While students find them stifling, they accept them
While the recent proposals to impose stricter rules at IIT-Madras have met with resistance from students, they have evoked bewilderment and even amusement from students in other colleges. Most students in self-financed colleges endure much stricter rules, and even for those in a deemed university such as VIT University, the situation is often no different.
“It is worse for the girls,” explains a third-year engineering student of VIT University. On weekends, they have to be back in their hostel rooms by 6 p.m., according to new rules introduced by VIT University, while on other days they can be on the campus till 8.30 p.m. Boys, however, need to be in only by 11.30 p.m. on all days. A trip outside campus is permitted once a month for the girls, provided they produce a fax from their parents granting permission. “The chief warden has the last word. She will shoot down your proposal if she is not sufficiently convinced. She will even talk to your parents and tell them that they should not be this liberal,” says a female student.
Seeking leave for going to Puducherry or a trip with friends will only raise eyebrows and deter your chances of getting approval. “You need to mark attendance each time you leave the hostel and in case you come late, you have to sign an apology note, a new system that has been introduced now, explain the boys. The girls are penalised immediately.” There is no way your next outing is sanctioned,” adds a female student.
While there is no ban on girls and boys interacting with each other in classrooms and laboratories, security guards will blow whistles at you until you move apart, if you are seen walking together, say students. The same holds true for students who are found sitting together on the lawn or footpaths. Public holidays are spent in hostels, especially a festival such as Holi is strictly observed by girls and boys separately in their hostels.
“They confiscate laptops and cell phones and even check messages if they suspect anything. It is all done to enforce discipline, so we feel it is okay,” says a student. Till a few years ago, they used to impose fines but since most students here are from upper middle class backgrounds, it didn't affect us much, he adds. The good thing is the teachers and management are different here. Teachers are not spies who report your behaviour, unlike what happens in many other colleges, says a student. “But the wardens and management officials often check hostel rooms and ask girls talking on mobile phones to sleep or study,” she adds.
VIT chancellor G. Viswanathan says the rules exist only because he wants the students to excel in studies, sports and cultural activities. “I am more of a parent, not a chancellor, when it comes to hostel rules. I want them to be safe foremost, and then healthy and happy.
“There is a problem of liquor outside the campus in Vellore, so we are concerned about the safety of the students, he adds.
“Nearly, 70 per cent of the female students here come from north Indian states. With their parents living far away, their safety is my responsibility. Since we are answerable to their parents, we just want to ensure that they inform us where they go and that they are safe,” Dr. Viswanathan adds.
Parents, such as Ravi Digampally from Nellore, whose daughter studies in the university feels the fact that parents are informed about their students' performance and activities is a good trend. “We go meet her once a month. These rules are only for her safety,” he adds.
Since every student signs an application during admission that prevents him from protesting or engaging in any action that ‘defames' the institute, there is little the students can do about the rules. “The management listens to us when we use proper channels to complain. A superintendent who was quite harsh towards us was dismissed last year when we complained, but a student who wrote a blog post about it was suspended too.
“We get used to most rules by the time we reach the second year. The core and IT placements are very good and so is the infrastructure, so we don't want to get into trouble, especially after paying so much,” says a student.