Starting this year, the Hostel Rooms Allocation Committee (HRAC) has proposed to accommodate UG freshmen in hostels that do not have senior BTech/DD/MA Students, and PG freshers of ‘taught’ programmes (MSc/MBA/MTech.) in hostels that predominantly house BTech/DD/MA seniors. T5E Correspondent Rajaram Suresh spoke to Professor L. S. Ganesh, the Dean (Students), about his views on this issue. LSG candidly shares information and views to augment the interview:
When questioned on the primary need to bring about such a change, LSG begins, “There are certain risks that need to be minimized administratively in regards our UG freshers: (a) Legal, i.e., complaints of ‘ragging’ from various sources, (b) Academic, i.e., deteriorated academic performance, and (c) Institutional and Developmental, i.e., early loss of academic direction, all within the current, temporary severe shortage of hostel accommodation (logistics), especially for gents.”
LSG then elaborated on each of these bases for the HRAC’s decision.
“We must follow the Supreme Court’s directives (and also appear to do so) on anti-ragging and the prior recommendations of the R. K. Raghavan Committee, as well as the specific Guidelines proposed by AICTE/UGC in their Acts, to the best extent possible. The role and responsibility of actively preventing ragging are unambiguously vested with the Institution and the concerned authorities (including Students’ Representatives).
“Ragging is a non-negotiable, legal compliance issue for our Institute. When it comes to handling the consequences, it is the Wardens who are in the firing line, and deemed accountable to the law, more than anyone else. Earlier, the Wardens took a unanimous decision to accommodate UG freshers separately and away from the UG seniors keeping in mind the above three risks as well as our Institute’s legal position.”
Prof. LSG also provided the following extract of the Supreme Court’s directives:
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO. 887 OF 2009
University of Kerala … Apellant
Council, Principals’ Colleges, Kerala and Ors. … Respondents
J U D G M E NT
Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT, J.
1. ……… Keeping in mind the recent incidents of ragging which have surfaced, and which have been dealt with by this Court, it becomes necessary that the following recommendations made by the Raghavan Committee be implemented immediately, namely
(i) Recommendation No. 5.14: “We also recommend that every institution should engage or seek the assistance of professional counselors at the time of admissions to counsel `freshers’ in order to prepare them for the life ahead, particularly for adjusting to the life in hostels…”;
4. The recent incident involving the death of Aman Kachroo clearly indicates that the formulation of guidelines and regulations is not sufficient. Such regulations shall have to be enforced strictly, and penal consequences for the heads of the institutions/administration of the institution who do not take timely steps in the prevention of ragging and punishing those who rag. In addition to penal consequences, departmental enquiries be initiated against such heads institutions / members of the administration / Faculty members / non-teaching staff, who display an apathetic or insensitive attitude towards complaints of ragging;
10. Freshers shall be lodged in a separate hostel block, wherever possible, and where such facilities are not available, the college/institution shall ensure that seniors’ access to freshers’ accommodation is strictly monitored by wardens, security guards and college staff;
(Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT)
(ASOK KUMAR GANGULY)
May 08, 2009
“Dr. Arijit Pasayat and Sri Asok Kumar Ganguly were Judges of the Supreme Court of India who delivered the judgment. There is a long-standing observation that UG freshers are subjected to late night ‘fundae’ sessions, which do involve ragging as per the definitions stated by the AICTE/UGC, and also by a few of our sister IITs, even without applying any strict norms! Several of our faculty as well as some recent alumni have pointed out the undesirable, delayed effects of these ‘indoctrination’ sessions. Students flatly deny this and hold the opposite view – a sharp difference of viewpoints exists on this count. In fact, there is massive support from our faculty for the HRAC’s decision – a clear indication that our faculty members and students hold values and viewpoints with little or no intersection on this count.”
ACADEMIC and LOGISTIC
“Over the last few years, the large number of D, E and U grades have been indicative of the alarming academic performance of UG freshmen. We expect that this situation can be corrected by housing a large number of UG freshers in the selected Hostels, and by putting in the required planned efforts to support their formal learning. We believe that the efforts of the UG freshers can be effectively encouraged/supported for improving their academic performance, and sustaining it later.
“Also, the current distribution of available rooms (read as ‘beds’, because of the large-scale doubling and tripling that is unavoidable only for now) across the Gents Hostels (quadrangle and tower types) has been a factor in the HRAC’s decision.”
