Located on Kamarajar Salai facing the Marina beach, Presidency College is not just one of the oldest colleges in the city, but also boasts of a brick red building whose architectural beauty was a sight to behold. But not any more, it seems, especially for those who regularly walk this stretch as empty plastic bottles, water sachets, used paper plates and cups strewn across the campus, especially in the frontage have become an eyesore.

On Thursday, students who were strolling amidst the garbage strewn across the lawns and lanes leading to the classroom. said it had been two-three days since the place was cleared of litter. There are no waste baskets around as most of them were destroyed during the student clashes.

Queen Mary's College, another beach-facing campus, looked much better; dustbins, at least, could be spotted.

At Government College of Arts (Men) in Nandanam, yellow flowers shed by the copper pod tree at the entrance of the campus make for a pleasant sight, but stroll inside leads to disillusionment.

Empty plastic water bottles, cups, food packets packed in silver foil thrown next to parapet wall of classrooms – all lie uncleared.

On Thursday, garbage was being burnt at one corner.

Back to square one

For students, more than the garbage, it is the method adopted to dispose it that irks them. “During class hours the waste is burnt near the classroom and the smoke chokes us,” says J. Karthika, a final-year psychology student of Presidency College. “The campus is spic and span when the election campaign is on for two months. The unions take up the work to garner votes. But after that it is back to square one,” says P. Anand, another final-year student.

Inadequate conservancy staff

While quite a few arts and science colleges in the city have sprawling campuses and a rich history, maintenance lags behind with only a few conservancy staff on duty and lacklustre initiatives towards ensuring a clean and green college. The Government Arts College (Men), which has 2,750 under graduate and post-graduate students, employs only eight full-time conservancy staff. The college sometimes also engages Corporation staff to clean the premises. Of the 24 conservancy staff positions at Presidency College, only 16 are filled.

The college has 3,600 students. Many government colleges are yet to fill the post of conservancy staff. In February 2012, the Government directed colleges to outsource the work to private agencies rather than wait for fresh appointments.

“We have asked colleges to approach the employment exchange or the Collectorate in case agencies are not available. But for now, most of them use the PTA funds to employ new workers,” says R. Dhanalakshmi, Joint Director, Collegiate Education.

However, no college has acted upon these instructions, according to L. Prathaban, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Government College Teachers Association.

“Close to 480 posts for jobs in group D (sweeper, scavenger watchman, office assistants) in all government colleges in the State remains vacant. For the last five years, no permanent appointment has been made at all,” he adds.

Toilet facilities

Another common issue in most campuses is the lack of toilet facilities. For a student strength of 600 (women), Ambedkar College of Arts and Science has four toilets, says Mr. Ravichandran, vice-president, All India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisation and assistant professor, Department of English, Ambedkar College of Arts and Science.

While various bureaucratic procedures delay such appointments, experts say the least colleges can do is involve student unions, impose fines or adopt targeted approaches such as banning plastic on campus.

On occasions like sports day and college day, students who are part of the National Service Scheme clean the campus.

“The NSS is part of the extension work and these students are supposed to work outside the campus. But many a time, these students work to make the campus clean,” adds M. Ravichandran.

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