Call for fresh IISER probe
A couple of former and present students at IISER Kolkata have termed the investigation that led to the suspension of two research scholars “kangaroo court-like proceedings”.
The scholars had questioned the institute’s handling of Covid tests on its campus in Kalyani.
In their petition to institute director Sourav Pal, the students have said such proceedings raised concerns about the well-being of students and the atmosphere on the campus.
They have said they want the matter reinvestigated because how can “asking pertinent questions about the institute’s handling of Covid-19 testing facilities on the campus lead to the suspension” of the two research scholars.
The two scholars — one pursuing PhD and the other MSc-PhD (integrated) — were suspended on November 13 after they wanted to know from the authorities why members of the canteen staff were not asked to undergo Covid tests on the campus.
The suspended scholars have been barred from entering the campus and denied fellowship for two months.
“But their suspension notice or email communication that they have received does not mention the reason for suspension. Such kangaroo court-like proceedings within a premier academic institution raise certain concerns about the well-being of students and the atmosphere of the campus itself,” the students have said in their petition to director Pal.
The petition has been signed by 106 students, former and present.
A former student of IISER who is pursuing PhD in California Institute of Technology (Caltech) created an online forum urging students and research scholars to enlist themselves in the petition.
The petition was submitted at director Pal’s office.
Director Pal refused to say anything on the matter.
One of the suspended scholars, a regular face in the protests against the new citizenship matrix within and outside the campus, said the “arbitrary punishment was an attempt to strike fear among students so that they don’t dare to question anything”.
“The petitioners have correctly said that the shoddy investigation raised concern about the well-being of students and the atmosphere on the campus,” the scholar said.
The events date back to October 19 when all students of the institute had received a mail from the students’ affairs council (food, health and hygiene) about Covid tests to be conducted on the campus the next day.
On October 20, a canteen employee who had given samples for a Covid test at a facility outside the campus learnt that he had the disease.
The same day, seven students, including the suspended two, met the professor supervising the on-campus tests and asked her why canteen employees had not been asked to undergo the tests and why many of the students who had volunteered for the tests had not been called for the tests.
A committee was formed in the next few days and the committee pronounced the suspension of the two research scholars.
The institute’s students have found support from IIT Kharagpur. The students’ association, Science Education Group (SEG), at the IIT issued a statement on Friday, condemning the punishment.
“The suspended IISER-K students are facing harsh punishment for mere exertion of their right by asking legitimate questions. We feel that such kind of authoritarian action taken by the IISER-K administration will destroy the campus democracy and the possibility of healthy student-faculty relations on the campus,” the association statement read.
“A COVID testing endeavour within the campus; that, too, at a time when infection had started spreading to campus staff, should have been utilised as a golden opportunity. While none of the canteen staff or the students who had volunteered… were asked to submit their samples, asking pertinent questions about the same led to the sudden suspension of two graduate students,” the students have said in the petition.