The IIT administration, in an open forum held on Wednesday, said that no policy would be enforced without taking into account the views of the students.
“The meeting was held to tell the students the administration is very responsive and fair, and students' views will be definitely considered while specifying policies,” L. S. Ganesh, Dean (Students), said after the three-hour, 40-minute interaction.
Addressing students at the meeting, the director of IIT-Madras, Bhaskar Ramamurthy, said the idea of introducing stricter norms was only a proposal and was conceived in the interest of the safety of students. The only decisions made recently by the administration, he said, were to reschedule Shaastra and Saarang (technical and cultural fests) and to introduce the mandatory 85 per cent attendance rule. Both of them were made after extensive consultation with students and faculty members, he said.
The director said the rules on attendance and LAN cuts were introduced with a view to countering declining classroom attendance and improving the academic performance of students. Faculty members and students of the institute were consulted on these too.
At the meeting, students of Tapti hostel complained about some regulations imposed by their warden – being woken up by house-keeping staff at 6 a.m., and being cautioned that if any students were found sleeping between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. without a medical certificate, their parents and heads of departments would be informed.
The director said if any such issues were reported to the administration, they could be undone with immediate effect.
Students also raised the issue of one hostel warden disallowing them from bringing female family members or friends. They contended that the matter had been taken up with the Dean, but there was no response for months.
The director also addressed the issue of safety in the campus, which students say, has gained prominence after recent incidents of attempted sexual harassment by motorcycle-borne men from within and outside the campus. Students had submitted a written petition to the administration some time ago.
Mr. Ganesh told the meeting that the idea of providing self-defence training for women had received positive response. The proposal to provide whistles had come from girl students themselves and the idea of providing paid escorts was a voluntary measure. ‘Declaration of Safety' forms, in which in students agree that they are aware of the risks involved in wandering at night outside ‘safe zones', applied to hostels of both genders, Mr. Ganesh clarified. Earlier, a statement by a senior professor that women were physically weaker than men and consequently more vulnerable and his proposal that victims of harassment taking place outside safe zones late in the night be asked to answer “difficult questions” had enraged many students.
The director, however, declined to comment on the issue of the email exchange between professors recently that had enraged many. The opinion a warden, faculty member, security guard or Dean had on a certain issue was entirely his or her personal matter and discussing them could go on forever, he added.
Video footage as well as a report of the meeting was uploaded on the institute's online news forum, ‘The Fifth Estate'.