The Late Entry Rule: Ensuring Safety or Curbing Freedom?
NIT Rourkela has a growing research scene and a vibrant club culture. For both club and research activities, a student often has to stay out till late in the night to complete their tasks. Apart from these, the campus of NIT Rourkela boasts a serene environment to enjoy at night. However, the safety of the students is a major concern the authorities have to ensure at all times throughout the day, and adequate security personnel have been deployed within the campus to keep the premises as secure as possible. However,there has been rising discontent among the students over the late entry restrictions imposed. Monday Morning brings to you the facets of the situation.
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE SUDDEN IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NEW RULE AND ITS REPERCUSSIONS
On the night of 27th of September, a student of SD Hall was assaulted by a student of VS Hall, causing him severe injuries, following which, he had to be taken to the emergency room that night.
After such an incident, a notice, sent by the Chief Warden, was circulated among all the students of NIT Rourkela through webmail on the evening of 28th of September. The notice was regarding the late entry of students into their respective halls of residence. The notice specified that a student would be given warnings twice if they enter their halls after 11 PM in the night. If they enter later for the third time in a semester, their parents will be informed, and if done for a fourth time within a single semester, they will be removed from their halls of residence.
The notice was passed by the Senate and by the Hall Management Council but was not implemented that year. It was implemented this year, with much haste, after the unfortunate incident occurred at night in SD Hall. The General Secretaries of the halls were neither consulted nor informed regarding the implementation of this rule.
The students were shocked and infuriated with the sudden implementation of such a stringent rule without prior warning or knowledge of the incident, that too in the middle of their mid-semester exams. On the eve of 2nd October, the students orchestrated an act of Civil Disobedience in front of the Chief Warden’s office. More than 100 students gathered to show their non-compliance with the rule and demanded that the rule is reverted. The students also demanded an open discussion with the Deans regarding the late entry rule implemented.
Following the non-availability of the Chief Warden, wardens of halls SD and VS, Prof. S.K. Panda, and Prof. D.S. Nimaje, agreed to have a discussion with the students to listen to their grievances. The wardens gave their verbal agreement and consent for the writing of an application to the Dean, Student Welfare, regarding the grievance and proposals put forth by the students.
The next day, when the student representatives of the civil protest presented their application to be sent to the Dean (SW) in front of the HMC, the HMC refused to comply with the terms and hence didn’t consent the application. Thus the matter could not be taken to the Dean (SW).
After the failure of this route, the student representatives approached the Director for the proposal of an Open Discussion Session with the Deans and the Wardens to discuss the topic of the late entry rule.
The Open Discussion with the Senate members was finalized to be held on 7th of October, at 5:00 PM in BBA.
IN-TIME RULES AT OTHER EMINENT INSTITUTES
- IIT Powai, Mumbai (16 hostels; 2 for girls, 1 co-ed hostel)
The deadline to return to hostels is 10 pm for both boys and girls. Those reaching after the stipulated time have to pay a fine of Rs.500. Boys and girls, however, have access to each others’ hostels between 10.30 am and 10.30 pm. If students are found at each other’s hostel post the stipulated time, the person whose room they visited will have to pay Rs.5000 as fine.
- IIT Madras (20 hostels; 4 for girls)
There are no such strict timings in hostels. Boys are not allowed inside girls’ hostels, but once a year, during ‘hostel days’, girls have free access to boys’ hostels between 9 am and 9 pm.
- Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru
No strictly enforced timings for hostels. Girls, who make up 20 percent of the whole student mass, are allowed in boys’ hostels till 11 pm, after providing their names to security. Boys are not allowed in girls’ hostels.
- IIT Kanpur (10 hostels; one of them co-ed)
Hostel gates are open 24×7, for both boys and girls. They are allowed in each other’s rooms except between 12 am and 6 am.
- IIT Roorkee (9 hostels for boys, 2 for girls; no co-ed hostel)
Since March, girls, who make up 16.85 percent of current student strength, are also allowed to stay outside the hostel through the night. To stay out of the campus for the night, girls must get a permission letter signed by the assistant warden at the college main gate mentioning the purpose of leaving the campus. The rule does not apply to boys.
- IIT Delhi (13 in total; 2 for girls)
All residents should be normally back in the hostel by 8.30 p.m. In the pursuit of their academic work, they may stay in their laboratories, computer center or library till 11.00 p.m. but be back in the hostel latest by 11.00 p.m. If a girl resident wishes to stay out after 11.00 p.m. for any other purpose, she has to take prior permission of the Warden.
