How safe is your college campus? The focus is firmly on university authorities and college managements and their role in making students feel secure in the backdrop of increased reportage of sexual assaults on women across the country. This even prompted the University Grants Commission (UGC) to issue a direction recently to universities, asking them to “seriously review the security arrangements for girls and women” on campuses. However, a reality check on the existing security system on college campuses throws up contrary results. What city colleges are offering are disciplinary measures, shifting the onus on students.
For instance, the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) set a curfew for its students, banning their movement in or out of the campus between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. The Indian Institute of Management Bangalore too has a 10-p.m. deadline.
It is not just deadlines and curfews for students. A reputed college in J.C. Nagar has separate staircases and elevators for girls and boys. “They say this is for our safety; we don’t understand how, as ultimately we are allowed to sit together inside the classrooms,” said Keerthi (name changed), a second year science student of the college.
In MES College, BTM Layout, students have been instructed orally and through notices “not to mingle with the opposite sex too much”. There are two divisions within the classrooms in the coeducational college, where the boys and girls are made to sit separately. The students have also been asked to “maintain distance, not go out alone (meaning boy-girl pairs) and share food.” College principal P. Narayanappa called these “precautionary measures,” as “too much lenience would lead to its misuse ( sic )”.
Clearly, there is lack of concrete measures here as far as security is concerned.
The Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS), with over 270 colleges affiliated to it, has guidelines that are “general in nature”, said registrar D. Prem Kumar.
“We have circulated general guidelines to affiliated medical colleges about misconduct and other disciplinary issues,” he said.
It is the responsibility of the colleges to ensure the safety of their students and they are free to adopt any measures for this, he said.
However, Dr. Prem Kumar added that “in the backdrop of the developments in New Delhi”, the university authorities had asked the student welfare wing to give suggestions to enhance existing measures.
“But we have not had complaints to the extent of what happened in Delhi, and the existing measures are adequate,” he said.
Another grey area is to ensure students’ safety outside the college premises. College students, especially those in all-girls institutions, routinely encounter sexual harassment in the form of stares, pinching, groping and other forms of uncomfortable situations right outside their institutions’ gates.
“Inside college, we are safe. As soon as we get out, there are strangers staring at us, passing remarks while we wait at the bus stop, and even performing wheelies at the risk of injuring us. How can we report every such instance to the police?” asked a student.
In the line of fire
Bangalore University, which was in the line of fire after a student was “gang-raped” on its vast, densely wooded Jnanabharathi campus last October, had announced that it would install CCTV cameras on campus.
Acting Vice-Chancellor N. Rangaswamy said that there would be no compromise on security.
Though the university has not hired private security personnel, the Police Department provides security checks and patrolling within the campus, he said.
To take the UGC directive further, a Syndicate sub-committee has been formed which will draw up more plans this week, he added.