St Stephens: Students Call Admin Notice Over Extra Hostel Rent ‘Atrocious’

In the middle of a pandemic, and at a time when the University Grants Commission (UGC) is hell-bent on holding final year exams despite a great deal of criticism being mounted on it, Delhi University’s St Stephen’s College has come with a new notice that has put hostellers in a tizzy.

On July 25, the college uploaded a notice on its website which read: “Students who are unable to vacate their rooms will be allowed to retain their room with a modest room rent-charge of Rs 100 per day starring from August 7, 2020.”

The reason behind the decision, the notice read, was a “necessary cleaning and renovation” of the hostel.

The students’ union society (SUS) has written a letter to principal John Varghese, urging him to waive the new rent charges on humanitarian grounds.

LiveWire reached out to some hostellers who agreed to talk on the condition of anonymity. The college, they said, is quite “vengeful” and could ask them to leave the hostel. For this reason, the students will be referred to as A, B and C.

Hosteller A, who is currently in West Bengal, said that the notice is “absurd at best and malicious at worst”. “We are being asked to pay a penalty just because the circumstances prevent us from clearing our rooms in Delhi,” he said. “Travel restrictions vary from state to state. For example, the Kolkata airport is closed for the next seven days and West Bengal has gone forward with the policy of two-day lockdown per week.”

“This is so insensitive on the college administration’s part. Last year when things were normal, we vacated the rooms. This year, they know that we cannot come to college as most of the region is under lockdown. Secondly, Delhi has a large number of COVID-19 cases,” said B. The extra hostel fee, he added, is an “atrocity”.

“We have paid the fees for the whole semester – which is from January till May. Out of 400 hostellers, only 80-85 stayed back. Should the rest of us also not be asking for compensation for the services that we have already paid but have not availed? We never used the food, electricity, water and so many other services but we are still asked to pay for. Why?” he said.

Hosteller C was angry with the language used in the college’s notification. “If you read the last part of the notice, it looks like the college administration is threatening us,” they said.

The notice reads: “All belongings and luggage will be moved a week prior to the residence reopening to facilitate necessary cleaning and renovations. In such occasion, the college will not be responsible for loss and damages.”

Also read: Amidst Lockdown, Jamia Asks Hostellers to Collect their Belongings

They also gave examples of other DU colleges, saying, “Stephens is not the only college with residential facility. Other DU colleges like Miranda House, Hansraj and Ramjas also have hostel facility, but they are not doing this.”

C suspects if the administration will break the locks of their rooms if they don’t vacate.  Along the same lines, B said, “I have all my important stuff locked away in my room and a lot of my friends have left their passports and laptops.”

The administration’s argument that they need to repair the hostel rooms and therefore they are asking the students to vacate, A said, is a “convenient excuse”.

“A part of our library roof had collapsed last year and it has not been repaired till date, leading to the library functioning at half its capacity throughout the last semester. The admin is coming up with these excuses to justify making money at the cost of students’ well being – simply taking advantage of their desperate predicament,” he said.

When we called the dean of residence, he said that he had no authority to comment on the matter.

The principal, John Varghese, who issued the notification, told PTI: “By the time the lockdown happened, a lot of the students had gone for the mid-semester break. Since the lockdown happened, they didn’t come back. Nobody is talking about the fact that the college is not charging them from the time they were not here till August 7. They have not been charged a single paise for the period they were not here.”

As per the hostellers, Stephens’ residential facility has approximately 400 students, who reside in 240 hostel rooms which are further divided into six blocks. B told us that the hostel fee is Rs 72,000 for one semester (January-May).

They also told us that the residence application is very different at Stephen’s. A student is granted residence on the basis of academic merit and need-based. The application is renewed every year, so students have to keep working hard academically to earn a place in the residence.

After every academic year, students have to reapply for residence and the applications for new session have not come out yet. They are normally put out in April.

Amit Pandey is a student at AJK Mass communication research centre, Jamia Millia Islamia.  He is an enthusiastic journalist and loves to document people and incidents. He tweets @yuva_journalist.

Featured image credit: Flickr