Campus in crisis

12 September 2006 |

The current chaos in BITS Dubai resembles a great deal to the storyline of a C-grade bollywood movie; providing livelihood to a few and entertaining the general public.

There has been a great deal of media coverage over the last one week on the 'campus crisis' in BITS Dubai campus. Mainstream media (newspapers) and parallel media in the form of blogs have brought out many aspects of the 'BITS Dubai circus.'

It all started with 7Days publishing a story on the 8th of September:

In yet another case of a school administration trying to ban student blogging, three engineering students at a campus in Knowledge Village in Dubai have been suspended indefinitely, raising questions about freedom of speech and expression. A notice on one of the boards at the ‘Birla Institute of Technology and Science – Pilani’ campus in Dubai lists the names of three suspended students. [more].
On the 10th September, 12 more students were suspended.

Hundreds of students assembled in front of their college yesterday (10 Sep) after 12 of them were temporarily suspended for bullying, or ‘ragging’, the new entrants. According to the director of Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS)-Pilani, the action was taken after first year students complained that senior students asked them to perform “unnatural acts”.

“All the senior students were assembled on the excuse of signing some documents and an identification was conducted with the first year students standing behind a dark glass." [more]

On 11th Sep, BITS campus in Dubai saw four private security guards keeping an eye on senior students (not that they can't see junior students).

Bullying clampdown [link]

Authorities at the BITS-Pilani campus in Knowledge Village have hired the services of a private security company to clamp down on bullying of new students. Four security guards from the private company were yesterday keeping watch at the institute, where 12 seniors were suspended this week for ‘terrorising juniors’.

The Director of the Institute Dr M Ramachandran yesterday told 7DAYS that new students were asked to simulate sex acts as part of an initiation. “Freshers were scared to even go to the canteen and some parents even wanted to withdraw their kids… BITS-Pilani is one of the most reputable institutions in India and… it is unfair to let 12 students damage the reputation,” he added.

Too many questions remain.

Is Dr. Ramachandran worried about the institution in Dubai or about the reputation of BITS-Pilani?

The image of BITS has been tarnished anyway. BITS-Pilani was not founded to be a money-making monster.

In 1964, the Birla Colleges of Arts, Commerce, Engineering, Pharmacy and Science were merged to form the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS). In this period of inception (especially during 1964-1970), BITS Pilani received support from the Ford Foundation and benefited from an alliance with the MIT.
I just cannot find any good reputation when an institution takes the path of profiteering through the trade of higher and technical education. It is like the naked emperor trying to cover himself with a transparent cloth.

From reading these news and blog articles, I wonder whether the security guards have been deployed to protect juniors or to bully students in general.

From a management's point of view there has been a disciplinary breakdown in the campus. Getting students to sign a sacred document when they join the course is not simply good enough. The campus atmosphere should be one of peace and creative excellece.

This can only be achieved by teachers and management providing a supporting system to all the students. From the comments and blogs I have read so far -- it seems the institution has managed to create an extremely hostile environment in the campus - through some draconian regulations.

It is about time that the Ministry of Education, UAE, conducted an enquiry into the whole affair. Dubai's reputation also gets damaged just because it has a 'problem tenant' in its Knowledge Village facility. Today, after reading the 7days report a friend told me, "With the private security guards and parading of senior students for identification -- with the first year students standing behind a dark glass... it sounds very unprofessional and conspiratory in nature. It doesn't sound like what happens in any of the university campuses around the world."

Reasoning should prevail. To expect students to behave like young army cadets is wrong. It is up to the mature and responsible Teachers and Officials to provide the right kind of atmosphere of friendship and peace. It is sad that some people think that enforcement of authority ensures respect.

The current ruler of Dubai is a glowing example. He has ensured that Dubai is a friendly and peaceful place for all nationalities to live, work and prosper.

Let good reason and peace prevail in BITS Dubai too.