The hostel resident body at Lady Shri Ram College has issued a collective statement refuting the claims made by the administration that Aishwarya Reddy, who died by suicide on November 3, never approached them with her problems.
On October 12, the administration asked the second-year residents, including Reddy, to vacate their rooms by the end of the month. The notification was part of the hostel’s new policy – proposed last year – as per which only first-year students are allowed to stay in the hostel. Since the accommodation facilities near the college are expensive, the residents say that they wrote multiple emails to the administration and approached them several times.
However, the the administration “sidelined and ignored” the appeals, and instead asked the students to vacate their rooms for “maintenance and repair purposes” in order to prepare the hostel for a fresh batch of first-year students – all in the middle of a pandemic. According to the residents, the hostel union wrote several emails to the administration but didn’t get any satisfactory response.
“Repeated requests and mails were sent by the hostel union and by the residents themselves, highlighting the various difficulties in arranging for packing and moving their belongings in a pandemic on such short notice and the health concerns that may arise, but all of these were brushed aside,” says the resident body.
The deadline was later extended to November 10, but the college said they will employ their own packers to move out residents’ luggage. According to the students, since they couldn’t trust a third party, they had no choice but to come back to the hostel. So did Reddy, despite the financial troubles back home.
Students have demanded resignation of the hostel warden as well as the principal, and want the administration to revert to the three-year hostel system with full implementation of reservation.
The full statement issued by LSR’s hostel residents along with the email exchange between the warden and the residents has been reproduced below:
We, the resident body of the LSRH would like to condemn the inaction and continued apathy of the hostel administration that has in part led to Aishwarya’s institutional murder. Aishwarya was a second year hostel resident whose batch was forced to vacate the hostel on short notice.
The eviction of the current second year students on such a short notice from the hostel amidst a pandemic has been responsible for the additional financial burden to her family. The policies of the hostel admin have continued to come from a biased and ignorant assumption of privilege, that burdened a family stricken by the lockdown with additional unnecessary expenses for vacating the hostel and finding alternative accommodation that is highly expensive in South Delhi. The college administration is now claiming that Aishwarya had never approached the hostel or department with her problems. This is clearly not so, since through multiple correspondences, the resident body had conveyed the problems of the students to the admin, which were all sidelined and ignored every time. We wish to document this communication in order to disprove the baseless claims of the college administration.
Throughout the academic year 2019-2020, the hostel students union had conducted negotiations with the hostel administration to revoke the one year hostel policy, laying down all our concerns. In multiple meetings and discussions the hostel admin had given the possibility of at least a 2 year hostel, where residents can stay for the first 2 years of their graduation.Following the nationwide lockdown in March, the hostel instructed all residents to move out of the hostel to their hometowns. With 2 months left for the academic year to end and uncertainty looming around the final decision of the hostel administration on the status of the hostel, multiple mails were sent by the union and residents enquiring the status of accommodation and demanding speedy decision making. However, the reply from the warden asked us to “wait keeping in mind the extreme fluidity of the situation and the worldwide pandemic we are all facing”. The reply also asked us to not contact the Principal directly for our concerns henceforth, and that the warden will forward our concerns if deemed required. A governing body meeting and decision may as well be taken via video conferencing, and though we suggested this, it was outrightly negated and we were instead asked to wait till the college reopens for a final decision.
After months of no communication on the status of the hostel, on October 10, a communication came that the hostel admin was sticking on to the first year hostel policy and thus asked current second year students to vacate the hostel by January 2021.
Demanding students from all over India to travel during a pandemic and vacate their rooms when there was no clarity on when the hostel or college will reopen was a non-transparent move, which was contested by the students. A General Body Meeting was called in the presence of the warden on October 11 to address the students’ demands. But the warden referred to it as a mere “courtesy meeting” on her side, since the second years are no longer residents and cannot call a GBM. She further said that she’ll be part of the “courtesy meeting” only if second years are the only participants, as an excuse to reduce the organisational strength of the resident body. Though concerns were raised in the meeting, none of these were recognised. Moreover the warden conveyed a new deadline by the end of October, backtracking on the January deadline. That on the one hand, a short notice eviction is announced and on the other, the hostel admin blatantly negates their institutional responsibility to residents by calling it their courtesy and generosity shows complete lack of accountability that the admin has towards students.
A notification with a new deadline of October 31 was issued on October 12 and circulated with the residents on October 13. An instruction with such a short notice was absolutely unjust and unnecessary, and given that the fresh batch of students are to arrive in a few months’ time, for which a date has not yet been finalized, the sense of urgency the admin claimed seemed entirely incomprehensible.
