Teachers at IIT Kharagpur met on Sunday and resolved that the authorities need to improve its communication with the students and ensure that their grievances are looked into, a day after students on the campus pointed out to the director lapses in handling the situation resulting from a student’s death.
The IIT Kharagpur Teachers’ Association met online to discuss “genuine grievances of the student community” that arose after the partially decomposed body of Faizan Alam, a third-year student of mechanical engineering, was found in his hostel room on October 14.
A teacher said the association had to call the meeting after students told director Virendra Kumar Tewari in an overnight open-house session that the campus had witnessed five suicides in the past three years but the authorities had done little to address the mental health concerns of students, and demanded his resignation.
Around 2,000 students attended the session, which started at 9pm on Friday and continued till 7 the next morning. The director collapsed towards the end of the meeting and was admitted to a private hospital in Kolkata.
An item on the agenda of the meeting was augmenting the counselling centre with the appointment of more counsellors.
“Since the students have accused the IIT administration of lacking empathy while dealing with them in the aftermath of the death of Faizan Alam, the level of communication must improve. The administration has to take steps without wasting any time,” said the teacher, who attended the meeting.
Amit Patra, deputy director of the institute, issued a statement on Thursday: “There is a gap in communication between the authorities and the parents of the deceased student, owing to which no faculty members had contacted the parents or any family members despite the fact that at least the deputy director, dean of students’ affairs and the faculty advisor of the deceased student were expected to do so.”
The behaviour of the faculty advisor of the dead student towards his family members and other students was inappropriate, the statement said.
Another teacher who attended the meeting said that when the institute’s deputy director acknowledged a communication gap, it is clear that more needs to be done. “In our meeting with the IIT authorities, we will work out what requires to be done,” he said.
The meeting took up a grievance of the students that there are only eight “overburdened counsellors” for around 15,000 students enrolled at the residential institute.
“We will meet in-person towards the end of October. Thereafter, a formal communication will be sent to the administration. In that communication the administration will be advised to beef up the counselling facility,” the teacher said.
“The counselling centre should also be more empathetic while addressing the mental health concerns of the students.”
The teachers’ meeting also resolved to urge the authorities to revive the standard operating procedure (SOP), formulated in 2017, on what needs to be done after a death by accident or suicide.
Teachers at the meeting said the chaos that broke out on the campus after Faizan’s death could have been averted had the SOP been followed.
A post on the Facebook page of The Scholars’ Avenue, a campus newspaper run by students, said students had to compensate for the lack of empathy and maturity of several faculty members, “who only agreed to meet Faizan’s family after multiple attempts and modes of contact by the student representatives, some even refusing thereafter”.