- IIT Kharagpur (20 hostels; 3 for girls)
There are no such restrictions in timing both for boys as well as girls. However, just to maintain a record, girls need to make entries in the register after 11 pm.
POINT OF VIEW OF THE AUTHORITIES CONCERNED
The late entry rule was put into effect after the authorization by the Senate. This procedure included taking the inputs of the Hall Management Council, Deans, Head of Departments, alumni and some 2000 parents’ replies over the issue. The central motion put forward by the authorities revolved mostly around the trust of the parents in the Institute for providing secure custody for their children. The basic stance provided by the concerned stakeholders was that students need to abide by the rules of the Institute. Various other statements were given by the authorities in the span of the Open House Discussion which is covered in the later part of the article.
SECURITY OF THE CAMPUS
During a brief interview, the Chief Security Officer of the institute, Mr Suman Dutta shared few details of the security cadre maintained in the campus. The following are a few excerpts from the interview mentioned above.
MM: What are the statistics of the security personnel employed in the institute’s campus?
SD: At present, we have a total of 186 security guards employed, out of which, 22 are female. Also, the security department includes an Assistant Security Officer and six supervisors. There are three shifts with an equal number of guards allotted. As per my knowledge, the budget allocated for the security purposes is INR 6 crores.
MM: How efficiently are the campus grounds secured with the guards?
SD: Prior to the cost control of NITR, 202 security guards were in employment. Even after the decrease in the security force, we attempt for an effective management to look after the safety of the campus. Five guards posted at strategic locations in the Academic Area secure the perimeter. Each hostel is provided with two guards who are stationed at the gates. As per the rule, they are also responsible for maintaining the ‘In & Out’ Registers.
MM: What is the coverage of the security cameras in the campus? How functional are they?
SD: We have installed 32 CCTV cameras to compensate the reduction in the number of guards after the cost control. However, we look forward to increasing the number to 232 cameras which will be installed inside the campus, including hostels and staff colony. Presently, no one has been authorized for the surveillance of these cameras, but Prof. Pankaj Sa of the Computer Science Department is looking into the matter. Occasionally, I do checks on the camera recordings during evening hours. There is a dedicated control room for it in the Main Building. Most of the cameras cover the academic area, hostels and the gates. Of all the cameras, six are dysfunctional, and we have requested the supplier to replace them.
MM: Could you please elaborate on the security at the main entrance to the campus? How secure are the other entry points?
SD: The guards posted in the main gate or Jagda gate are not changed frequently. It is so that they can identify the day scholars or staff at ease. There is a restriction for the other visitors to enter, prior to which, they provide their visit details in the register. The main gate remains open for 24 hours. The CWS gate is closed by 10:30 PM and it is opened only for medical emergencies. The hilltop gate is closed at 6 PM and only staff are permitted to pass through it. Abiding by a contract with the local villagers, they are allowed to enter and exit the campus till 10 PM.
MM: How reliable are the guards who are in charge of the security? What screening process do they go through before they are deployed?
SD: The guards in NITR are provided by the SIS Security for the past 10 years. Almost all the guards are having an experience for more than 5 years. We deploy them in gates, hostel areas and staff quarters. The guards can be deemed reliable. We make the required verifications from the local police before deploying them in the campus grounds. Before their shift starts, they are briefed by the supervisors.
The security personnel follow the rules framed by NIT. Definitely, the students are secure within the campus. Safety of the students is also assured around the campus. But they should abide by the rules in the framework of NIT. That is for the betterment for the students. The late entry rule might be able to decrease any hazard that has happened in the recent times. There is an equal possibility for the incident to occur during day hours, but because the students will be surrounded by their fellow mates in the daytime, they can get help from anyone. However, during the night time, being alone and secluded, controlling such incidents would be difficult.
MM: Which other authorities are responsible for the security of the campus? And how effective is its management?
SD: There is a committee for the safety and security of the campus headed by Prof. S.S.Mohapatra of Mechanical Department. I look after the deployment of security personnel and the safety of the institute.
MINUTES OF THE OPEN HOUSE DISCUSSION
On Sunday evening, around 5 PM at Bhubaneswar Behera Auditorium (BBA), after much deliberation and a constant back and forth between the administration and the protesting students, an Open Discussion was organized. The discussion was moderated by Abhishek Panda and Mehul Anand, both of whom are final year students.