The notification claimed that the eviction was to facilitate repair and maintenance of the hostel to welcome the new batch of first years. However, we wish to highlight the following.
1) When the current batch of 3rd years and their belongings are still in the hostel and their rooms still closed, how will the hostel be “prepared” for the new first years through complete maintenance?
2) Even if they want to carry out maintenance, what justifies the short notice eviction of students when no probable date on the arrival of first years and reopening of the college and hostel has been arrived at yet.
3) How can the hostel admin justify the additional financial burden and health concerns that it unjustly and unnecessarily imposed on students in distress in the name of maintenance work? Are students’ lives and health less important than maintenance of a building?
Repeated requests and mails were sent by the hostel union and by the residents themselves, highlighting the various difficulties in arranging for packing and moving their belongings in a pandemic on such short notice and the health concerns that may arise, but all of these were brushed aside. Financial expenses of travelling, moving, finding alternative accommodation and storage facilities were all repeatedly highlighted in mass mails. Instead, the warden argued that students need not come themselves and may send their local guardians or packers and movers to move their belongings.
These supposed relaxations meant no relief for several reasons.
1.) All students are not privileged enough to have close contacts in Delhi, on whom they can depend and ask in confidence to pack their belongings.
2.) Since the residents left the hostel in a hurry in March due to the nationwide lockdown, their belongings were not properly packed or arranged. Many students were uncomfortable in asking a third unknown or distant person to organise and pack all their belongings from scratch for genuine reasons.
3.) Relying on packers and movers to transport things from Delhi to distant cities is very expensive and unaffordable for many.
The warden also argued that since many final years whose college term had ended had already come to vacate, current second years can also easily do so. This completely overlooks the differences in both of the situations. For final years who have already received admission in other colleges or have moved out of LSR, their need to vacate comes from the normal needs of a student to move out of a college after graduation. But for the second years, the policy was exclusionary as it forced them to look for alternative expensive accommodation, storage and transport facilities amidst a pandemic, even when there was no urgency.
Further, *the warden outrageously denied from then on to have any direct communication with the 2nd year residents, since according to her they “were” residents and no longer “are” since their contract was only till May 2020*. It was put across as the hostel’s generosity that it kept their luggages from June to October 2020, when it was in truth the hostel admin themselves who urged students to move out during the pandemic lockdown leaving behind their luggages. To consider a necessary and natural measure that the hostel must do to keep our belongings in the wake of a pandemic imposed nationwide lockdown, as a generosity of the hostel, is a clear evasion of the sense of responsibilities that the hostel has towards its resident body.The current specificity of the pandemic, which in the first place forced them to move out of the hostel in March, was completely ignored.
Further a notification dated October 20 extended the deadline to November 10 and stated that all those who are not going to vacate will have their things moved by packers which the hostel will employ. The notice stated that the hostel will not be responsible for any misplacement or loss of students belongings and that the amount for moving will be charged from the students.Thus by force and harassment, the hostel administration made students travel in a pandemic to vacate the hostel for the supposed repair and maintenance to prepare the hostel for the new batch, about whose arrival even the hostel was not sure of.
The warden claims that case to case extensions in deadlines have been made and that Aishwarya wasn’t one of the people who approached the hostel admin for the same. For one, a large number of students had written requests to get a deadline extension till college reopening which was outrightly denied. If anything was fair, only such an extension would have been in favour of the students, considering the additional financial burden of travelling to and from Delhi and back again with their luggage and the stress of travelling and finding alternative accommodation in a pandemic. Such a student friendly extension was not given. Only extensions of a few days in some cases have been entertained by the hostel administration which amount to no relief for students suffering from financial burden. Further, much of the resident body was stressed by the October 20 notification that stated that the hostel will move their luggage if they do not by November 10. The tonality of the statement is what forced many residents to travel to Delhi even amidst adverse conditions and Aishwarya was one among the persons who decided to. That an institutional failure of the hostel to provide a reasonable respite to students is blamed on Aishwarya for not approaching the hostel admin for a few days extension is a hollow and insensitive argument.
