Letter to the director
Tata Institute of Social Sciences
27 April 2009
This letter brings to you some of our concerns regarding the new rules brought into force on campus to ensure increased security for students as a response to the sexual assault on one of our colleagues outside the campus. We are worried that the new rules may in fact increase the vulnerability of students.
Also, in our interactions with faculty and Students’ Union members, we were assured that no new rules would be brought into force till the student body returns in full force to the campus.
Seeing the notice put up on our hostel notice boards informing us of these rules, signed by the Registrar Mr. Dilip Kumar Shetty, has therefore come to us a worrying development. We would like to express our deep disappointment at not taking us into confidence in framing these rules, for it impedes our academic activities, increases possibilities of being prone to violence, not to mention restricting our movements as adults.
The notice put up on the hostel boards posits itself as clarifications but as we shall illustrate below, these are in fact new rules. They include
a) Changing the deadline for entering the two campuses from 12.30 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Clause 5.19 of the Student Handbook states that Hostel residents should be within the Campus by 12.30 a.m. and not 12 a.m.
b) Stating that non-resident students must leave campus before 12 a.m. or face disciplinary action.
While the notice states that this is a clarification arising out of clause 5.19, the said clause makes no mention of non-resident students anywhere in its provisions.
c) Introducing the penalty of being removed from the hostel if one enters campus later than 12 a.m. more than three times.
Clause 5.19 of the Student Handbook states that students will be permitted to enter after 12.30 a.m. four times in a month and not three times. The Handbook states that Students violating the rule will be served an explanation letter and no mention exists of being removed from the hostel.
d) Introducing a new provision wherein parents will be informed in writing whenever students come in later than 12 a.m.
Clause 5.19 makes no mention of parents being informed about the students’ movements.
Some Measures Will Make Students More Vulnerable
As an illustration of the above statement, we would like to state that the two rules asking non resident students to leave campus by 12 a.m. and being removed from hostel because one has come in later than 12 a.m. for the fourth time, are in fact counter-productive and make students more vulnerable.
Asking non-resident students to leave campus by 12 a.m. means students are left to fend for themselves at night. To ask a non-resident student who is working on meeting academic requirements, and who feels safer on campus after 11.30 p.m. to leave defeats the purpose of ensuring safety.
As is known, a significant section of students often stay late into the night to access college facilities namely the internet, online resources, library as also to work on group assignments. In heeding to a request, the administration had in fact opened classrooms for people staying on campus for academic activities. Such a rule then leaves no scope for recognising academic requirements.
While we understand and are willing to put up with the inconveniences arising out of the institute’s inability to provide accommodation to all of its students, the least we expect is to be able to access facilities and use the campus space for group assignments as much as hostel students can.
About removing students from hostel if they come in later than 12 a.m. more than three times could lead to the student not coming back because s/he does not want to be removed from the hostel and in the process render himself/herself more vulnerable to possibilities of violence.
At this point, we would like a clarification on whether the number of late night entries for students has been reduced to three or if it is a clerical error, as some faculty member has pointed out to us?
Related question that arises is if the institute will then track its students’ movements to check which student is still out after 12 a.m. and accordingly serve notice to the said student? In this connection, we would like to know if the institute is still actively considering installing biometric devices and if students have a say in the implementation of this process.
Changing Deadlines Are Not Effective Mechanisms
In writing this letter we are assuming that changing the deadline is to increase security for students (The assumption is based on your note to parents and civil society groups on the institute’s website that “TISS is redoubling its efforts to sensitise all students to personal safety issues and is in the process of thinking through additional measures that could prevent such instances in the future”). In such a case, we fail to understand how merely changing the deadline by half hour would facilitate increased security. Incidents of violence can happen at any time of the day and anywhere, even on campus – as complaints to the Gender Amity Committee show.
Before it is assumed that we are advocating for further reduction of deadline from 12 to much earlier, we would like to state here that our lived experience as students has shown us that restricting movements of students in and out of campus hardly achieves the stated purpose of increased security.
Informing Parents About Students’ Movements Is Unreasonable
Lastly, we understand very much the concern for safety the institute holds towards its students and we respect efforts to this end but to inform parents whenever the student enters hostel later than twelve, we hold, is unreasonable. We fail to understand the reason behind this move, unless it is to use this as a threat to curtail our movements. Is the institute assuming here that the student is not capable of making decisions regarding his/her safety?
Is The Institute Policing Us?
Reflecting on the above rules, we cannot but think if the institute is somewhere also policing us, especially since the process was not participative, and does not take into consideration the lived experience of students. This sir, is in contrast to your public address (on the TISS website) which states that the institute does not believe in moral policing. It is also in contradiction to the stated purpose of these rules to ensure better security for its students.
In the light of the concerns we have raised, we request you to keep the new rules on hold, at least till the student body returns when efforts can be made to reach consensus within the student body and between the administration and the student body on security measures.
Concerned students of TISS