INSTITUTIONAL and DEVELOPMENTAL
“We have been proactive in introducing a compulsory two-credit course (Life Skills) that will equip the UG freshers to develop:
(a) self-confidence, socialization, self-esteem, resilience, goal-setting, time management and other independence skills,
(b) communication, team-play, inter-personal transactions, conflict resolution and other interdependence skills, and
(c) emotional intelligence, hygiene, will power, self-awareness, creativity and other inner dependence skills, and deal with successes and failures with equanimity.
“MITr wishes to promote positive interventions in the UG freshers’ activities through the above “Life Skills” course, related group exercises, various sports activities, and other programmes including talks/lectures/Panel Discussions, competitions, etc.
“We have enlisted some of the finest experts (including our own Distinguished Alumni) in and around Chennai to conduct various sessions in the course, which will be experiential in nature. A few UG seniors and PG’s have expressed their wish to have the course offered to them as well. We will be happy to do so, and will have to work out many details before we respond in action.”
“The ones who bear the eventual legal risk on the grounds of responsibility and accountability, the Wardens, shall have an appropriate, necessary, or even overriding, ‘say’ in this matter. Responsibility and Accountability are inter alia vested in the Wardens for prevention, monitoring and control of ragging. The Students’ role, including their Representatives’, is of far lesser magnitude and intensity.”
“(a) Effectiveness argument: Hostel administration, given the current reorganization into Hostel Clusters, ought to become smoother when clearly identifiable (based on programmes of study) groups of Students are placed neatly within the Hostel Clusters. This should be realized in the next two/three years.
“(b) Reversibility argument: Even if the outcomes of the present decision turn out to be undesirable in our collective judgement later, we can easily effect the necessary changes, smoothly and swiftly, as pointed out to the Students clearly by our Director.
“(c) Temporal argument: This decision is purely temporary, given the fact that we will have better ‘space’ for room allocations after the completion of the Ladies Hostel (expected by the turn of this calendar year) and the two Gents Hostels (by the end of 2014?).
“I’m sure the Students are aware of the shortage of accommodation in the Hostels. Once the two hostels being constructed for Gents are ready, we can be confident that the situation will be under control. The availability of accommodation in our Ladies Hostels is relatively more comfortable now with the recent addition of the newly built G7 block near Vanavani school.”
When quizzed on why the proposals of the Students’ Representatives were not taken into account, the Dean is quick to reply. “We did listen to the arguments of the Students General Secretary, viewed his presentation, and understood the proposal, supporting points, analysis and arguments. By summarizing the Students’ viewpoints correctly, I confirmed with the Students’ representatives then and there that we did understand them well. But, we, the Faculty members in the HRAC, sharply differed with them. Though we heartily appreciated the efforts of the Students General Secretary in conducting the survey among the seniors, one must understand that their window of perception ranges over a span of around five years. But we, in the Administration – by sheer virtue of experience – use windows of perception ranging from 10 to 30 years! The level of holistic thinking that has gone into taking this decision is arguably beyond the imagination of Students and hence also beyond their appreciation.
“I have stated directly and unambiguously, and quite a few times, that Students do not have any locus standi whatsoever in making policy decisions in our Institute including those concerning hostel rooms allocation. Yet, though not mandatory, it is a basic courtesy and a sign of respect towards our Students body, in general, that we have included Students’ representatives in the HRAC, and several other official policy-making bodies of our Institute including our Senate, BAC, BAR, and BoS. This does not imply that Students should consider it their privilege, leave alone right, to make final decisions in this matter. Students’ representatives are granted and enjoy full rights to participate, influence, and vote, if required, in policy decisions. Their viewpoints and suggestions are definitely welcome, but we cannot and need not guarantee their acceptance. In contrast, in most operational decisions (not policy decisions), the Students’ representatives’ viewpoints almost always prevail, except when they contradict or undermine Institute policies. Our major concern was to address the issues of academics (low grades), personal development (Life Skills course), and accommodation, while complying with the Supreme Court’s directives relevant to ragging. The proposals made by the Students’ representatives were in stark contrast with our principles and policies, so we could not accept the same.”
LSG also reveals another lesser-known fact, “The concept of ‘UG freshmen Hostels’ is not new, as most of you would like to believe. We’ve not only used this system in the past, but have enjoyed well over over three decades of success! Of course, it was a different time back then, but we have factored in the changes in technology, lifestyles, relationships, and academics while making this decision. Interestingly, many among our alumni-Faculty passed through this very system of UG freshers’ accommodation, and have strongly vouched for our decision, as well.”
