The administration said that they took the decision as there was a deadlock despite repeated attempts to address the issue.

Diabolical decision Students protest as TISS Hyd declares indefinite closureFile photo
news Protest Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - 14:33

Protesting students from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Hyderabad are now chalking their course of action after the administration decided to suspend all academic activities on its city campus 'sine-die' with immediate effect until further orders. In a notice issued by the administration on Monday, all the students were also asked to vacate the campus by 5 pm on the same day.

“It's a diabolical decision for the students. This is the response of TISS when fingers are raised against its own functioning,” said one student.

“I'm actually proud of all my friends who have been dissenting and questioning this administration. The students are the only hope in a dark time for our institute. And the fact that the administration had to shut us up this way, shows a lot about the students' strength,” another student added.

The indefinite closure of the institute came after students had been protesting over the last few days and had even gone on a hunger strike over the change in hostel and mess fee structures, the administration said that they took the decision as there was a deadlock despite repeated attempts to address the issue.

“The health of the students on hunger strike was becoming worse. Around 3.30 pm, they sent an SMS to the parents of these students, informing them that their ward is on hunger strike, that the campus will be closed indefinitely until ‘normalcy’ is restored and to ‘guide’ their ward accordingly. After that, we received the email about the sine die — a legal term meaning indefinitely — notice. We kept expecting the administration to come and address us, but they never showed us their faces. They just deployed police outside the campus," one student says. 

"We had to leave the campus, but we have not accepted defeat. We will see what legal steps can be taken,” she adds.

While the previous fee structure in place had allowed students to pay the fees in installments or as they got financial aid, the new fee structure demanded all students (including SC, ST and OBC students relying on financial aid) to pay the entire semester’s hostel and dining charges upfront. The protesting students had been demanding that the administration take responsibility for students with Government of India – Post Matric Scholarship (GoI PMS).     

"TISS administration approved, as interim aid, financial support of Rs 15,000 for each GOI-PMS student to pay the Service Provider for admission into the hostel. 26 GOI-PMS students are benefitting from this decision," the administration had claimed in a notice on July 15. 

However, students said that they were not satisfied.

“There was a mail from the SC/ST Equal Opportunity Cell Chairperson which said the institute will transfer Rs 3,90,000 as hostel office against 26 students, which is Rs 15,000 for each student as initial payment. But it was not clear to us whether this Rs 15,000 would be the total semester fees, like previous years, or just the first installment of the Rs 52,000 we were being asked to pay this year," one student said.

"Because if it is a temporary fix, we would still have to arrange the rest of the fees so that’s not an acceptable solution. We insisted that they guarantee that no upfront fees will be collected for all GoI PMS students in present and upcoming batches. They only gave us oral assurances. They said they would give us an assurance in writing on Monday evening, but instead they shut down the campus,” she added. 

The students are now planning to continue the protest and are even contemplating legal action.

In its notice dated July 15, the University said that the protesting students had "continued with the blockade in spite of our repeated appeals and efforts to negotiate, thereby completely paralysing the functioning of the campus for the past five days."

"In view of the continued activities and disturbances, the institute has come to conscious conclusion that it is not safe, practicable and not in the interest of all students, teaching and non-teaching staff to continue its normal academic activities within the campus," it adds.

The protest by the students also drew attention of activists on social media, who have been circulating a statement.

"We the undersigned would like to express our anger and dismay at the sine die closure of TISS Hyderabad following the week long protests from students...It is worrying that instead of engaging with the burning question of diversity and inclusivity in academic spaces, the TISS administration has chosen to shut down the institute," the statement reads.

"It is appalling that an institute which has a long and cherished history of working towards social justice has chosen to absolve itself of the responsibility of providing equitable access to education. We demand that TISS revoke the sine die immediately, and take all steps necessary to ensure that students from marginalised communities can avail of hostels and other amenities," it adds.

 

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