing and maligning the protest by calling it sponsored. They also accused her of later lodging an attempt to murder case against the students.
Following their plan of exponential development labelled as Vision 2020, BITS, Pilani, one of the prestigious engineering institutes of the country, adopted a constant 15% fee hike every year. In response to these soaring amounts, the student body of the three campuses of the university resorted to protests against the administration. The protests began in Pilani and soon spread out in Goa and Hyderabad as well.
During one of the addresses by the administration in Pilani, the director tried responding to the student body’s demands in a closed discussion inside the campus auditorium. He was later accused of saying the above statement while on stage during the gathering, which a lot of students later associated with a sense of pressure and confusion on the part of the director.
After two students at Symbiosis Law School were expelled after they accused an assistant professor of the same institute of sexual harassment, the school was met with a series of complaints and objections by both, its students and its alumni. Although the administration denied the claim that the expulsion was because of the registered complaint, the alumni that came out against the authorities had a different story to tell.
In a report by the Quint, the students who had passed out of the college accused the administration of withholding their recommendation letters. The alumni alleged that the college was trying to make use of the inability of these students to come and collect the recommendation letters physically. As the above report shows, the director was accused of denying one of the students her respective LoRs, stating her lack of faith towards the college as a viable reason.
Following a complaint against one of the professors of Ashoka University in April of 2017, the committee against sexual harassment (CASH) of JNU found the accused to be guilty of “manipulated consent” and “the abuse of patriarchal power in the professional sphere”. After a delay of more than a year, the students of the institute claimed that there had been a gross miscarriage of justice in the entire procedure.
Alleging the administration of being insensitive and highly ignorant of the complexities of human interactions, the students and the alumni revealed in an open letter, that the administration conveyed the above remark to the survivor, thereby revealing the unbelievable nature of their stand on the issue.
With JNU’s actions on making a 75% attendance compulsory, various debates on mandatory attendance have taken the academia by storm. Among the universities which strongly advocate the policy of an obligatory presence, it is a common sight for professors and authorities to hold the students’ right to appear for exams as a means to force them to attend classes. Although, in an institute where there is no such policy in place, a threat like the above sounds absurd, at best.
That is exactly what students at Jadavpur University have come to face repeatedly. According to Debopam Gangopadhyay, a post-graduate student in philosophy, it is a regular sight for students to face threats on disqualification from exams by their professors if they would fail to attend classes. He says, “Although the campus has no strict policy for a minimum threshold in attendance, a lot of teachers continue to take things in their hands repeatedly.”
In February this year, students at TISS engaged in a series of protests against the administration opposing the rollback in the aid provided to students eligible under the GOI-PMS scheme. After about a month of peaceful protests outside the institute’s campus and an exchange of a series of notices between the student body and the authorities, the administration filed an injunction against 6 students.
The institute alleged that the students had entered the administrative building and caused a nuisance by participating in acts of vandalism. After their hearings, the court advised the TISS administration and the student body to engage in more talks and resolve the matter via dialogue.
As this list of incidents re-affirms, 2018 had its own share of absurd and childish responses that were employed by administrations across the educational spectrum. This is a faint sign of the incompetent nature of our powerful authorities in handling voices of dissent in an intellectual, if not a human, manner. Unfortunately, this trend does not seem to change even in the world of politics, outside the walls of these colleges.