He moves on, “The four major issues our Students have raised about the decision of the HRAC pertain, in summary, to its adverse effects on:
1) Hostel culture (in its grandest/broadest sense).
2) Freshers-seniors interactions (particularly, in the early period when the necessary elements/fundaes of life and education in our campus can be “effectively” imparted).
3) Performance and accomplishments of our Students in co- and extra-curricular activities, viz., Hostel-level, Tech-Soc, Lit-Soc, and Schroeter, and in external competitions and events, including inter-IIT. The Students’ observation is that the given room allocations for freshers will deny the latter a ‘normal’, ‘uninhibited’ hostel life marked by participation in various hostel-level activities (football, volleyball, frisbee, cricket, etc., in the Hostel quadrangles, tech-soc projects, lit and cul activities for the Inter-Hostel competitions).
4) Hitherto peaceful, calm life of PGs/Research Scholars in Brahmaputra and the other two tower Hostels (as will be applicable).”
He continues, “Their basic questions are:
a) Why rock the boat when the sailing is smooth?
b) Why is the decision being implemented now?
c) What are the compelling (convincing?) reasons behind the decision?
d) Why is the worst arrangement, i.e., double occupancy of erstwhile single rooms, being thrust on UG freshers, and not on the fresh PG entrants?”
“The last point,” he notes, “concerns inequality in treatment given to UG and PG freshers within the priority policies used in Hostel rooms allocation by the HRAC. The Students’ General Secretary proposed an even allocation of ‘beds’ resulting in an interesting (unusual?) mix of UG and PG freshers across all our quadrangle Hostels. A lot of passionate, honest effort seems to have gone into the workings presented by the Gen Sec. The denial of his proposal is another reason for the Students’ disappointment and protest. In summary, the HRAC was not undemocratic while rejecting the Gen Sec’s proposal. On the contrary, the HRAC bowed to the principles of democracy by being consistent with our Institute’s policies and by obeying the Supreme Court’s directives.
“The notion that having UG freshmen along with their seniors in the same Hostels is a necessary and sufficient condition for ‘interaction’ is a fallacy. Equally fallacious is the opposite statement that minimal or no interaction will take place if the UG freshers are housed away from the UG seniors. Yes, I agree that proximity will definitely enhance interactions, and that the Insti-culture will undergo changes, but the keys to tackle the interactions challenge are with both of us – Students and Administration. This is precisely why I believe that if the seniors should join hands with us, we can together use our imagination and creativity to develop mechanisms and identify innovative opportunities to organize interactions that will serve our common purpose. Interestingly, such an effort was spearheaded by Prof. Idichandy (former DoSt) in the past, and was met with tremendous success. Moreover, as Students and Faculty of IITM, I have no doubt that we are quite capable of successful ideation. Who knows, if we do come up with a creative solution, we could even have ‘interactions’ without Big Brother watching!”
When asked why the results of the survey prepared by Deepak Johnson (Students General Secretary) were not weighed, LSG shoots, “We will be terribly wrong if we think the present Students are the only stakeholders in this matter. It will be interesting to conduct a survey among the incoming UG freshers, their parents and our Faculty on the same issue, compare the results, and then draw conclusions. Nevertheless, survey results cannot overrule the Supreme Court’s directives.” He adds, “Let us see how you view this decision in the future, when you’re, say, 30 or 35 years old, or even older when your children will be UG freshers. This decision made now will be the foundation of your great confidence that your children will be safe and in good hands in Institutes like ours, especially when your children will be most vulnerable and wet behind their ears!”
Prof. Sivakumar, who leads MITr, joined us towards the end of the interview and added, “This is probably the first time we are attempting to take a policy decision after receiving inputs from all parties. Kudos to the Council of Wardens and the HRAC for their efforts.”
When asked what the future holds in store, LSG replies, “This is just a decision that we believe will work well. Everything will depend on how the following academic year pans out. With alumni-Faculty who have experienced this very system, a holistic window of perception and, most importantly, after listening to and understanding the Students’ representatives viewpoints, we have taken this policy decision. I want Students to reflect and realize that we Faculty members love IIT Madras as much as they do, or perhaps much more. Speaking positively, Students can begin to respect the HRAC’s policy decision, join hands with the CCW, Wardens, MITr, and myself and work hand-in–hand to ensure smooth implementation of this change,” he signs off.
