In a move to include OBC candidates into the hostel facility, the governing body has decided to make the college’s hostel an all first-year accommodation.
The governing body of Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) has decided to convert their college hostel into an all first-year students’ hostel. This decision has been taken after several demands were made by the student union for reservations to OBC students in the college hostel space. It seems that implementing this decision comes at the cost of removing all the second and third years from the hostel facility. The decision has been justified by the governing body as a step taken due to the lack of enough rooms.
This reservation policy comes at a heavy cost for the students. The reservation would mean that every other student, who is not a first-year, loses the eligibility to apply for the college’s hostel.
In a statement released by the Student Union, this action has been condemned by referring to it as “absurd” and “a calculated attempt to polarise the student body sentiment along already existing fissures in the society.”
While the student body welcomed the administration’s attempts to promote inclusivity by implementing constitutional reservation—that is, providing 27% hostel seats for OBC candidates. It is a move made after several protests. The union responded by stating that the way it is being implemented needs to be spoken against and criticised.
This decision forces the first-year students to look for accommodation facilities outside the college premises. That is, to seek refuge in flats and PGs once they finish their first-year at LSR. It would happen irrespective of their reservation and economic or social standing. This move is not only an economic burden on the students, but also forces them to be subjected to harassment, discrimination, and moral policing at the hands of PG owners and landlords. The housing economy makes students vulnerable, with little bargaining power at their disposal. Shelter being a primal need, students are often coerced to accept the terms of the owners, be it paying a high rent for a small room or accepting being monitored and controlled.
“South Delhi is a very expensive area, especially the locations near colleges. It’s not a feasible option for many of us. This move would lead to the college becoming an elite space, that is simply destroying class inclusivity,” a member of the hostel union said.
Further, this move affects all students, whether they belong to the SC, ST or OBC community. Reportedly, the decision includes “chances” of exemptions for PwD students. Many of the students cannot afford other housing facilities as the college hostel is the most affordable option for them.
This move would also mean that there would not be any Hostel Union from the successive academic sessions as the first-years would have to be removed annually; further curbing any voice that the Hostel Union holds. “This is an absolute form of harassment that the Governing body has decided to engage in, under the disguise of inclusivity,” the statement by the Union pointed out.
This move would not affect the second and third years in the hostel as of now, but from the next semester. Only first-years would be eligible to apply for the hostel from the next academic session. This would mean that the first years would have to evacuate as they get promoted. The same set of students who are provided with this so-called privilege in one year, are then left to fend for their own, in the immense instability where they are forced to begin the hunt for shelter from scratch. “The students would thus be walking into a huge economic crisis. Parents in the coming years would be compelled to not send their children here. This step is a violation of the right to education itself,” a Student Union member, who did not wish to be named, stated.
This decision has been questioned for a length of time now. The Union had in many instances, written letters against the same to both the principal and the warden. However, no response was received from the authorities. The Union also went to meet the college principal in person. The principal was not present in the college during office timings. The union has been constantly trying to convey their disregard. “We have also been trying to gather the faculty’s support,” a Union member said.
The college has been under scrutiny for a long time with its inability to construct more hostels in the campus to accommodate students. The Union reminded the administration that providing shelter to the students was the utmost responsibility of the governing body, and that this facility cannot be served to the students as a privilege. According to the University of Delhi Act, “All colleges are to have hostel spaces for all their students, exempting those acquiring distant education.” (1922, section 33). The college is clearly violating this act. “The college is justifying this by stating that the hostel comes under a Trust. There is no transparency, nor legal documents that back their claim,” the Union member added.
“The admin wishes students to become mere customers; enjoy the hostel services for a year and then get out, go figure the money to be able to afford the ‘magic of LSR’,” the statement pointed out.
The atmosphere certainly is tense between the students and the administration. The Student Union hopes to be able to make negotiations in the coming days before the semester begins.
Feature Image Credits: DU Beat archives.