Students of the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) on Wednesday, January 17, erupted in protest after the management allegedly sent threatening emails to hundreds of students, demanding that they immediately pay in advance the hostel and mess fees for seven months. The email, sent on January 16, reportedly mentioned that the institute will cancel students’ mess allotments if they fail to pay the fee and will also restrict them from their hostel rooms.
On the condition of anonymity, a student said, “What has angered the student body is the antagonising and threatening tone of the email. The management cannot threaten the students who are struggling financially with food and stay. These are basic necessities and fundamental human rights.”
According to the students, the mess fee alone has gone up by Rs 870 per month. “Last semester, we were paying Rs 117 per day for meals, now it has been hiked to Rs 145. Similarly, unlike the previous semesters, we are being asked to pay fees for the summer months, when we are usually granted summer vacation. In total, we are having to shell out almost Rs 40,000,” the student said, adding that many students including him cannot afford to pay the amount immediately.
Condemning the management’s actions, an independent students’ body at IIT-M named ChintaBAR wrote an email to the director of the institute, Kamakoti Veezhinathan. “It is very disheartening to learn about such antagonistic attitude towards students of the institute… We request you to direct the Office of Hostel Management (OHM) to allow hostel fee payment in installments with an extended deadline to ease the financial burden on students,” the email read.
Following protests, the institute’s dean of planning and chairman for Council of Wardens addressed the students. The institute’s director also subsequently spoke to them. The administration eventually agreed to allow students to pay their fee on a monthly basis, students said.
The protesting students had also also raised the issue of a newly communicated set of guidelines for PhD scholars at the institute, which mandated them to enrol in new research credit courses — which entails a 60-hour work week and allows project guides more power over the scholars. The protesting scholars pointed out that these new guidelines were introduced without consulting them, after which the administration vouched to reconsider these guidelines.