During the course of the interview, LSG also mentioned some assurances to the students. He wrote to T5E after the interview, elaborating on each of them. T5E reproduces them in the following paragraph:
“Assurances made to Students (now in T5E electronic/print form):
1. With the help and inputs of our Students, we will organize some well-planned programmes, events and competitions early on to tackle the ‘interaction’ and ‘culture’ challenges that may be caused by the present decision, but without any adverse effects on academics.
As stated above, the Students’ argument that interactions between the seniors and the UG freshers will thrive only if the latter are placed in the same Hostels is certainly not tenable. It is equally wrong to claim that if the present decision is implemented minimal or no interactions will happen between the seniors and freshers. Our Hostel Zone is not so widespread that physical distances will cause such a sharp drop in interactions. All of us who are alumni know that this was simply not the case when we were Students here. Our interactions did thrive. It’s all in the mind, and we should help healthy interactions happen, and we will. In any case, aren’t the Students themselves deeply concerned with the ‘Facebook’ and DC++ effects that have led to chair-potatoes, neighbouring strangers, and intelligent zombies among them on a not-negligible scale?
2. We do intend to accommodate all the Students of a BTech/DD branch, or at least large chunks of Students of large branches, in each Hostel, as will be found feasible by the future HRAC’s.
This policy dominates our minds because of the very strong feedback from many of our colleagues across all Departments. This point has figured a few times in our past Senate meetings even since Professor Natarajan’s term as Director. We’ve discussed this informally in our Deans’ Committee meetings. Perhaps the time is ripe now for this move.
3. We will definitely effect the necessary changes, if and when we deem them fit. We will involve our Students in our policy decisions as will be appropriate. We will listen to them, understand their viewpoints/expectations, confirm our understanding with them, and then decide whether to accept them or not based on our judgement. This is common practice in all multi-person policy decision situations, and I’m very sure that it prevails even among the Students within their policy decision-making bodies.
Only, our Students must realize that listening to and understanding their viewpoints, and even confirming this with them, must not be equated to agreement and acceptance of their viewpoints in and by various official policy bodies/Committees of our Institute.
P.S.: I acknowledge that a variety of interpretations, arguments, counterpoints, inferences, extensions, new points, questions, etc., ranging from the serious to the silly, will exist in regards to what I have shared above. Issues, such as the above, could have many solutions and also many approaches to solutions. There simply cannot be any QED, except legal mandates, at the end. So, if anyone wishes, the arguments can continue till kingdom come. No one, including the majority, can justly claim that they are the only ones who are right. Of course, everyone has a right to believe that they are right. We all ought to be aware of the numerous massive shifts from majority to minority and vice versa in various societies. Life continues to evolve and we can never cease to learn. Knowledge, reasoning and imagination are our foundations, while faith, hope and dreams help us move on. Also, I will not write further on this issue. Studied silence is what I’ll prefer while others may join issue. May all of us enjoy peace, good health, true friendship (not fair weather friendship), and cheer.
The following is an excerpt from the body of an email sent by the legal head of an anti-ragging NGO to our Institution, which T5E publishes at LSG’s suggestion:
“1. Pursuant to the UGC REGULATIONS ON CURBING THE MENACE OF RAGGING IN HIGHER EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, 2009 (“UGC Regulations”) (Mandatory to be followed by IIT-M), it is mandatory for esteemed institutions to lodge freshers in separate hostel blocks. For your ease of reference, reproduced below are some extracts from Regulation 6.2:
j) Freshers shall be lodged, as far as may be, in a separate Hostel block, and where such facilities are not available, the Institution shall ensure that access of seniors to accommodation allotted to freshers is strictly monitored by wardens, security guards and other staff of the Institution.
k) A round the clock vigil against ragging in the Hostel premises, in order to prevent ragging in the Hostels after the classes are over, shall be ensured by the Institution.
Therefore, esteemed Institutions like IIT- Madras are statutorily/legally bound (especially when such facilities are available to IIT-Madras to lodge the freshers in separate blocks) to provide separate accommodation to the freshers. Please note the use of words “shall” – “Freshers shall be lodged … in separate hostel block …”
The option, if any, to lodge the freshers with senior Students while strictly monitoring and regulating access of seniors to accommodation of freshers, is only available to small Institutions where the facility of separate blocks for freshers may not be available. As such, IIT-Madras cannot exercise this choice.
