Hostel or hostile?

December 3, 2017

The recent expulsion of eight students from GCU’s New Hostel has sparked off a controversy

Hostel or hostile?

On a cold November night, the silence around the Government College University’s New Hostel was suddenly broken by the disturbing sound of someone thwacking the door of a dorm.

As the story goes, the hostel superintendent had sent for a student from Balochistan who had moved in for his studies. A few other students were also present at his office and, apparently, trying to prove their innocence over something they were being questioned about.

It soon became clear to him that the superintendent wanted to punish them on the pretext of violating rules and breaking the hostel’s discipline. They tried to convince him that they were not involved in any wrong activity but their pleas fell on deaf ears. The superintendent reprimanded them without giving them any written charge-sheet or an opportunity to defend themselves. The next minute, he ordered all the eight students to be expelled, without following any formal procedure. On top of that, he forced them to leave right there and then, while it was pitch dark outside.

According to the spokesperson of GCU, four students were expelled because they were smoking in the hostel premises. Another four were asked to leave because they had misbehaved with the staff.

TNS spoke to Muhammad Zafar Khan Baloch, one of the eight students expelled from the hostel, who said he was a stranger in the city and "had nowhere to go. So I had to spend the night on the road.

"What was my crime?" he asked, "That I dared to raise my voice against a wrong? The hostel administration was overcharging our mess bills. The fixed and compulsory charges [of the mess] are Rs6,000 per month for each student but we are made to pay Rs11,000. Besides, there is no transparency in hostel affairs. The quality of food is not up to the mark. Only 120 out of 400 students eat food from the hostel canteen, the rest pay but don’t eat there."

Baloch also said that the students were compelled to pay Rs6,000 per month for the generator fuel. "The internet connection is also poor [at the hostel]. Besides, we’ve to pay Rs500 as monthly dues for the security of our motorbikes.

"We are like moneymaking machines for them, and they don’t miss a chance to fleece us," he said.

Baloch warned of a protest if the expelled students weren’t recalled, "Almost a 100 students are ready to join in the protest."

He also alleged that the New Hostel was "a prime example of child labour. The children are hired on low wages. They aren’t given a proper place to sleep. If the hostel administration is serious about discipline why does it not lead by example?"

Muhammad Saad Waqas, another student who was expelled, complained that due to the bad internet service (provided by the hostel administration) "a lot of times we can’t complete our work assignments; we’ve to look for places outside. This is totally unfair."

When contacted, the Superintendent of New Hostel, GCU, Khadim Ali Khan said that action had been taken against the said boys for violation of rules. However, he did not explain the violations in specific terms.

"We won’t let anyone destroy peace in the hostel," he stated. "We are managing 400 students on a daily basis. The food we provide to them is absolutely hygienic."

He also suggested that the university spokesman should instead be questioned on this.

Another student, not wanting to be named, stated that there was hardly any indication of hostel management wanting to make amends for the dorm boys. He said, "I often complained about unhygienic food in the mess but the administration ignored it. On November 24, around 70 of us [students] gathered at the Basketball Court in the New Hostel, discussed our concerns, and decided to take it up with the administration. This must’ve irked them [administration] and they expelled eight of us, perhaps to create an example out of it."

Rohan Ahmad, a GCU student, demanded restoration of student unions so that their issues could be addressed duly. He said that he raised this particular matter with the Vice Chancellor (VC) of GCU who referred it to the registrar. "The matter is still unresolved."

Talking to TNS, Mussadiq Sultan, Spokesperson of GCU, says it is a matter of routine as administration takes disciplinary action against the students who try to disrupt the friendly environment of the hostel.

According to him, four students were expelled because they were smoking in the hostel premises. Another four were asked to leave because they had misbehaved with the hostel staff. "Warning was issued to them verbally," he insists.

Sultan says that the hostel has been home to tens of thousands of students over the past 100 or so years, and they always showed trust in the administration. "If they think they are overcharged they can compare the rates with any private hostel in the city.

"The students like the New Hostel because of its peaceful environment. No one shall be allowed to destroy the peace."

Hostel or hostile?