Why are students of all the campuses of #TISS protesting?

The students across the four campuses of Tata Institute of Social Sciences: Mumbai, Guwahati, Hyderabad and Tuljapur have been protesting since 20th of February, 2018 against Privatisation of Higher education. There has been a series of demands that the student body has put up since the last 8 months. However, in the absence of acknowledgement of the demands from the side of TISS administration, the students boycotted the classes since 21st of February 2018. TISS Guwahati students have likewise joined the protest. On the second day (22nd of February 2018) protesting students have closed down the institution to draw attention to their plight. The students took this step in the light of the fact that the administration did not even come out to meet and dialogue with the students. Due to the unwillingness of the administration to hear out the students, they have been forced to intensify their struggle through lockdown of the university campus here at Guwahati.

The demands put up by the Students’ Council in the letter to the Deans, Chairpersons and Faculty enumerated the following demands:

  1. We demand the notification for present GOI-PMS students (disadvantaged students availing post-matric scholarships from their respective state governments, 2016-18 and 2017-19 batches) to pay for fees: tuition, DH (Dining Hall) and Hostel to be retracted with immediate effect.

As per the meeting held with administration on 15th February 2018, the Administration has said that they roll back the process of Financial Support Aid for 2016-2018 batch . The amount of Rs 25 lakhs received will not be distributed to the students but will be spread across all the GOI PMS Students under the head of Hostel fees. But they have Put forward that the GOI PMS Students of 2016- 2018 batch will have to Pay the DH fees as it is an actual cost. In spite of disagreement and argument on this fact by the union members, the administration has firmly stressed that we are not in the condition to support, and moreover stating that this is the last batch we are supporting. The TISS Students Union Demand the waiver of DH fees for the batch of 2016-2018 as it was not mentioned in their prospectus and the notification on which the administration is compelling them to pay fees has come in May 2017. Adding on to this, the administration has said that 2017-2019 batch will have to pay the full fees of DH and Hostel fees as the notification was out in May 2017 before they took admission and they were very well aware about the notification and have made the choice to enroll in this institute and abide by the rules. To this the Students Union have raised issues and said that this is not applicable and not acceptable as the notification was released in May in between the admission process, not before the admission process initiated. The TISS SU 2017-2018 demands waiver of DH and Hostel Fees for the 2016-2018 and2017-2019 batch for the GOI-PMS Students.

  1. We demand immediate notification on TISS website to provide a clear laid out path on financial assistance mechanism for the GOI PMS Students of the upcoming batch of 2018-2020.

As the admission process for 2018-20 has already begun, we demand immediate notification on website to provide a clear laid out path on the financial assistance for the prospective GOI-PMS students. On 15th February 2018, in the meeting held by the students union members with Administration. The administration said that regarding financial assistance for the prospective GOI-PMS students they will continue with upfront scholarship at the time of admission as last year and then stated that the Student Aid will be the only Institute Fund to support the students irrespective of their social category. The Administration said that “ As of now the Student Aid catered to all the Students excluding GOI PMS Holders, but from the upcoming batch it will cater to all the students including GOI PMS Holders, they also proposed that it can be named as TISS Scholarships and will cater to all students irrespective of categories.” Adding on to that the Administration said that “their responsibility is not to cater the students on the basis of social category. It is the responsibility of the government to cater to the students on the basis of social category. The Institute will grant the student aid on economic category”.

Student union firmly believes that the whole idea of having one fund for the students of TISS comprising of all category is a flawed concept. How will the panel decide who is vulnerable and need of financial support when the range of students income will be ranging from below 2.5 lakh, 3 lakh, 4 lakh and so on. It will moreover curb the opportunity of students getting student Aid from the GOI PMS Scholars and also other students, leading to a barrier among the students.

To this, the administration said that “ in this the GOI PMS are in upper hand as they are getting scholarship from government of India and also getting a waiver of tuition fees from the administration.” The SU raised the issues that the scholarships which they are getting from the government of India are given to the Institute as Tuition fees, to which the Administration said that “the students don’t pay back the tuition fees to the Institute. Thus there is no money given by the GOI PMS Students to the Institute and they have the waiver on tuition fees.” To which the Student Union said that you cannot compare the need of money across categories because even if you give a waiver of tuition fees to GOI PMS Holders, it is difficult to pay DH and Hostel fees. To which the union has proposed that there should be

different funds for GOI PMS Scholars and students who were availing the student Aid Earlier . To which the administration said that “we cannot have two pool of money it is difficult to arrange money under 2 pool. We will have robust student Aid as one source of money pool.”