That the current second years were given admission after signing a letter that stated that their contract would only be for one year is a regular argument peddled by the administration. In 2019, which was the first year of implementation of the new one year hostel policy, the students were compelled to sign the letter if at all they are to receive affordable accommodation. Further, throughout the year, negotiations between the hostel students union and the hostel administration happened, in which the Union pushed for a three year or two year hostel with complete reservation implementation. Even in the place of a contract, ignoring the financial, logistical and health conditions that the pandemic has imposed on students and giving a short notice vacation brushing aside all of our repeated concerns and requests amounts to institutional negligence that has abetted the death of our friend. That the hostel and college administration can cite the pandemic as a reason for delaying a governing body decision on the status of the hostel that may as well be easily taken through online means, but can forcibly summon students from all over India to vacate and search for expensive alternative accommodation in the midst of the same pandemic shows their hypocrisy. The callousness with which the institution has approached this issue and the absolute negation of our valid concerns are issues that they will have to be accountable for.
Therefore, we as the residents of LSRH have the following demands:
1.) Full accountability from the hostel administration and resignation of the hostel warden Dr. Ujjayini Ray and Principal, Dr Suman Sharma, assuming moral responsibility.
2.) A revocation of the hostel policies on vacation.
3.) Reverting the 1 year hostel decision to a 3 year hostel with the full implementation of reservation.
We are attaching all the proof of correspondence between the warden, hostel committee, hostel students’ union and hostel residents in the document below.
We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the institutional murder of our friend and demand justice for her.
Residents of LSRH
DOCUMENTATION OF ALL COMMUNICATION
This is a timeline based record of all communication between the hostel residents represented by the Hostel Union and the Hostel administration including the Warden. Please see the portion on Latest Developments to know more about the short notice hostel eviction that in part was responsible for Aishwarya’s institutional murder.
The decision to convert the hostel into a first year hostel was announced in June 2019, without any consultation with the residents. Fresh batch of first years selected for hostel admission were asked to sign a letter that stated that they are in full knowledge that their contract will only be for a year. For want of affordable accommodation and lack of information, all students and their parents were compelled to sign the letter.
Throughout the months from July 2019 to March 2020, the hostel union had sent multiple letters to revoke the autocratic decision of the college administration to make the hostel first year only. In August 2019, a meeting was called by the Principal with the Hostel Union(HU), Students Union(SU) and Hostel committee in which the hostel union put forth the demand of a full three year hostel with reservation implementation. However, this was outrightly negated citing lack of funds. Multiple negotiations happened and the SU and HU sent a combined letter to the Principal in December 2019.
In the hostel committee meeting in January 2020, student representatives were assured of at least a 2 year hostel. A hostel union letter was sent in February to the hostel committee requesting the same.
In March 2020, the hostel was closed following the lockdown. With 2 months left for the academic year to end and an ongoing pandemic, students were anxious about their accommodation. Multiple letters were sent to the admin by the union demanding a final decision on whether they have approved a 2 year hostel. We were informed that the decision will be made in a month’s time by April. But on 26 March, the union was informed that the Governing Body(GB) meeting could not take place due to the pandemic. Though the union suggested methods like online conference, the warden denied all such alternative mechanisms.
On 2nd April, a mail was sent to the hostel committee members asking whether the revision will happen this year and whether the current first years can continue for the next academic year, to which the warden replied that the decision will be communicated to us as whenever taken and that they had no further say in it.
Another mail was sent to the principal on 5th highlighting the need for reconsideration of the decision in the current academic year itself mentioning the urgency considering the pandemic, so that it is in the interest of current first years. On the 7th, she replied saying that since it is
difficult for the whole GB to meet, she has addressed the request to the Chairman of the Governing Body. Further the Hostel Union replied that since the decision has been delayed for so long , we would like a response at the earliest or within 10 days for which we haven’t received a reply yet. On 16th, the HU again mailed her asking her for updates and also requesting for contact details of the GB, so that we could also approach them and let them know the concerns of the students. On the 29th of April the HU got a mail from the warden (added below) in which we were asked not to directly contact the Principal anymore.
Dear Hostel Union Members,
Further to your emails to the Principal, Dr Suman Sharma, on the issue of a two-year Hostel, I would like to inform you that the Principal has been in touch with the Chairperson of the GB. The Chairperson has indicated his willingness to look into this issue and will revert back to the Principal as soon as the GB and Chairperson have reached a decision regarding modalities. You are requested to wait keeping in mind the extreme fluidity of the situation and the worldwide pandemic we are all facing.
Further, it may be noted that all future letters on this or any other issue should be addressed to the Warden, who will forward it to the Principal if deemed required. Thank You
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS ON EVICTION OF SECOND YEAR RESIDENTS
After months of no communication with the resident body on the status of hostel accommodation, on October 10, 2020 the warden through the hostel union informed that the GB has decided to stick to the one year hostel policy and that all current second years must vacate by January 2021. On October 11,the hostel union and residents called for a GBM to question this sudden and unnecessary decision in which the warden was present. The warden refused to call it a GBM and named it a ‘courtesy meeting’ for which she is not obligated to be accountable.
