Hall day skit leads to suspensions

In response to a complaint filed with the Women’s Cell, six students of Hall-2 have been found guilty[1] by the institute authorities. The complaint was filed by two girl students citing ‘verbal, sexual, emotional abuse and public defamation’ in the skit performed during Hall day of Hall-2. The skit staged, as per reports, was vulgar in nature, and publicly insulted specific girl students. The Academic Senate, henceforth, has punished one student with a year-drop and five students with a semester-drop.

The complaint once received, was investigated by the Women’s Cell, which then submitted its report to the Senate Students’ Affairs Committee (SSAC). In its recommendations, Women’s Cell mentions that ‘student members’ of the Hall Executive Committee (HEC) of Hall-2 should be punished for the act, as they found them guilty for dereliction of duty. SSAC, after considering the report, accepted it. In the report forwarded to the Academic Senate, SSAC recommended suspension of one student, who happens to be an HEC member, for a semester. Also, the student, along with two other HEC members be fined with a sum of Rs.50,000 each. The three students who were involved in script writing, be also fined the same amount. All these six students were recommended to be also placed on Disciplinary Probation until graduation. The committee also recommended that none of the student members of the HEC, along with the three writers, be allowed to hold any official posts in the HEC, gymkhana, festivals, clubs, alumni positions in the future. Further, all hall activities, including Galaxy and Hall day, be banned in Hall-2 for the next three years.

Academic Senate, the highest decision-making body of the institute, after considering the report of SSAC, did not accept the recommendations in entirety but made changes based on the dissent noted in the report by 4 out of 9 SSAC members. First, the punishment for the student, who was suspended for a semester was escalated to a year. Second, instead of imposing fine of Rs.50,000 on the other five students, they were suspended for a semester. Also, the academic senate, instead of banning all ‘hall activities’ for three years, banned all ‘hall cultural activities’ for one year, in Hall-2.

In order to discuss this case, an emergency meeting of the Students’ Senate was called upon on September 4, 2015. It was identified, that there exists major concerns with the entire procedure. First of all, the investigation of Women’s Cell was not appropriate. The UG Girls’ representative in the Women’s Cell was never invited to any of the meetings. By the time the UG representative got to know about the committee, the report was already forwarded to SSAC. It also came to notice that the PG Girls’ representative signed the report, without being actually present in any of the meetings. Also, it was alleged, that the students who were interrogated, were misquoted by the investigators, who carried their own biases.

Dr. AR Harish, who happens to be the Dean of Student Affairs(DoSA) and Chairman SSAC, was made aware of the aforementioned problems. In his capacity as DoSA, he was expected to table the student concerns during SSAC meeting. And as Chairman SSAC, in the meeting of Academic Senate, he was expected to lay down relevant facts and provide the rationale behind the recommendations of SSAC. However, the Students’ Senate found that Dr. Harish failed to fulfil his responsibility in both roles.

Another concern was raised during the Students’ Senate meeting – if the student members of HEC are being held responsible, so should be the warden, who happens to chair the HEC.

Apart, as was argued in the Students’ Senate, there is a general lack of ‘scalability, consistency and clarity in deciding the punitive measures for students by the Academic Senate.’ Students’ Senate is of the opinion that if the Academic Senate had concerns about the recommendations of SSAC, either ‘it should be referred back to the SSAC’ or the ‘case should be discussed in its entirety in the Senate before making a decision’. Further, there is a no clarity on what punishment will be awarded for a given disciplinary misconduct.

The Students’ Senate, in this emergency meeting, unanimously adopted a resolution, expressing ‘its discontent on the recent proceedings of the Institute bodies with regard to disciplinary matters concerning students.’ In the resolution, the Students’ Senate expressed its concern that ‘this may lead to a situation where the students’ general body starts feeling apprehensive about the way proceedings are carried out by the Institute bodies in disciplinary matters and may become reluctant to file complaints’ and requested the institute authorities to take necessary steps to resolve these issues.

Written by Samarth Bansal

Clarifications

[1] For questions have been raised on the investigation by Women’s Cell, as mentioned in the article, the cited charges may not be entirely true.