Cruel irony: Ambedkar University decides to scrap reservation policy!

Students and teachers of the Ambedkar University unitedly appeal to the management board not to scrap the fee waivers offered to socio-economically disadvantaged students.

Ambedkar University

Every morning Bharti struggles to find the internet bandwidth to attend her MA Sociology classes in Ambedkar University of Delhi (AUD) from her room in Haryana. Most of her August mornings were spent worrying about adequate electricity or internet to finish her online classes and assignments. However, on September 2, 2020, she faced a new problem of the scrapping of the full fee waiver offered by her university.

The full to partial fee waiver policy of the AUD served as a saving grace for those members of Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Persons with Disabilities (PwD) who wished to study in Delhi. Many students from across India apply here because of the fee waiver policy.

However, on Wednesday an SC applicant sent a mail to AUD’s students organisations that said the University had demanded full payment of fees. It also no longer looked at caste certificates but only demanded the income certificate of families.

According to Bharti, member of the Progressive and Democratic Students Committee (PDSC) of AUD, this scrapping would affect all SC and ST students planning to study in Delhi. She said that while universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and the Delhi University (DU) offered concessions to minority sections, AUD was the only one that offered affordable fees.

“Many people don’t support Reservations. But Reservations is not an extra benefit given to us [SCs, STs, OBCs and PwD.] Reservations fights the ‘age-old reservation’ that has been enjoyed by the upper-castes. If Reservation is removed, where will we go to study,” asks Bharti.

Illustrating the significance of blanket fee waivers, Shubhojeet Dey, AUD Students Council’s (AUDSC) Treasurer, said that many Dalit Collectives encouraged minority students to apply at the AUD owing to its minimal financial demands.

“Once you crack the entrance exam, you don’t need to worry about the fees other than the Rs. 500 that goes to the Student Welfare Fund to help economically-challenged students, including those from the General category,” said Shubhojeet.

Yet, on meeting a delegation of protesting students, the administration authorities said that the Delhi government had asked for a review of the policy. They refused to present the government directive stating so. The AUD is completely funded by the Delhi government. This makes it the responsibility of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that is known for its keen interest in improving education. However, the party has not commented on the issue as of yet.

Shubhojeet also questioned the strength of this reasoning since the Delhi Act 9 of 2007 gave enough freedom to the University to retain such policies.

Pro-Vice Chancellor Salil Mishra, Registrar Nitin Malik, Proctor Satyaketu Sankrit and Dean of Student Services Santosh Singh informed students that the AUD Board of Management would discuss the scrapping of the fee waiver policy as part of its agenda during the September 8 meeting.

However, Shubhojeet said that the Board lacked a student representative despite the presence of three nominees from the AUD. On September 9, he heard that the Board decided to delay the scrapping of the waiver by a year and planned to start a review committee to assess which students needed the waiver. The AUDSC has asked the Vice Chancellor to disclose the minutes of the meeting for confirmation.

Prior to the meeting with University authorities, students had planned a protest against the policy-scrapping on September 7 inside the University. By that time, the government had allowed students to enter college premises. However, on the day of the protest, the Kashmiri Gate was closed. Moreover, Central Industrial Security Forces (CISF) and police stood at the gate threatening to arrest protesting students.

“It was disheartening to see armed forces for a student protest,” said Shubhojeet.

Nonetheless, the AUDSC, the PDSC and other student organisations staged a protest outside the gates. As per a press release, Priyansh, Secretariat member of Students Federation of India (SFI) AUD, said that the admission Brochure of 2020-21 promises fee waiver for SC/ST and PwD students even though, as informed by an MBA-aspirant, it is denied on ground. Incidentally, the students had demanded the admission of the applicant who brought his news to the forefront.

During the protest, Shubhojeet told the gathering that the administration had betrayed students by revoking existing pro-marginalised policies. To add insult to injury, the students were informed about the official scrapping of the policy through news reports and not the University itself! 

Professor Dhiraj Kumar Nite, President of AUD Faculty Association (AUDFA) who was also present at the protest, said that the AUDFA stood in solidarity with students in their fight for the revival of fee waivers.

The AUDFA recently wrote an appeal to the Board of Management warning that the discontinuance of the four-year-old policy “will have far-reaching consequences against achieving the vision of AUD, that is, ‘equity with excellence.’”

It reminded the Board that the AUD adopted the full to partial fee waiver to address the problem of large drop-outs amongst the socially disadvantaged students. Using data, they showed that the policy had an immediate positive impact on the number of students admitted into the University from these categories. Moreover, the statement argued that student fees contributed about 15 percent of the total revenues based on 2018 data.

The Association made a case that the AUD should ensure ‘reparative justice’ for those oppressed on the basis of Caste and other forms of social discrimination through its fee policy principles. The University authorities were unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, Bharti continues to struggle with her online classes in the monsoon rain. Her sister had planned to follow in her sister’s footsteps and enroll at the AUD for her Bachelors course. However, with the scrapping of fee waiver, Bharti’s sister along with many other disadvantaged students remain unsure about the course of their academic future.


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