PhD scholars at IITB protest abrupt hostel eviction order - Hindustan Times
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PhD scholars at IITB protest abrupt hostel eviction order

Nov 25, 2023 07:46 AM IST

Senior PhD scholars at IIT Bombay protest against a directive requiring them to vacate their hostels. They demand an open house to address their concerns about shared accommodation.

MUMBAI: Senior PhD scholars at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay staged a protest on Thursday, opposing a sudden directive from the administration that requires them to vacate their hostels. The scholars, residing in hostels 12, 13, 14, and 18 (boys hostels) and hostels 10 and 11 (girls hostels), expressed dissatisfaction with the decision and demanded an open house to address their concerns.

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The controversy arose when senior PhD scholars received emails instructing them to leave their single rooms and relocate to other hostel rooms with shared accommodation. The administration cited a 2015 rule, not widely known among students, stating that PhD students beyond their fifth year cannot stay in single occupancy rooms.

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Efforts by concerned students to engage with the administration yielded no concrete solutions, with the authorities invoking a 2020 notice and a 2015 rule to justify the decision. Despite attempts to seek clarification, the scholars found themselves facing a sudden shift with no prior communication or discussion.

In response, senior PhD students initiated a silent demonstration on November 23, highlighting their concerns. However, in a statement, the students claimed that their peaceful gathering was met with hostility, threats, and bullying by security personnel. The scholars are determined to continue their protest until their demands are addressed.

The statement further added that the core issue revolves around the need for single rooms, crucial for privacy, work efficiency, and significant research conducted by senior PhD scholars. Shared accommodations would hinder their ability to work late at night and conduct interviews without disturbing roommates.

The scholars outlined the impact of the decision on academic, logistic, financial, and mental well-being. These include the untimely implementation of the rule, the challenges faced by the Covid-affected batch, discriminatory treatment, mental trauma, and mismanagement of hostel rooms and space. The scholars have called for better communication, transparent management of hostel rooms, and alternative approaches, such as reevaluating new PhD intakes. Their demands include the withdrawal of these rules, continuation of the convention of six years of single occupancy for the 2018 July and December batches, and an open house session for addressing concerns transparently.

The dean of student affairs sent an email to students, emphasising that the hostel room allocation policy has been in place since 2016. The email highlighted reasons for the room shortage, including an increase in student intake due to the implementation of Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota and female supernumerary seats, as well as an increase in the number of PhD students and the loss of three hostels (H7, H8 and the old wings of H4) which had to be demolished due to structural issues making them unsafe for occupation. The dean expects the affected hostels to be ready in the second half of 2025. The email urged students to comply with hostel managers’ instructions regarding shifting to shared accommodation and vacating the room.

As the scholars await a response from the institution, tensions persist, with hopes for a resolution that aligns with their academic needs and aspirations. The scholars seek cooperation from the administration for the productive continuation and completion of their research during this critical period in their academic journey.

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