But students say restrictions on night life amount to invasion of privacy

The students and administration of IIT- Madras are at loggerheads over restrictions being imposed on night life in campus. While students say the new regulations amount to moral policing, the administration maintains that the measures — such as curfew time of 11 p.m. for female students and increased surveillance — are only aimed at ensuring safety.

It all started late last month when the students received a revised format for this year's hostel night, a farewell ritual in which graduating students are invited by immediate juniors to their hostel rooms. As per the new rules, a student would be permitted to invite only two seniors into his or her hostel room and celebrations must end by 10.30 p.m. “The circular also says that we should keep our doors open on such occasions. Why should even celebrations be under surveillance?” asked an IIT-Madras student.

While the administration said the move was to enforce the official policy of ‘no alcohol, drugs or cigarettes' in hostel rooms, students felt the imposition amounted to ‘moral policing' and intruded into their private space. “This is a question of fundamental rights. The institute needs to treat us like adults. We know what we are doing,” said an M.S. student. Students added that the issue for most wardens seemed to be the participation of female students in boys' hostel nights. “When a student tried to talk about it (during the meeting between students and administration), a professor threatened to walk out, saying he was unable to stand the ‘levels of indecency',” he said.

Incidentally, the Fifth Estate, the official newsletter of the campus, which had posted an account of this meeting, has now taken it off the website.

L.S. Ganesh, dean (students) of IIT- Madras, said there has to be a balance between individual freedom and public order. “We are not against celebrations or freedom, but we want them to be safe. They can talk, listen to music and celebrate, but not with alcohol or cigarettes,” he said.Over five hostel parties went off smoothly, Prof. Ganesh added.

Another set of rules is being drafted to ensure greater safety in the campus, which students, especially female, feel target their freedom. But officials say such stringent norms have become necesssary following recent incidents of theft and sexual assault. Of the nearly 7,500 students, 1,000 are female.

One of the proposed rules bars female students from venturing out of their hostels after 11 p.m. “There is no internet in the hostel at night. Preventing us from going to the department ahead of exams and submissions is meaningless,” said Dipthi, a student. Prof. Ganesh, however, said that soon, female students will be provided with escorts should they need to step out of their hostels after 11 p.m. “This is not moral policing,” he said, “ We are asking them to give us a record of where they are going after 11 p.m. and follow a basic set of rules in the campus,” he said. “We are responsible for their safety. They can't say that they will do whatever they want and we are the ones answerable to their parents.”

Campus conflict

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Vasudha VenugopalJune 28, 2012

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