After a night-long protest following the death of a student and an attempted suicide of another student on the campus, the director of Indian Institute of Technology -Madras (IIT-M), on Tuesday morning promised to take action.
The institute's director Kamakoti Veezhinathan told the students that the management will address the causes leading to these untoward incidents.
What Happened? A post-graduate student at IIT Madras was found dead in his Chennai hostel on Monday morning. Steven Sunny, a second year student from Maharashtra, was found hanging in his room, police said. He was pursuing Master of Science (MS) in electrical engineering at IIT-M. A hand-written note has been recovered but the police are yet to ascertain the cause behind his death.
The Other Attempted Suicide According to reliable sources, another student had also attempted suicide on the campus on the same day. The student was rescued and is currently under treatment at Apollo hospital in Chennai.
Why are Students Miffed? The callous handling of the student’s death triggered the protest. A representative of the student council told The Quint that the administration did not inform the elected student representatives about the death, and even upon asking, they were kept in the dark.
The Midnight March When the students got to know about the tragic news, they began marching from their hostels to Gajendra Circle at the centre of the campus where the administration building is located. At midnight, the dean of students informed the students of the death and asked them to disperse. Later, the Registrar too, appealed to the students who refused to leave, stating they wanted a response directly from the director. The protest lasted all night until the director addressed the students at 7am.
How did the Protest End? The students called off the protest after the administration said that they will host an open house meeting in ten days when all the students can voice their views.
What do the Students Want? A student representative of IIT-Madras said they want the administration to create a panel of experts to study the mental health of the students, hold counselling sessions regularly in hostel rooms.
"At least five students had attempted suicide in the college in the past six months. The administration has not been transparent about any of them. Students face a lot of academic pressure and this has been a major trigger. What we've observed is that when students returned after the break due to the coronavirus pandemic, they became very closeted. Socialisation has come down drastically and this makes it quite difficult to even find out if someone is having mental health issues," said Neelesh, a student council representative.
He added that postgraduate students have been told to seek permission from their guides to be able to participate in extra-curricular activities, which wasn't the norm earlier.
Another student told The Quint that they "want the managament to introduce initatitves that will ensure students are able to unwind, don't feel pressured, can share their woes with seniors."
Does IIT-M Take Measures for Students' Welfare? IIT-M boasts of having experienced professional counsellors and specialised mental well-being bodies to help students.
SAATHI: A platform that focuses on proactive measures to raise awareness on campus about informal gatherings, lectures, and sessions, throughout the year which are open to all students. A SAATHI mentor is assigned to every fresher.
MITR: Every department has a faculty MITR whom students can contact.
The Wellness Centre: A body of licensed mental health professionals who offers students emotional support and personal development.
What Else? Meanwhile, an 18-year-old student, Darshan Solanki died by suicide at IIT Bombay on Sunday afternoon. The student died by jumping from the seventh floor of his hostel building at the institute's campus in Powai.
The Quint tried reaching out to the Assistant Commissioner of Police and the director of IIT-M but didn't get a response. The article will be updated when we receive a response.