In the past few years, students across varsity campuses have come out in protest against unresponsive administrations.
From episodes in Benaras Hindu University to Jawaharlal Nehru University, inadequate systems of grievance redressal have often allowed certain incidents to snowball into protests.
At the centre of these administrations is a senior authority figure, who refuses to engage with protesting students productively.
In a marked change from recent events, the Vice-Chancellor of Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), Dr N Karmalkar, responded to a range of student complaints at an interactive community radio programme, reported the Indian Express.
Complaints ranged from vacancy shortages in PhD programmes to fewer employment opportunities students in traditional courses like BA and BSc.
Called ‘Prashna Tumche, Uttar Kulgurunche’, the format for the community radio interactive involves students and faculty sending pre-recorded queries, which the VC listens to and records his detailed answers. On a particular designated day and time, the programme goes on air, which the university announces well in advance.
This format does leave scope for censorship. Critical queries that may make the university administration deeply uncomfortable but require redressal nonetheless may miss a spot on the programme.
Nonetheless, this a step in the right direction, which other universities could adopt in some form or the other.
With the internet, the potential for live interaction with students and faculty presenting a greater opportunity for grievance redressal instead of going through unnecessary paperwork, and waiting impatiently for the university administration to respond.
As for the SPPU’s internal community programme, the VC answered 20 questions in the first episode. In the second episode, however, the number dropped to 9, which the VC attributed to ongoing examinations.
Speaking to the Indian Express, the VC said he hopes for more questions in the next episode. Students at the varsity would do well to respond in greater numbers.
Such regular interactive sessions with university authorities may not completely prevent serious protests from erupting but could prevent it to a large extent.