A wave of student unrest swept over the campus of Christ University (Bannerghatta Road) after an undergraduate student took to social media to voice her concerns on the university’s stringent attendance requirements. Dating back to the end of last month, the short timeline of the protests is difficult to untangle. However, after talking to a few students, it’s now clear that it all started on July 26, with a student’s blog. Sumedha Biswas (IInd year, BSc), published a post on her blog which said, “Dear Christ University, I Cannot Fly”. It was about her plight as a student who was being forced to attend classes even during a state-wide bandh to make the attendance percentage (85 per cent) required by the varsity. The post went viral and set the stage for the unrest that was to follow.
“I wrote it simply because I was frustrated, felt completely helpless and wanted a solution to the problem I was facing. But after I’d posted it, the response I got was astounding. That’s when I realised that most people felt the same thing I was feeling”, said Biswas.
A day later, an assistant professor of economics, Vivek Basu (name changed), shared the same blog post in his faculty’s Whatsapp group. “The post had become viral anyway, and if not for me, someone else would have shared it. I still don’t understand why sharing that post alone became a problem when lots of other posts were shared in that group anyway. I think it was a valid concern coming from a student and I still maintain that,” Basu said. On the same day, he was asked to meet the head of the campus by the Associate Dean, Jyothi Kumar, post which his official email ID was disabled.
On July 28, Basu was asked to leave. “I don’t have any regrets. I know I have not done anything wrong”, he further said.
The students’ protest broke out on Friday, July 29. Around 200 students gathered at the gates of the new campus and staged a silent protest regarding various rules. The main agenda of the protest was to address the problems of the ‘85 percent attendance’ requirement, strict dress codes, refusal of holiday requests on statewide/nationwide strikes, the dubious way in which the Student Council is appointed, and the different assessment systems on the two campuses of Hosur Road and Bannerghatta Road.
The students protested silently, wearing black. Their phones and ID cards were confiscated, and were returned two days after. When the students questioned the authorities about this, an administrative officer told them, “If you are in a system, you have to change for the system. The system will not change for you.”
Many colleges and universities have been blamed time and again owing to their ‘absurd rules’. While some students complain about college timings and the attendance requirements, others comply with the rules and have no issues with them whatsoever. “Honestly speaking, we’re pursuing a professional course which involves learning to live in decorum. All these rules are for the better. My friends and I have no issues”, said Maansi Gupta, a student at Christ (main campus).
The most important issue regarding the students’ mental health, however, remains unaddressed. Have the universities forgotten that they’re dealing with adults here? Rates of anxiety and depression in students have sky rocketed over the past few years. Are the authorities concerned at all about the high levels of stress and mental trauma the students go through?
When asked about her views on this subject, a teacher from Christ’s Bannerghatta Road campus told Millennium Post that the university leaves no stone unturned in order to make the students follow all rules. “Even if a student falls ill, the management doesn’t allow any grace leaves or attendance adjustment, due to which the student is forced to come to college even when he/she is unwell.”
Parents of the students are also concerned about such rules and expect an answer from the management. “My daughter is only 20. I can’t even think about her going through such issues at this age. She needs to concentrate on her studies. The university has pathetic rules. She has only been able to visit us once last year”, said Aditya Shrivastava, a parent from New Delhi.
From a few fresh occurrences, it’s pretty clear that this issue not only pertains to Christ University but many others across the country. Over 800 students sat on protests in front of the Polytechnic gate of Jamia Millia Islamia, demanding immediate suspension of the Delhi Police personnel who entered the premises of the boy’s hostel of the university at midnight on August 14. Around a dozen students, mostly from the hostel, sat on strike from August 14 itself, immediately after the police action, and are demanding an independent inquiry into the matter.
The authorities dismissed the issue as trivial and called it an act of ‘regular patrol’ while the students had something else to say entirely. “We want action against the police personnel who violated the university rules by entering without permission”, said Anmol, a student. Another student from the hostel said, “When we asked the police why they were inside the premises, they said they were there to check up on the students and that they had permission from the university administration. However, when we called up the proctor, we found out that no permission was given.”Just as the protest grew bigger, students from other universities also joined in.
In an unfortunate occurrence last week, Sushant Rohilla, a fourth-year BA-LLB student of Amity University, allegedly committed suicide at his residence in south Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar area. The family members and friends of the 20-year-old student have been staging protests outside the college area since his death, alleging foul play on the part of the college authorities.
The deceased was debarred from appearing in the sixth-semester exams in May due to ‘shortage of attendance’. The cost of his ‘attendance shortage’ was paid by his untimely death.
One can never forget the widely talked-about Rohith Vemula’s suicide case. His death occurred after a controversy which extended over a period several months starting in July 2015. In the same year, his university reportedly slashed his fellowship, after he was found “raising issues under the banner of Ambedkar Students Association (ASA)” as part of the institute’s disciplinary inquiry. After a rapid exchange of letters from ministries, Vemula and four others were suspended and barred from their hostel. After the confirmation of their suspension in January 2016, Vemula committed suicide, leading to unrest all over the country.
Rules are meant to promulgate a certain way of life. But as is evident from recent incidents, these rules have taken away ‘life’ itself. But at what cost?
10 Atrocious Christ Rules
Students say the dress code is discriminatory – the rules are heavily biased against girls. In the main campus, it’s shirts and trousers with belt for men; and cotton churidaar or salwar and knee-length kurtas for women. Wearing a dupatta is compulsory for all girls. After leggings and lycra were banned some years ago, security guards were asked to check for the material used by students by touching the fabric. Many students objected to this.
No clapping, hooting and cheering in auditoriums. If caught, identity cards are taken away and the student is asked to meet the dean.
There can be a bandh in the whole state, but Christ University will conduct classes. Thankfully, attendance is not compulsory for all, only students living within a three kilometre radius have to attend class.
Christ University has its own penal code: Students late for sports practice - which starts at 6:30 am – are fined Rs 20. If students, including girls, don’t attend a session, they are fined between Rs 30-40. Fine for attendance shortage (per subject) is Rs 500. Students and lecturers allege that the university collects lakhs of rupees in fines.
Security guards decide whether a late comer can enter the campus, while rules suggest that students will be allowed to attend class without attendance.
Earlier, students were not allowed to remain in the hostel if they were sick. Now, the rule has been removed, but if students are to stay out, their parents have to fax a permission letter a week in advance to the hostel in-charge.
For some years recently, the college management called students’ parents for “ridiculous” stuff. So, even parents from the north-east who sent their kids to Bengaluru had to come travel several days to get to the college.
Students who live in the college hostel are told to leave the hostel if their attendance in a semester is less than 85 per cent.
Hostelers are allowed only one hour for dinner as food is not served in the hostel. They are asked to report to hostel between 8:15 pm to 9:15 pm. If you’re late by even a minute, you’re slapped with a fine of Rs 200. Students sometimes end up paying thousands of rupees as fine every semester.
You can stay out only one night in a single semester, with parents’ permission. It doesn’t matter how more permission letters you produce.