DU Beat spoke to many students cum residents from LSR Residence Hall about the hostel issue in light of Aishwarya Reddy Suicide Case. They share their opinions on discrimination in Residence Hall.
TW: mentions of su*ci*e
The unfortunate death of Aishwarya Reddy – a second year B.Sc Mathematics Honours student at Lady Shri Ram college for Women – by suicide, has sparked off a debate around the system of online education in particular. The girl was reportedly not having a laptop to study owing to which she was under extreme depression.
However, a pertinent point that this suicide case has also highlighted is the entire hostel policy of the concerned college- LSR. LSR’s hostel, namely, “The Residence Hall”, has an approximate intake of 300 students as per the official website data of LSR. Besides that, it has around 200 rooms out of which there are 80 single seater rooms, which are only offered to final year students on the basis of merit.
The recent incident has actually highlighted the other side of the hostel issue which concerns itself to a 2019 notice. In July 2019, an official notice was put up on LSR’s official website in which it was stated that the hostel from then onwards would be available to students only for one year.
The decision was allegedly taken to implement the Other Backward Classes (OBC) reservation in allocation of hostel seats. However, the 2019 decision was not entirely supported by the LSR Hostel Union 2019-20 as in an Instagram post they shared their grievances regarding the same (find post here). While the union supported OBC reservation implementation, it stated that the decision of making it a first year hostel would severely curtail the hostel culture of LSR.
However, DU Beat talked to present second year students from LSR’s Residence Hall who talked about the entire hostel issue which connects itself to the suicide case. The residents we talked to are from the same batch as Aishwarya was and thus were affected by the 2019 notice (hostel converted to one year hostel) by the college.
The first perspective that comes into place is related to the sudden eviction notice that the 2019 batch residents were given. It was on 10th October 2020 that the hostel residents were forwarded a message by the hostel union conveying the information provided by the hostel warden- Dr Ujjayini Ray. The notice said that the residents would not be given residence for another year and that they had to vacate maximum by January 2021.
However, students reported that the warden got irked by the tone of messages that they sent to her regarding a clarification of the notice. Thus, the new date for shifting was then turned into 31st October 2020.
I feel that the sudden decision of the hostel administration has not just been insensitive and impractical so far, but also exclusionary for students like Aishwarya who were clearly overburdened with the worries and expenditure of finding an alternate accommodation. Even I had felt perturbed for the whole while there were ongoing apprehensions regarding whether we’d get the hostel or not. Somewhere or the other, we had that certain anxieties in our mind. Then came the so inconsiderate decision that we’ll have to vacate in midst of a pandemic! Can anyone be any more thoughtless? The admin was and is unmoved by any logical arguments by us. Never thought the place we had been residents of for one year would turn a blind eye to our concerns. Heard of “rakshak hi bhakshak hona” (saviour only is the perpetrator)? Yes, that.– Anonymous, English Honours 2nd year hostel resident
While a lot of students expressed their concerns over the sudden notice, emails were written to the hostel warden regarding their concerns and requests made for extension. Thus on 20th October 2020, a notice undersigned by the warden extended the date till 10th November 2020.
Yet students expressed their displeasure at how the hostel and administration acted insensitively. They failed to accommodate the demands of students who were coming from places quite far from Delhi. Reportedly, LSR’s Residence Hall has a diverse population coming from all across the country and students from abroad too (Nepal, Afghanistan).
We were asked, actually threatened, to vacate the hostel during the time of pandemic when most of us were already struggling with our emotions, financial crisis, online classes, academic pressure and so on. It was difficult to do this at a very short notice, especially for those who are living far away from Delhi and have literally no means to come to collect their stuff. And on top of that, our warden used phrases like, “get lost”, “I don’t care”, “I want my hostel back” made us more anxious and emotional.– Anonymous, second year resident
The discrimination debate also arises out of the hostel policy in which only a few students out of the large number of outstation students get hostel. The annual rent of LSR’s hostel including all expenses is around Rs 67000-70000 for the entire year which is way less than PGs/Flats which charge around Rs 16000-25000 per month. Thus, the race to hostel is a tough one and not everyone gets it.
Well, honestly I feel that the entire student body that comes from far off places should ideally get a hostel. It’s not really correct to only choose like 5-6 kids from each department to give them a hostel. The hostel has been in place since so long and college would have made another building by now to accommodate everyone.– Anonymous, second year resident
It’s pertinent to mention here that the hostel union and students body had approached the LSR administration regarding its 1 year hostel policy. While the 2019 batch was given hostel, they were made to sign an undertaking which prevented them from indulging in any kind of protests, demonstrations, etc. with regards to the decision. Students also spoke about how the decision over converting one year hostel to second year hostel was constantly delayed.
Reportedly, a lot of letters and emails were written to the Principal, requesting them to reconsider the decision by the governing body. Students mentioned that the response they received from the principal and administration was fairly positive and that they were given positive signs regarding the decision.
……Even after we had signed the clause for one year hostel, we were given positive responses to be in the hostel for second year, without even asking about it in the very beginning of our first semester and then we were put in jeopardy like this.– Anonymous, second year resident
Yet students told how the decision of eviction came as a shock to them. While speaking to all the concerned residents, DU Beat found that the most common thread which bound all statements was discrimination. Students felt betrayed and discriminated against because of the constant delay that the college administration had caused in taking a suitable decision with regards to giving a hostel for second year.
They first delayed the decision and were constantly giving us false hope and then suddenly they made their decision and asked us to vacate the hostel in the midst of the pandemic. Justice delayed is justice denied and justice hurried is justice buried and we can see both things happening in our case.– Anonymous, second year student
The death of Aishwarya Reddy also has highlighted how government college facilities like hostels should be available to all outstation students and not only a selected few. Many reputed colleges, LSR being one of them, tend to have brilliant infrastructure when it comes to hostels. However, the very fact that it’s only available to a selected few (on basis of seats and merit) renders the entire exercise a little exclusionary. While OBC reservation definitely made it inclusive, it perpetuated another exclusion wherein students were provided hostel only for one year.
While LSR’s Principal Dr Suman Sharma has now extended the deadline for vacation indefinitely, it again has shown a clear face of discrimination. The extension comes after the death of a student, which is certainly worrying.
LSR will be most probably providing hostel only to a selected few second year students on basis of “needs” now. This has been hinted by the college administration. Yet, this has again sparked off a discrimination debate as to how will needs be defined, why only a selected few will be accommodated etc.
Thus, discrimination, not just in LSR Residence Hall, but all hostels is an issue that should be carefully looked at.
Featured Image Credits: DU Beat Archives