Message sent by warden on October 11, 3.52 pm
Please understand that the current second years are not hostel residents so they cannot be a part of a hostel gbm. I cannot be present at such a ‘gbm’. You all can go on having such gbms. They are not valid.
If the second years want to meet me i can meet them on zoom as a courtesy on my part. I am not obliged to meet ex residents, neither is the hostel comm.
Message sent by warden on October 11, 3.54 pm
So either i and some hostel comm members meet the second year only or we do not meet at all. Please remember its a coutedy(courtesy) meeting nothing else.
The GBM was held at 5.30 pm on October 11. Instead of addressing our concerns in the GBM, the warden preponed the deadline from January 2021 to October 31,2020. Multiple mails were sent by the hostel union and residents in the following days.
Mail sent by hostel union to warden on 12 October
With due regards and reverence, we would like to put forth that the order of current second years vacating the hostel completely by 31 October as mentioned in the mail you sent us in the evening of 11th October 2020 is very inconsiderate considering the pandemic and the tough times we are all beset with.
There are just 15 days remaining to the deadline and it shall not be feasible for the hostellers to travel from different parts of the country in the pandemic. In the very first, the pandemic is deadly and thereby shall pose great risk to the lives of travellers if they contract infection and also, they have elderly people in homes who are in threat too.
Secondly, the trains have not started and all are not in position to travel by air. Also, it is difficult in times when the pandemic has also struck the economy of many families. Plus, they shall also face lodging issues in the capital as the LG’s would be of least help due to threat of contracting infection and they shall have to quarantine themselves upon their return for which some wouldn’t have that space.
The online class timings are also full day. And the online education is stressful besides different other issues. The month October is tightly packed with internal exams and the students are going through immense pressure.
The month also has some festivals coming up and you are aware that the DU academic calendar doesn’t have mid semester break this semester.
Some students have to attend household chores and their parents are in government/private sectors and hence it would be of immense difficulty to them as well to arrange all this. Also if the students come there just to vacate they’ll have to come back and quarantine themselves which will be difficult for the students amd their families amidst all the problems that all already present. Some students don’t have the facilities to quarantine themselves at their homes.
The hostel is not opening anytime soon due to the pandemic and that the admissions have just begun, the first year students wont be coming anytime sooner. So there is abundant time for them. Hence, the vacation at this point of time can be extended considering the factors cited above.
Considering this, we would like to request your good self to extend the deadline to the time the hostel reopens and give them ample time to vacate amidst the stressful time and hectic semester.
We hope with good heart that you shall comply with the request and reconsider the last day of vacation.
Thanking you in anticipation.
Senior co-ordinators HU
Mail sent by the Warden to Hostel union coordinators, 12 October
Dear Diya and Nida,
Would be grateful if you could forward the letter written below to current second year students who WERE residents of LSRH in their first year. This is my official communication to them regarding vacating the hostel and should put to rest all sorts of rumours floating around regarding dates, extensions, assurances, etc.
Dear current second-year students (2020-2021),
I hope this finds all of you in good health.
All of you were residents of the hostel in your first year. As per the Prospectus, handbook and the contract that you and your parent/LG signed, you were given the hostel for your first year of study ONLY for one year.
All of you have commenced your second year of studies and new first year admissions to the college and hostel are beginning tomorrow.
Therefore you are required to vacate your hostel room as soon as possible, preferably by the 31st of October.
Please get in touch with ritu maam on the hostel gmail id giving details about your vacating, dates etc. Kindly attach a copy of the first page of your passbook and apply for a refund of the security deposit.
Stay well, stay healthy
Message by Hostel Warden, 12 October
Its an official email from the hostel to the hostel union. How you send it to students its upto you. I will not be communicating with each 2nd year who is no longer a resudent. I will be communicating with both of you.
They are being asked to pick up their luggage which has been keept in the hostel even after they have left the hostel in may 2020. Hostel has jept the luggage for 4 months now we are asking for its removal. Students have officially vacated the hostel as their cobtract was till may 2020.
On 13 October, the notification attached below was released asking students to evict by 31 October, 2020.
In the following days mass mails were sent by second year residents to the warden highlighting their concerns. No reply was received. The letter is attached below.