The event started out with the moderators announcing the rules of the discourse which were fairly simple with the only requirement that students behave in a ‘parliamentary’ way, a theme which was oft-repeated throughout the session. Then, students were presented with the context in which the Open Discussion was being held accompanied by a reasonable request to maintain the flow of the discourse and not deviate too much from the stated agenda, which was published beforehand, comprising of two points
- Total abolishment of late entry rules
- Consideration of all the stakeholders in the aforementioned issue
The Open Discussion then formally began with Dean Student welfare, Prof Simanchala Panigrahi explaining the rationale behind the move pointing out that the Rule was framed by the Senate after being put up in the HoD and Deans meeting after due consultation with the law enforcement and parents. At no point was there any mention of the view of the students being taken into account before framing the rules, which was a departure from the common tradition where rules and laws are based on the consent of the governed. Prof Panigrahi said that for Academic, Extra-curricular and holistic activities there would be no restrictions on the movement of students provided that they took due permission. A student raised a question, where she asked why everyone should be punished for the wrongdoings of a few, with the backdrop being that late entry imposition to curb such incidents wouldn’t be justified.
The Dean (SW) replied emphasizing the benefits of sleep which are essential for the functioning of the human body stating
Enough Sleeping time is required. God has given us 24 hours but all of those 24 hours are not equal. Man is both God and Devil. All minutes are not equally pious. You see, sleeping time goes to 11 nowadays although the time of sleep has been changing since 200 years. Other animals start to roam after 11. Absolute freedom makes you absolutely bad. In addition to that, connectivity through the internet and mobile phones are much higher, hence, removing the necessity for physical meetings. So, the students shouldn’t take their hostel entry rules as an imprisonment. Furthermore, they should be asleep by 11 to get a sound sleep and wake up by 8 to be mentally fit.
The theme of the parents' concern came up, again and again, and ended up with the administration comparing the hostel late entry restrictions to the ones placed by parents on their children back at home and students countering by saying that they don’t feel threatened to go home after 11 PM, unlike the status quo.
Another major concern of the authorities was that they were answerable to parents regarding their children’s welfare with the Dean (SW) citing the example of a student who went on the disturbed path adding that continued behavior of such kind is unacceptable. The students went on to argue, very calmly, about the spontaneity that is essential to the personal growth of a person while at NIT Rourkela which includes the essential right of footloose not just when there is some work but also when one desires so. This was augmented by many arguments from various strata of the NITR junta which ranged from the academic exchange of ideas to SAC work with nearly everything in-between being included with multiple real-life instances being presented before the administration, like some nominated SAC student officials being unable to do the work due to late entry restrictions.
The Dean Academics, Prof. K.K. Mahapatra, started out on a note of inclusivity, repeatedly saying that they are here to help and facilitate and not confront. He said that staying outside beyond 11 PM was unreasonable in absence of a just cause.
Something, like taking walks and interacting with friends for fruitful purposes, was justified but unethical things like alcohol and vandalising are downright unacceptable.
He also said that he would look into the students’ proposal of making the Academic area, an enclosed area within an enclosed boundary, as a common ground for interaction between students at any time during the night.
The issue of the parents being informed of late entry incident of students was also raised up in which many students stood up to point out instances of calls being made to their parents at odd times which have caused distress to them in the past. The Dean SW assured that such things aren’t going to happen again where the wording would be flexible enough to allow students to engage in their pursuits without being too imposing. The administration has ensured that the whole issue would be bought up before the Senate following due procedure and student Senate representatives would also be appointed very soon to review the matter, Until then a flexible interpretation of the rule would be followed.
As of now, the current developments entail only the assurance provided by the authorities that stringent penalization would not be taken against boarders if they can provide a satisfactory explanation for not abiding by the rule. Any scholastic or co-scholastic activity demanding work hours beyond the timeframe of 11 PM has to be permitted by the concerned supervisors. The student body will put forward its model proposal in writing to the Hall Management Council which will then be taken to the Senate for further discussion. The model would include the following -
- Academic Area will remain accessible throughout day and night.
- Institute Late Entry will be applicable at the main gate.
- No penalization on the number of late entries.
Boarders are supposed to abide by the present late entry rule until the new rule is framed. However, there will be considerable flexibility and leniency in penalization till then, as assured by the authorities.