IIT-Madras’s decision to house first-year students in separate hostels, away from their immediate seniors, has created an uproar among students.

The move, say students is a break from tradition and will damage the fundamental culture of the institute that depends considerably on interaction between students and their seniors. Housing them in separate hostels or with PG students will lead to a break in communications, said students.

The decision was a source of considerable debate on social media, and students even created a twitter hashtag to register their discontent.

Officials, however, said the decision was taken as part of reforms that have been introduced to improve the academic performance of first-year students. The move would also prevent ragging and was taken considering the logistics of housing, they said.

The institute has initiated many reforms this year to ease the burden on first-year students, as the number of students failing to clear first-year courses was increasing.

Senior students said the move would isolate first-year students from the rest of the undergraduates. “It is during the first year of college that students get time to bond with their seniors and learn from them,” said a third-year mechanical engineering student.

Hostel events are also an integral part of the IIT-M culture, students said. Interaction at these events helps students develop lasting bonds with their hostel-mates, many of whom are their seniors.

“Hostel bonds are also important when it comes to institute-level events such as cultural and technical fests. Housing first-year students with PG students will only delay their understanding of ‘insti’ culture,” said another student.

“A rule is already in place in all IITs that bars first-year students and seniors from visiting each others’ rooms after 9 p.m. There is a roll call every day. With separate hostels, the interaction will come down significantly,” said a final-year computer science student.

Official sources however pointed out that this rule has been implemented in other top-rung institutions such as IIT-Bombay.

The institute, said dean of students L.S. Ganesh, was trying to revert to an older system of grouping first-year students in specific hostels.

“We can not only monitor them better, but also reach out to them easily. The decision to adopt this system has been welcomed by many professors and alumni,” he said.

Prof. Ganesh also said it was a temporary decision due to shortage of space on the campus now. “We are getting two more hostels. The permanent allocations will be done after that.” However, the system of grouping first-year students will continue even once permanent allocations are done, he added.

Prof. Ganesh added, “There was no deliberate attempt to isolate the students from their seniors. The hostels are nearby and students can interact with their seniors whenever they want.”

This article has been corrected for a spelling error.