On the 31st of October,the students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad discovered from a newspaper advertisement that the Hyderabad campus has been ‘now’ made anon-residential campus. No further clarity was provided about the exact time from when the residential facilities would be withdrawn. The administration of TISS also announced the discontinuation of the Bachelors of Arts in Social Sciences from the Hyderabad campus.
However, the current students and hostellers have still not been officially informed about either of the decisions. The student body of TISS, Hyderabad has been protesting for the last one month by boycotting their fees, and on last Monday (10.12.2018) a class boycott had begun which has now consolidated into a full-fledged lockdown of the institution.
On the 14th of December, it was declared by the Student Action Committee (SAC) that the student body will not vacate the building until the Director and the Registrar from TISS, Mumbai comes and addresses them in person. Over a hundred students have occupied the building as of now and are waiting for a response from the central administration at the earliest.
It is important to analyse the administrative decisions to revoke the hostel facilities in the current light of events. Previous semester (June to October, 2018), multiple instances of sexual harassment took place around the women’s hostels in Upparpally, Hyderabad. While the Office of Students’ Affairs (OSA) intervened, it was only in very limited capacities.
The administration was against mentioning the name of the institution in any of the official documents regarding these instances, so that the perception is such that these are private accommodation facilities. Students had also protested strongly against such administrative apathy and had demanded the administration to take complete accountability of their security.
The demands stemmed from the fact that all of them were promised hostel facilities while taking admission in the college.
The demands stemmed from the fact that all of them were promised hostel facilities while taking admission in the college. Therefore, if the hostel facilities are completely removed, it is implied that a majority of the female students would be discouraged from applying to the college in the first place and even some current students would be forced to drop out from their courses. This would also lead to the upcoming batches would facing a serious concern in the gender composition as many female students, even after being eligible,would not be allowed by their families to take admission in an unfamiliar city without any security regarding their accommodation.
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In a meeting between the college’s Internal Management Committee (IMC) and the SAC on the 13th of December, this issue was raised. A member of the IMC responded that this would not be an issue since several female students already choose to live outside the hostel. What such reductionist statements do is equate the privilege and economic liberty only a selective section has to the entire society at large, and in the process assumes the entire womankind to be a singular entity.
Another concern which is prominentis that of the GOI-PMS students enrolled in the institution. Those from underprivileged communities, who avail scholarships, cannot avail funds from the scholarship for their stay in Hyderabad, unless they live in accommodations provided by the institution. Moreover, even the living expenses of the students who avail and will avail educational loans will not be financed by banks unlessthey live in hostels authorized the institution.
So, the non-residential tag given to TISS Hyderabad will drastically skew the composition of those who will be able to study in the institution, not only depriving many deserving students of their right to education, but also negatively affecting the composition and academic environment of the university. On asking this to the IMC, the SAC was told by the chairperson of the SC, ST and Equal Opportunity Cell that the institution is ready to compromise on the classroom diversity, and the existing student body was requested to adjust with the same.
The GOI-PMS students have been constantly harassed by the service providers inside the hostel where they have been pressurised to pay their fees even after them availing scholarships.The discriminatory behaviour of the service providers reached its peak when certain students were not allowed to leave the hostel during their vacations as their dues were not cleared according to the records maintained by the service provider.
“My father’s daily wage is 130 rupees per day, and I got admission as a GOI student under limited accommodation. Still, for hostel facilities, the admin was asking me for 15,000 which my parents cannot afford. This is a really big amount for me and for every student who belongs to the marginalised community. Now, for this semester, we are living in the hostel. We don’t have to pay the food or accommodation bills as the institute is taking care of it. If the college decides they will not give us hostel facilities, where will we and the future students from our communities study? Even students from the general category are facing great problems because they come here based on the promises about accommodation and safety concerns”, says Sital Chik Baraik, who is a 2nd year student of M.A. in Education and also a member of the SAC.
It is extremely hypocritical of the management of the institute which teaches the values of social justice and inclusion to its students to systematically deny the same values in practice. The entire student body is greatly enraged and frustrated about the current situation and the complete non-cooperation extended towards them by the IMC.
“We are not here to compromise on either of the future of the thousands of the students at stake as well as the principles we learn here every single day.”
In a meeting between the IMC and the SAC, it was conveyed in various implicit and explicit ways that the concerns of the students are not for the management to deal with. It is clear that most of these problems are not under the purview of the Hyderabad management, which is exactly why the SAC’s immediate demand is a dialogue with the Mumbai administration, until which the college which remain under an indefinite and complete lockdown.
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“We are not here to compromise on either of the future of the thousands of the students at stake as well as the principles we learn here every single day. There can be no TISS without social inclusion;there is no social sciences without social inclusion”, says N. Arvind Karthick, a 1st year student of M.A. in Development Studies and the General Secretary of the Student Council (2018-2019).
The hashtag #injusTISS and the social media handles injustisshyd on Instagram and ‘TISS for everyone’ on Twitter and Facebook can be followed to stay updated on this issue.
Photography Credits: TISS Media Team