Published: 28th January 2021
UoM students protest after varsity asks them to pay hostel fees despite their not using rooms
After three attempts to make an appointment with the Registrar, the students gave up and decided to launch a protest outside his office
Students from the University of Madras launched a protest on Wednesday against the hostel fees that are being levied on them for the months that they weren’t on campus. The students living in the Marina campus hostel are calling the fees ‘unfair’ since they had all been asked to vacate the hostel at the time and even after they returned, they claim the mess was never opened forcing them to eat outside. Currently, they also claim that water supply is not available in the hostel.
“In 2020, colleges across the country were closed due to the pandemic. Teaching was completely online and so students went back to their hometowns,” the students argued. The hostels were vacated on March 15 when the entire country was gearing up for the lockdown. But the students say that they are being charged hostel fees for the month of March, April and May, “When we were not even living there, why are we being asked to pay. We are also being asked to pay for the salaries of the mess workers. But the mess workers were not working then and the mess remains closed to this day. We are spending money and eating outside. So why should we have to pay?” the students questioned. The students have no drinking water or water for sanitation at the hostel too. “When we demanded food and water, we were told to pay the fees first,” the students alleged.
Students gathered in front of the Registrar’s office on Wednesday afternoon and remained there till late into the night demanding an appointment with the Registrar, who they claim has refused to meet them so far. While other members in the office have approached the students and asked them to call off the protest, the Registrar has allegedly remained inaccessible to them. “He has walked past us but hasn’t stopped to speak to us. We’ve been trying to get a response from him since December, we wrote four letters last month. We tried to get in touch with his personal assistant too. When that failed we dropped letters in the complaint box, hoping that would help but that has also not yielded any responses,” the students said.
“The fees range from 7000 to 10,000 rupees and those are very high fees especially since no one was occupying these rooms. They are also telling us they will charge us for the next three months as well, and December too. So if we consider all that, we’ll be left with a debt upto 20,000 rupees which we cannot afford,” the students argued. What is enraging the students more is that they haven’t been able to sort out the issue properly with the administration. “When we wanted to approach the manager, we were told a new person had been appointed and they don’t have all the details with them. Then we went to the warden, but there was a new warden too. The Registrar is new too. No one is able to get us a straight answer.” the protestors said.
After three attempts to make an appointment with the Registrar, the students gave up and decided to launch a protest outside his office. “We hear threats from the authorities saying that because we are from here, they are not taking stricter action and that we should call off the protest,” the student said. The students claim they are being asked to move from the Marina campus to the Taramani campus if they are facing difficulties at the current campus.
Currently, the hostel has a strength of 35 students but right now, 27 students are living there. A couple of students have already moved to Taramani as they had no choice. But shifting to the Taramani campus is also not an easy move, “We have to stay in the hostels because classes have resumed. They are saying we have to pay the fees here and also pay a new deposit and start afresh when we go to Taramani. How is that fair to us?”
The students are placing three demands before the administration — Open hostel mess hall and provide food for the students, cancel the hostel feels imposed during the lockdown period and administration should stop demanding fees from the students to pay for the salaries of mess workers. The students are insisting that they will remain on campus till the demands are met. We have reached out to the University for a comment and will update this copy when we receive it.