Subject: Regarding the Unjust Short notice to vacate the hostel by the LSR Hostel Administration.
I am a student of Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi. We, the batch of 2019-2022, took admission in the LSR Residence Hall by signing a contract which required us to vacate the hostel after one year of study. This was because, the LSR administration, in 2019, had decided to convert the hostel to a first years only hostel. We were asked to sign the contract, as it was compulsory for us to agree to it in order to get an admission in the hostel, we were in a way compelled to give our consent for it. I am writing this mail to draw your attention to the insensitive decision made by our college administration by asking the batch of 2019 to vacate the hostel by the end of October.
The current pandemic situation, has completely thrown us off our feet and we are right now miles away from Delhi in our respective states. In this situation, the LSR Hostel administration on the 13th October, 2020, demanded us to vacate the hostel premises by the end of October, 2020. This arbitrary decision of demanding us to shift out of the hostel and asking us to find accommodation elsewhere has left us completely helpless. The policy of conversion into first year only hostel is an act of turning blind eye towards the second year students.
The notification, attached below was published on 13 October, giving us less than a month before the deadline, to vacate. The LSR administration has decided to move forward with the decision to make a first-years only hostel which is a very clear violation of Section 33 of the Delhi University act which entrusts “hostel for all”.
- The notice was issued on 13 October,2020 which barely gives us 15 days to shift out our belongings. A large majority of the students in LSRH residents are out-station students, spread all over the country. It is extremely insensitive to expect these students to come all the way to Delhi, to simply vacate the rooms. The storage of our belongings and finding other accommodation facilities in the capital at such short notice is fully unjust and impractical. Our local guardians would also not be willing to help us due to the infectious nature of the Covid pandemic and the risks associated with it, we also wouldn’t want to risk their lives.
- The availability of safe travel options is sparse during these times. Students who reside in COVID hotspot regions are also required to travel to Delhi to vacate. Many of us also fall under containment zones which would restrict our movement .
- The financial expenses of travelling and finding alternate places to keep our belongings will be unaffordable for many of us, given that the financial stability of many families have been affected during these times and to expect students to come to Delhi, incurring all the travel cost, to collect their belongings is an outright insensitive decision on behalf of the college administration.(for students from Southern states, it will at least cost a sum of near 10k minimum for travel alone)
- October is also a month when classes are happening in full swing at DU, with submission deadlines and internal assessments, so students are already under a lot of pressure. This new decision of the Hostel administration has coupled the mental trauma of the students.
- Most importantly, It is highly exclusionary for the LSR administration to demand students to vacate the hostel in the midst of a pandemic. With COVID cases still at spread, there is a huge risk of us contracting the virus during our travel to Delhi. During times when people are advised to stay indoors to their maximum capacity, asking students to come all the way to Delhi, simply to vacate rooms that will not occupied anytime soon, is extremely inconsiderate. A pandemic requires special consideration and rules, kicking students out and expecting them to find affordable accessible accommodation during such times is shameful and shows pure ignorance to the plight of the students. In case we contract the virus, we will be putting our old family members in extreme risks. Many of us also fall under containment zones which would also restrict us.
We have been fighting against the policy of First years only hostel for almost 7 months in the hopes that the administration would take the pandemic situation under consideration, the admin kept giving us positive responses all this time. But now, they have not only remained insensitive to our plight, but have also put us in great difficulty by asking us to vacate by 31 October. The reason cited by the administration for vacating us, is that they need to maintain social distancing in the hostel by having single-seaters instead of double-seaters, which would have easily accommodated all of us. But the idea of social distancing within a hostel is absurd as no such policy can be followed in the college.
We request you to please look into this issue, at the earliest, as the students are completely helpless in the middle of the Pandemic. We request that the date for shifting our belongings be extended, at least till when colleges reopens after the COVID restrictions are lifted. We request that we get accommodation for second year, as well as the pandemic situation is a legitimate one. Hoping for a positive and quick response.
On 20 October, a new notification gave a 10 day extension of deadline. The new deadline was set for 10 November, 2020. Along with it, the notification stated that those students who don’t move their luggage before 10th will have their things moved by packers employed by the hostel without any supervision.
Message sent by warden on 26 October
67 current second year students have made no arrangements to collect their luggage as of now, nor have they gotten in touch with us to tell us when they will be coming. After the 10th of nov all luggage left behind will be packed by packers and movers and shifted. There will be no supervision of the packing by the hostel and the hostel will not be responsible for any loss or damage.
This was the last official communication received from the hostel administration on the issue.
Featured image credit: LSR official website