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Presi girls demand axe on hostel rule

Varsity seeks guardians’ opinion on whether boarders should return to premises by 9.30pm

By Subhankar Chowdhury in Calcutta
  • Published 2.03.19, 3:52 AM
  • Updated 2.03.19, 3:52 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Presidency University Telegraph file picture

Students staying at the Presidency University hostel for girls in Salt Lake have questioned the “return by 9.30pm” rule, saying they are adults and should not be subjected to such restrictions.

The Presidency authorities have in response written to their parents asking for their opinion.

Of the 210 students staying at the hostel in BF Block, as many as 205 had recently written to the dean of students, Arun Maity, questioning the rule, an official at Presidency said.

One of the students who signed the letter told The Telegraph on Friday why they were demanding that the rule that all boarders return to the hostel by 9.30pm be scrapped.

“Presidency’s last bus for Salt Lake reaches the hostel around 8pm. After returning to the hostel we may want to visit a friend’s house or watch a film. Some of us go out for tuition. The deadline is a big spoiler. On several occasions, boarders were forced to spend the night at a friend’s house because of this ridiculous rule,” said the student who did not want to be named.

Another student argued that the 9.30pm deadline betrayed gender discrimination, citing the rule for the boys at Eden Hindu Hostel.

“The boarders of Hindu Hostel, located across the road from the College Street campus of Presidency, have to return by 10pm. But if someone returns late, he is not barred from entering the hostel. Why this stringent rule for girls? Is this not gender discrimination?” she asked.

Dean Maity said the students welfare board of the university had discussed the demand voiced by students staying at the Salt Lake hostel in their letter.

“It was decided that the opinion of the parents would be sought. Let them reply. We will call another meeting of the board and take a call,” Maity said.

Asked why the university needed to seek the parents’ opinion, he said: “It’s a crucial decision. We need to know the opinion of the guardians.”

Another official said the authorities were ready to push back the deadline to 10pm to try and resolve the dispute but the students were opposed to any rule in this regard.

“I think there should be some rule in a girls’ hostel to ensure the students’ security,” Maity said.

A Presidency teacher said girl students were earlier required to return to their hostel by 8pm.

“The deadline was pushed back by one-and-a-half hours five to six years ago following pleas from students,” the teacher said.

Boarders at the Salt Lake hostel had in March last year complained of “gender harassment” after being allegedly barred from stepping out for two days during Holi. The authorities had said the students might not be safe outside the hostel during the revelry.

Some of the world’s best universities do not have any such time bar.

Abhjit Gupta, a former head of the English department at Jadavpur University who did his PhD at Cambridge University, said girl students at his alma mater were free to return to hostel whenever they wished to.

“This is still the practice. I think the Presidency girls have raised a fair demand. They are adults and can take care of themselves,” Gupta said.

Supriya Chaudhuri, a professor emerita in the department of English at JU who had studied at Oxford University, said: “The same rule should be applicable to both boys’ hostel and girls’ hostel. If there are rules for boys, the girls, too, can be asked to follow them. There cannot be any discrimination in enforcing rules. Across India, a movement called Pinjra Tod is going on demanding that hostel rules be made less restrictive for women.”

Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, too, has not set any time by when students have to return to their hostels, a teacher said.