Opinion divided on campus standoffs

DC unravels fault lines dividing student views, faculty opinion and administrative norms
Chennai: In the last few months, many campus have witnessed stand-offs between students and managements. The latest battle is being fought in Madras University and has once again highlighted the fault lines dividing students’ views, faculty opinion and administrative norms.
Universities have become the most undemocratic places in recent times, with dialogue being given a go by and stand-offs stretching endlessly, activists said.
In the case of Madras University, students say that the management never had a dialogue with them.
But a section of faculty across universities believes that universities are meant for academic purposes and not for strikes and protests. The debate has split campuses down the middle.
Students of today are tomorrow’s leader and the attempt at curbing the protest in terms of principle stance they are taking on serious issues is undemocratic, said V. Suresh, general secretary, national PUCL.
He cited examples of 1965 uprising in Europe, 1975 uproar in Paris by the students and anti-Emergency uprising led by the students. History has shown that students have been torchbearers of events.
“The move to crush protests at Madras University or other universities is a part of a larger picture of crushing the dissent and democratic politics which is visible in every sphere of life.” Right to dissent is embedded in the Indian Constitution, he said.
But by controlling the protests the students are exposing not only the inefficiencies but also the corruption. “Manivannan had supported students protesting for liquor prohibition. For this he was removed. Students were conducting a silent protest against the government,” he said.
A couple of months earlier at another Chennai campus, battle lines were drawn between members of APSC and the IIT Madras registrar for de-recognition the group.
IIT director Dr Bhaskar Ramamurthi declined to answer the question if students should be allowed to protest inside the campus.
Universities should create a structure to facilitate dialogue and discussion, said Suresh. Earlier, students were allowed to protest. This does not exist in Tamil Nadu now, he said.
Referring to the recent Madras University case, Educationist Prince Gajendra Babu, said the registrar’s decision to not allow political science department’s students into the campus was wrong. “Who gave him the right to say such a thing? Where should students protest if not inside the campus? On the street one cannot protest. They are preaching students to become autocratic.”
However, Dr Priyadarshini Jain head of the Jainology department in Madras University believes that university is not a place for strikes and protests. If students protest for illegal happenings it is feasible but if students are protesting for internal matters and disrupting classes then it should be curbed. “Wherever you think the law and the institution has to be corrected, and then you can conduct a silent protest. But in this case Dr Manivannan was not removed, his tenure was over. Why on earth are the students protesting?” she said.
She also pointed out that the registrar had a dialogue with the students but they did not pay heed to him. “When it comes to protests like liquor prohibition and other government related matters, students should go to government bodies and protest as the university has nothing to do with that,” Dr Priyadarshini said. If the students have to protest, they should do it collectively, in a peaceful and systematic manner not disturbing the atmosphere in the college, she added.
( Source : deccan chronicle )
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