Students at Ambedkar University Delhi Stage Sit-in Over High Fees
More than 20 students staged a sit-in, refusing to leave until their demands are met.
Protests at Ambedkar University Delhi intensified on Thursday, 1 October, as students called for a boycott outside the Vice Chancellor's office seeking fee concession, among other demands.
More than 20 students came together for protests amid heavy police presence right outside the campus, refusing to leave until concrete measures are taken to meet their demands.
For six months now, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, in-person classes have been suspended at the university and as classes continue online, all practical work for students who need to undertake field trips and workshops have been suspended too.
But students claim the university is not willing to pardon the fees for field work and on-campus facilities, or lower the overall charges. The Quint had earlier reported on the protests against the fee structure.
"We have been protesting for months now. The first time we called for a boycott on 7 September, the Delhi Police threatened us with FIRs. We were denied a meeting with the Delhi CM and Deputy CM, and the Dean and Registrar have been making hollow promises through and through," says Aditi, a second year student pursing masters in Sociology at the university.
The university has set 18 October as the last date for payment of fees, failing which the process of de-enrollment would be initiated.
What Students Want
In August, students say the administration had promised to pay for the internet charges and grant infrastructural aid, like tablets, to students who do not have devices to access online classes. However, the promise has not been kept so far, they say.
“A survey was conducted by the Student Council before the beginning of this semester, highlighting the disproportionate accessibility of the online mode among students. Various student bodies have continued to raise these issues with no sign of help from the admin,” students of the School of Culture and Creative Expression said in a statement to the university officials.
Additionally, fees have been high over the past few years, and while the university refrained from hiking fees by an additional ten percent this year, they continue to charge for facilities that students have not been availing.
"I have to pay semester fee of Rs 32,300 and they are also charging us extra mural costs worth Rs 5,000 for field work which we aren't able to undertake because of the pandemic," says Navina Lamba, a second year student of Masters in Visual Art and a member of the Student Council. "The least they can do is give us fee concession or scrap the extra mural costs for students of School of Culture and Creative Expression," she said.
Students are also unhappy that a student welfare fund which was set up for the financial aid of students has not been granted by the administration for two semesters, adding to the woes of the disadvantaged students.
Mobilising Protests in a Pandemic
While the students have been using social media to protest, their decision to mobilise protests on campus amid a pandemic has been raising eyebrows. But physical protests are important, say students.
“It is a risk I am taking, knowing I have ageing parents at home, but we just had to protest because the administration has been quiet for days on end and no action has been taken,” says Aditi.
Some said they have also been raging online, but to no avail.
“We tried writing to them, opted for digital protests but the university only listened to us when we physically protested against their proposal to suspend the SC/ST fee waiver. And it worked, because they rolled back their proposal. We are not ready to give up this time either,” said Lamba.
The Vice Chancellor has agreed to meet the students on Monday, 5 October, to hear their grievances, but students reject the proposal claiming it is “just another hollow promise”.
The Quint reached out to the Dean of AUD, Santosh Singh, and Registrar, Nitin Malik, but received no response. This story will be updated if and when we receive a response.
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