By Vaibhav Parik, (Class of 2020) Last semester, as I approached the end of my first
By Devika Jamkhedkar (Batch of 2021)
As far as Haryana institutions are concerned, Ashoka is a ‘liberal’ space. This term has various connotations- academic flexibility, intellectual freedom and diversity of values. Recent events have shown some Ashokans take the word ‘liberal’ to a whole new extreme. Recent events involving harassing wardens in the name of personal autonomy undoubtedly hindered student-administration relations.
An email by the Vice Chancellor Pratap Bhanu Mehta, expressed disappointment and frustration against the student body for ‘physically, verbally and sexually’ assaulting residence life members. For the Vice Chancellor to state that student behaviour has deteriorated to the extent that disciplined students are a minority is a serious allegation. Moreover, it is alarming that the ResLife team that strives to maintain order while we romp and rest should ever face physical, verbal or sexual harassment. Regardless of how strongly we feel about the existing regulations, there is absolutely no excuse for disrespect, let alone assault and intimidation. The fact that the student body conceives of an environment free of hate, discrimination or harassment, yet exists in one that leaves residence assistants feeling ‘disappointed, unsafe and threatened’ is pathetic, not to mention vastly hypocritical.
Given these events, students and the Office of Student Life (OSL) administration must bridge the distance and mistrust that has inevitably cropped up, making the OSL adopt a heightened sense of caution. However, this suspicion led to an authoritarian action. In light of a joke referencing the infamous SSP in an APL drink stall advertisement, the OSL bore it fitting to reprimand organisers amidst the busy proceedings, and directly threatened to cancel APL. Deemed Orwellian by some, these are largely illogical actions that exposed how blistered the trust between the students and ResLife have become.
Firstly, the Ashoka Premier League is an informal tournament organised entirely by students, with absolutely no association with the campus administration. Given the casual nature of the event, it does not need to consign with administrative standards of ceremony. Considering that the APL adheres to all residence life policies regarding events, it is ludicrous for the OSL to believe that it bears authority to cancel a much-loved event on such petty grounds.
Further, it is bizarre that the office found it apt to punish the team for a joke alluding to SSP- a notorious, but now lighthearted aspect of student history. There is no manner to assume it was anything but a tongue-in-cheek reference, given the tone of the email and the mention of the strictly non-alcoholic beverages being sold. The OSL’s reaction implies that they either did not understand a simple joke, or believe that a sports event is equable with an alcohol-centred partying.
Animal Farm or not, OSL’s actions are rather confusing. However, it is imperative to take note of the unprecedented wave of hooliganism of late, that is only weakening our own appeals for freedom. Following the recent Spring Ball, Mr Ranjeet Parmar conveyed his shock and dismay at the battered plants that had been sown in the atrium, with hopes of beautifying the area. His disappointment should very well be ours-It takes a basic grasp of human decency to know that you shouldn’t destroy plants, but it is implied that students danced away without thinking about the consequences. This is entitlement at its finest, to assume that the consequences of one night’s revelry is out of our hair by default. Simply because we don’t know the mali bhaiya or department that arranges the aesthetics of our living space, the place we can complain about and call home.
Given the current trajectory, campus culture is manifesting as an agent of dysfunctionality. Such indiscipline hurts those already most vulnerable among us residents. These include the didis and bhaiyas who are overburdened, wardens who make hefty compromises, and departments that must hush up student errors to portray Ashoka for what is was conceived as- A space that values intellect and sensitivity. An RA’s warning about Ashoka’s ethos being capitalised over by impudent partygoers seems to eerily foreshadow current events. Although there is some commendable student initiative, like the student discussion over the VC’s email, casual student attitudes must evolve in order to create a truly conducive environment. This orderliness is not just for us when we feel like it, but for the smooth functioning of the offices, campus employees and the ethos of the very young, but aspirational liberal arts college itself.
The administration is not perfect, but it is also not to be blamed for student follies. Correct the latter, and a peaceable, productive bond should spring up again.