IIT Delhi student suicides: At Open House, students express concerns about mental health, placements

IIT Delhi organised an Open House meeting, addressed by the director Prof Rangan Banerjee, to discuss various issues being faced by the students on February 22
Read details here | (Photo: Edex Live)
Read details here | (Photo: Edex Live)

Over 2,000 students from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, listed a number of concerns like mental health issues among students, concerns regarding placement, lack of flexibility in choosing their guides, and more, as per a survey circulated by the student body.

The survey was circulated among all undergraduate (UG), postgraduate (PG) and PhD students, seeking information on what changes they seek in the academic structure and functioning of the institute. These demands were then discussed in the Open House meeting organised by the institute on Thursday, February 22.

These developments come after the premier technological institute in Delhi witnessed its fourth student suicide in the last few months. Varad Sanjay Nerkar (23), a final-year MTech student allegedly died by suicide in his hostel room on campus on February 15.

The institute had also postponed the mid-semester exams following the recurring suicides and organised an Open House meeting, addressed by the director Prof Rangan Banerjee, to discuss various issues being faced by the students. The Open House, which began at 5 pm on February 23, went on for three hours, during which, a large number of demands were put forth by the students.

As informed by the students, the director and administration have sought a week's time to look into the matter.

Students speak…

Despite the assurance, the students remain unsatisfied with the meeting's proceedings.

Speaking to EdexLive, a student of IIT Delhi claimed, “The institute gave very bureaucratic responses to most of the concerns shared by the students. Overall, we felt that the Open House was not very fruitful.”

Apart from calling attention to issues with the academic structure and functioning of the institute, the MTech students of IIT Delhi also demanded that an external committee be formed to look into the suicide of Varad Sanjay Nerkar.

Giving an example of IIT Madras, where an external committee was formed after the death of 31-year-old doctorate student, Sachin Jain, the students of IIT Delhi urged the authorities that a similar procedure be followed to investigate Varad’s death too. 

To recall, the deceased student’s parents alleged that he took this extreme step after facing mental harassment from his faculty guide. 

“The institute responded that since the case is under police investigation now, an external committee cannot be formed,” another MTeach student informed, on the condition of anonymity.

On Friday, February 23, the institute also organised a conversation on mental health and social inequalities by Prof Maria Melchior, Social Epidemiologist.

Demands of students

A list of demands was compiled based on over 1,100 responses received from the undergraduate students of IIT Delhi, as well as from PG and PhD students from the institute.

Demands by the UG students at IIT Delhi included more transparency in the grading policy with formal guidelines that specify the range of percentage of students for each letter grade; an externally audited report of internships/placements to be released in order to address questions about career opportunities; and an increase in the budget allocation for counselling services. 

The BTech students asked the administration not to conduct more than two exams in a day and also provide at least a two-day gap between the last teaching day and the exam.

The MTech students at IIT Delhi further highlighted that the institute has the highest SGPA (Standard Grade Point Average) criteria for the continuation of stipends for PG students and this leads to a large number of students discontinuing it.

The PG students demanded a significant reduction in the SGPA criteria to address concerns regarding students quitting the MTech programme prematurely. Apart from this, they demanded that internships be offered and integrated along with OCS (Office of Career Services) to facilitate placement opportunities for programmes having low placement ratios. Other demands included a ‘feedback committee’ for supervisors and courses at IIT Delhi; and modification of MSc coursework.

The PhD students demanded a three-month window for all new PhDs to change their supervisor and a faculty feedback system for mutual opportunities.

Sensitisation for supervisors and faculty members; mandatory student representation in institutional committees; mental health awareness workshops for faculty members and students; and a healthy work environment and work-life balance for PhD scholars at IIT Delhi were also sought.

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