Archive for July, 2009
On Friday the 24th, in a rare instance of student mobilisation, people from across courses in TISS came together in solidarity with the Students’ Union, as the latter sat with the director to discuss the growing unrest among students about the new security regulations on campus.
For the uninformed, new rules restricting our movements were imposed soon after the incident of sexual assault outside the campus on one of our colleagues. (For details, see previous post).
While it was extremely disheartening to know that the meeting could not be completed due to lack of time (also the meeting started an hour and a half late), some outcomes of the meeting could be considered positively, albeit in a guarded manner.
- Deadline has been restored to 12.30 a.m. However, the need and justification for deadline needs to be thoroughly debated.
- Students staying out of campus can remain on campus even after 12 a.m.
- The provision of informing parents will not be followed through. It is not clear though if this is only temporary or the provision has been put on hold till a new system is put in place.
- Hostel residents will not be removed from hostel if they come late often.
- Wardens need to be informed (not sought permission from) through SMS whenever a student might come late. It does seem like there are no caps on how often students can come later than 12.30 a.m. at least till the time a new set of rules are decided upon by the Committee.
The last two outcomes are not entirely unproblematic. When the Director later fielded questions from students, he said that information collected through the SMS will be used. On further questioning, he admitted that it is not yet known what the information will be used for. If penalty will then be imposed in retrospect, one does not know yet.
5. To a question on if there was no restriction on moving between campuses, the director’s response was a guarded yes with a caveat however that “unnecessary” movements between campuses need not be undertaken. The qualification merits further probing on what constitutes necessity and for whom.
6. An empowered committee consisting of students and administration will be set up.
It is not clear if the rules thus relaxed will be discussed again at the scheduled meeting with the Deputy Director on Wednesday. Also unclear is how long these rules will be in force.
Even while we discuss the nitty-gritty of rules, the larger question that looms before us is how much codification we are willing to subject our lives to. When rules are made for students to be “safe” does this mean that women are? Does it eliminate possibilities of sexual harassment? Has it done so in TISS?
As you are all aware, new ‘security rules’ have been introduced this academic year ostensibly for security purposes. These rules have been brought into force after the sexual assault on one of our colleagues outside the campus in April’09.
For those who are still unaware of the rules, the following brief might help:
1. Expulsion of students from the hostel if they come later than 12 a.m. three times in a year.
2. Informing the student’s parents every time they come in later than 12 a.m.
3. Day scholars are not allowed to stay on campus after 12 a.m.
4. No exit from campus between 12 to 6 am, with restrictions even on moving between campuses.
TISS has repeatedly said that blaming the victim for the assault is not a view they subscribe to. But these regulations restricting our movements expose the administration’s implicit assumption that if the victim had not gone out, the assault would not have occurred.
This, we assert, is a grossly false view since sexual assaults can take place at any time in the day. Protective confinement is not a viable defence against sexual violence. What is does is that it hinders women and men from exercising their rights and freedom.
According to the guidelines of the Committee against Sexual Harassment set up by TISS, “Physical confinement against one’s will and any other act likely to violate one’s privacy” constitutes sexual harassment.
We contend here that these rules, especially informing parents about out our movements and not allowing people to leave campus after 12 a.m., smacks of this very kind of harassment that the institute otherwise claims to oppose. It is not merely individuals who perpetrate harassment; institutions are guilty of it too.
Social control of individual’s sexuality is a violation of fundamental freedom. And as students of social sciences, it is imperative upon us to speak and oppose collectively such forms of control wherever we encounter it. Let us all come together to resist these moral and authoritarian ways.