2. Pursuant to Regulation 9.4 of the UGC Regulations, if any educational Institution violates the provisions of UGC Regulations or fails to implement preventive measures, UGC shall take following action:
9.4 The Commission (UGC) shall, in respect of any Institution that fails to take adequate steps to prevent ragging or fails to act in accordance with these Regulations … take one or more of the following measures, namely;
i. Withdrawal of declaration of fitness to receive grants under section 12B of the Act.
ii. Withholding any grant allocated.
iii. Declaring the institution ineligible for consideration for any assistance under any of the general or special assistance programmes of the Commission.
Iv. Informing the general public, including potential candidates for admission, through a notice displayed prominently in the newspapers or other suitable media and posted on the website of the Commission, declaring that the institution does not possess the minimum academic standards.
v. Taking such other action within its powers as it may deem fit and impose such other penalties as may be provided in the Act
IIT Madras has been legally bound to implement Regulation 6.2 (i.e., lodging freshers in separate blocks) since the academic session of 2009-2010. It is time that UGC Regulations are effectively implemented. Severe action is attracted against any Institution, if they fail to do so, including but not limited to actions against the Institution by UGC, a civil suit for culpable negligence against the Head of the Institution (by any student who suffers harm due to ragging in Hostel), a criminal action against Head of Institution for negligence and/or abetment (either by a student who suffers harm or anyone else who witnesses or comes to know of the incident of ragging with IIT-Madras).
3. The AICTE Anti-Ragging Notification Dated 01-07-2009 for ‘Prevention and Prohibition of Ragging in Technical Institutions, Universities including Deemed to be Universities imparting Technical Education’ also provides:
Freshers should be lodged in a separate hostel block wherever possible and where such facilities are not available, the College/Institution shall ensure that seniors’ access to freshers’ accommodation is strictly monitored by wardens, Security Guards and Staff.
4. I also refer to Raghavan Committee Report (formed by the Supreme Court) in University of Kerala case (2009):
The Apex Court has also emphasized on the need to provide adequate and effective security to the place of accommodation of ‘freshers’ and regulated entry as well as prohibition of the entry of seniors after specified hours to such accommodation. The Committee came across numerous instances of accommodation being shared within the same premises by seniors and freshers’. One of the constraints that was pointed out by Institutions was the lack of financial resources to redesign or provide separate accommodation and also to pay for security personnel for being deployed in adequate numbers.
As I understand it, IIT Madras is not under any financial constraint in providing separate Hostels to the freshers, and especially when it has available (or is willing to make available) separate blocks for the lodging of freshers.
5. I refer below to a recent media report, where a heinous incident of ragging occurred in an Institution imparting technical education in Delhi:
A day after a case of ragging at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) came to light, Director of the Institute Chetan Vaidya said that the College was thinking about segregating the first-year Students from the seniors to avoid such cases in the future.
It is sad to see that only the occurrence of severe ragging cases compel the authorities to segregate freshers from senior Students. Your Institution’s decision in this regard is correct and welcome, and should not be altered under any pressure. Indeed, it is better to be safe than sorry.
6. I refer below to one of the media reports about IIT-M:
A pamphlet distributed by the Students said more than 92% of the 1,062 responses for the survey were against the move to separate juniors from seniors. A decision cannot be taken on hearsay or unreported evidence. There has been no ragging of late and the number of first-year suicides in IIT-M has been zero for the past eight years.”
As I understand it, the new academic session has not commenced yet. As such, it is the senior Students who have conducted this survey. Firstly, such surveys conducted using social networking sites or otherwise by Students are quite unreliable and no decisions should be made by the Institution on the basis of the same. Secondly, it is very unlikely that any freshers have participated in the survey (given the fact that the new academic session has not started yet). Thirdly, such surveys cannot be over and above the law, and as such, an Institution’s decisions cannot be governed by student polls/votes.
While the opinion of freshers and their parents may have more weightage in an opinion poll in deciding about lodging of freshers, such considerations will be immaterial for the institution which has to act as per law.
It should be made clear by your actions that the decision to keep freshers separate is not based on hearsay but on legal requirements to be fulfilled by the IIT-Madras to enjoy its status as a provider of academic standards par excellence.
Hence, we strongly condemn the opposition of the decision of IIT Madras to keep the freshers in separate hostels. This opposition is undemocratic, unreasonable and in violation of the Indian law. Your decision to lodge freshers separately is not just the need of the hour but also your statutory duty. Implementing your decision will bring your institution good reputation for a cautious approach towards curbing the menace of ragging and will set an example for other Institutions.
We strongly demand that IIT Madras does not revoke its decision under any circumstance.”