Panjab University's Institute of Engineering and Technology (UIET) on Tuesday expelled fourth-year student Vidisha Bhardwaj till the time her parents gave an undertaking about her good conduct in future even as the faculty on the campus stood divided over the handling of the whole affair by the PU authorities.
Vidisha already stands expelled from her hostel room in the wake of ruckus she created outside hostel number 8 on March 16 evening in an inebriated condition.
Flaying the PU authorities for calling the police and expelling her from both the hostel and UIET, those at the varsity were of the view that the incident was not handled sensitively by the authorities and expulsion would serve no purpose.
Prof Manjit Singh of sociology department, said, "Expulsion is no solution to this problem; rather there should be a dialogue between teachers and students who have wavering minds. Calling police to handle a student shows our inability to handle such situations. Rather, the able teachers in the university should work towards enabling the students and not disabling them by coming up with uncalled-for solutions to handle incidents like these."
Vidisha was accused of abusing and slapping police officials called by the authorities to handle her on March 16. Her medical examination had later confirmed presence of alcohol in her blood.
It was learnt that UIET faculty had approached the DSW Dr AS Ahluwalia after the unsavoury incident and put forth that rather than calling the police, PU authorities should have called the faculty from the department to handle the student. The DSW however maintained that he had acted in a way that he thought was best at that time.
"The UIET faculty should have been called when the incident occurred. Now, the disciplinary committee has recommended the student's expulsion till the time her parents give an undertaking that she will not repeat such behaviour," UIET chairperson Renu Vig remarked.
The student leaders on the campus too were not happy with the handling of the whole affair by PU authorities. Satinder Singh Satti, president of PU campus students council, said, "I agree that it was wrong on part of the girl to get drunk on the campus, but at the same time she was not a terrorist that authorities had to call the police. Women teachers could have been summoned who could have handled the girl. Calling the police everytime even for minor incidents is not right on part of academic institutes and we shall take it up with the authorities."
Voices at PU
Prof Anuradha Bhandari of PU psychology department said, "I firmly believe that having a counsellor for students is a must. In this case, the authorities should have immediately put the student through counselling. I believe that expulsion is no solution and PU authorities should rather have called a few women teachers and handed over the girl student to them. Being academicians, we should take steps keeping in mind the future of students."
Senator Prof Dinesh Talwar said, "I feel ashamed to say that PU authorities handled this case in the most bizarre manner. I don't see a point in calling the police to handle such a situation. This is nothing but our incompetence to handle things. She was not a criminal and at least the authorities at the time of incident were in sane state of mind; so how could they hand over their student to the police. To make it worse, they expelled her; this is surely not done".
Prof Mohammad Khalid, president of Panjab University teachers association, said, "A hostel is a home away from home and rather than expelling the girl from the hostel the matter could have been resolved with dialogue. Students should also learn to keep up the name of the institute they are studying in and should not indulge in such behaviour. Authorities should have handled the particular situation on their own."
DSW Prof A S Ahluwalia said, "I reacted to the situation as per what came to my mind then. My security people told me that the girl was not in her senses and they could not handle her in the absence of women personnel. I then asked them to call the police as women constables could then handle her. I was not aware of the ruckus that would unfold."
Experts call for counsellor
The incident has pointed out the vulnerability of students coming from protective environments and falling prey to bad company due to misuse of new-found freedom. Experts felt that counseling, especially for students joining varsity at the undergraduate level, was a must. Not having a permanent counsellor is also against the guidelines framed by the University Grants Commission (UGC). The post of counsellor in the PU is lying defunct for about a decade now.
Vidisha Bhardwaj was academically bright, joining the UIET after getting 25K rank in AIEEE. She had secured 94% and 92% marks in her Classes 10 and 12, respectively. UIET chairperson Renu Vig said, "Vidisha was a bright student but soon after she joined the varsity she started slipping. I agree that we could have saved her. The unsavoury incident would not have happened, had she been counselled at the right time."