To which Student Union have proposed that there should be some demarcation in the Student Aid amount for GOIPMS Students and other students, so that the students opportunity to access the Student Aid is not curtailed for those who were availing earlier and who will be availing. The students union is not in favour of merging of all the categories of students under Student Aid and is firm in its decision. Students Union has strongly raised the concerns of the repercussion of this move and have instited them to rethink on this initiative and have told the administration that the students union should be an active stakeholder in the drafting this initiative/ proposal. The Notification regarding the support process will be drafted and notified in the website in 15 days. Thus, We demand immediate notification on TISS website to provide a clear laid out path on financial assistance mechanism for the GOI PMS Students of the upcoming batch of 2018-2020.

  1.  We Demand symbolic Representation of the office of Dean SPO from SC ST OBC Category
  2. We Seek Documented Fact on the following:
    a. Declare the quantum of loss incurred by TISS due to the non-pay back of Scholarship money to TISS by GOI-PMS students since the introduction of DBT. It is because the Institute has claimed that the institute’s financial crisis owes to this reason. Transparency will steer clear of rift and stigmatization among students.Z
    b. Disclose the year wise details of funding from UGC, both non-plan grant and fixed maintenance grant, from the year 2011-2017.
    c. 
    Disclosure of the details of income and expenditure accounts of the Hostels and Dining Hall of the year 2016-2018 and 2017-2019. We Seek Clarity on the Institute Status of being an Professional university and Whether it is a fully funded or centrally funded University. As in various forums different statements have been given by the administration to the students community. We demand clarity on it and a formal written Document backing the Argument. So that ambiguity amongst students is resolved. As it is also linked with the amount of money GOI PMS Scholars receive from the government.

As is clear from the above the University which claims to be inclusive and puts ‘Social Justice’ as one of its vision has clearly back tracked on its own Vision Statement. They have unilaterally stated that social justice in the context of education of students belonging to any of the ‘social category’ is the job of the government and not the institute. Thus the only way social category is catered to other than the state government scholarship is through the student aid, which is few and far between. The irony here is that students from disadvantaged background have to compete and demonstrate their disadvantaged situation to get access to student aid which is also dwindling. On the one hand with the hike in the fees, many students are compelled to leave the course midway. On the other, many students from various TISS campuses who gets through other campuses are not even able to consider higher education within TISS itself due to financial constrains. The above demands mention specific batches of students who are targeted by the administration, however we recognize this as an issue that will affect all students regardless of specific batches or social category. We, however recognize that it is the marginalized students who will be more adversely affected by this move which renders education inaccessible to all.

We understand this as part of the larger move on the part of the state to destroy higher education in the country. It is appalling that universities are toeing the line of the state and is working with the state rather than providing a space of resistance. TISS administration till this date have not been able to commit to any of the above demands put up by the student union nor come out in solidarity with the students to address the larger issue of privatization and growing inaccessibility of education due to decreasing social spending of the current government.

It is already known that there is various financial mismanagement within the institute. It is appalling that those students availing GOI scholarships become easy scapegoats for the entire institute across campuses. The GOI students are blamed by the administration for the financial crises of TISS. While the administration has said that there have been few crores of rupees deficit because of the GOI students, they have not been able to justify the number in a transparent manner. This sows seeds of discontent amongst students and student unity is targeted by the administration through this blame game.

We ask for students across the colleges and universities in the country to join our struggle against privatization. We recognize this as part of the larger conspiracy of the state to ruin higher education in the country. We asked all the students across educational institutions to mobilize efforts towards lending voice within their own institutes as well as join us and form a larger solidarity for a large scale protest. We see this as the only way to force the state as well as the corporate lobby to resist privatization of education. It need not be reiterated again that private universities are not for mass education. It is not accessible to the general public. By ruining public universities and giving way to private universities education will be a distant dream for many.

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