Delhi School of Journalism: A cash cow with dry udders and sad calves

“Had you seen the atrocious state of affairs for yourself, you would have felt ashamed and morally responsible to be a part of this loathsome clickbait scandal."

WrittenBy:Alishan Jafri
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Delhi University’s nascent Journalism school has barely been a part of any good news since it was formally inaugurated by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu on 21 December, 2017. Time and again, students of the Delhi School of Journalism have protested the poor infrastructure, inadequate facilities, and the exorbitant fees of their institution.

The students expressed their discontent in an open letter to the Vice Chancellor Yogesh Tyagi and Chancellor Venkaiah Naidu. Meanwhile, there was another controversy the institute had to face due to leakage of the alleged budget document, which showed that close to Rs 46 lakh remained unspent last year. Students feel that there has been a bungling of funds and have raised a demand for the audit of the previous financial year to be made public. The question arises that when there money at present to spend, while at the same time, there is an acute shortage of resources and facilities at the school, then why is the money being spent on filling in the blanks?

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Dr. Albert Abraham, one of the faculty members at DSJ, believes that the concern of these protesters is genuine. However, he is sceptic about the methods being employed. Abraham feels that although things are slowly improving, there are administrative limitations that the students must acknowledge. “I appreciate the concerns of the students, but not their method of protests,” he said. “Students should also try to understand the administration’s limitations.”

“Last year the voices were few and feeble; despite the extremely poor infrastructure, no cultural activities, and a politics of divide and rule by the administration, we had faith that things will get better. They (the administration) have manipulated and dumped us. Now when we ask them to make things better, they say have faith, but they don’t say till when. We have courses that require a high-end media lab. We can’t compromise with jugaadu laptops that they will provide us with to cover up their incompetence,” says Maknoon Wani, a second-year student at DSK.

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Earlier this month, students provided the director with a charter of demands. But no written reply has been issued by the latter as yet. The agitated young journalists started a Twitter campaign to get their grievances noticed following the department getting shut down for a week due to the protests. “Without a media lab, studio, library, computers, functional water coolers, ample classrooms, a humane fees structure and other basic amenities, a public institution cannot run,” asks Vipul Kumar, a third-semester English journalism student. “Is this how they intend to redefine India’s journalism?”

The prospectus mentions that there is state-of-the-art infrastructure with Mac-powered ICT facilities. But the story on the ground is very much different. There are only two MACs in the department and students say they are not allowed to use them. Interestingly, the Vice Chancellor  has a message in the prospectus: “DSJ is committed to creating world-class journalists, researchers and ideological leadership. We also ensure that the resources are well organised”.

Looking at the  present condition of the infrastructure, it seems like DSJ was started in  a haste, and contrary to the aforesaid, it appears that the institute faces many existential challenges. Since there is no grant from the University Grants Commission (UGC), students pay a fat sum as fees, while most things they pay for are unavailable on campus. Despite a light fee concession, some students have to work at night to continue funding their course.

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“Students come here from remote places in the far placed corners of this country. It is impossible for poor students to continue paying such high fees and yet receive zero facilities. As a relaxation measure, the administration speaks of giving a fee concession—which is nothing but a ridiculous joke. The procedure and committee for providing this fees is dubious. As journalists we should question such injustice. Instead of failed, undeclared, self-financed courses, they should get UGC grants like other flourishing institutions. It’s not just about me, it’s the problem of all the students that are just like me,” said Ambuj Bhardwaj, a student-activist from Bihar.

Earlier, there used to exist a small reading room in the department that could accommodate roughly around ten students. Due to a space crunch, even the canteen has been converted from its natural habitat, into a classroom. In spite of DSJ’s strength having has doubled this year, no  additional space arrangements have yet been made. “Work is done on complete jugaad here,” said an English medium second year student on the condition of anonymity. “I am afraid they will target those who are more vocal.”

Meanwhile, the administration says that it is working on the space problem and it will be fixed as soon as more rooms are acquired in the coming months.

“So far no student has been allotted a hostel room; only a handful of girls go to the hostel, that too on a guest basis. Along with the fat fees, we also have to pay extremely high hostel charges as guests. The students have called for a unanimous mass boycott of fee payment. We want a written assurance and a deadline from the administration,” laments Shivani Jha, a second-year Hindi journalism student.

“Had you seen the atrocious state of affairs for yourself, you would have felt ashamed and morally responsible to be a part of this loathsome clickbait scandal. We are future journalists, who speak truth to the power, but after all these months of struggle we have realised that the DU administration sans ears. It pains our heart to imagine the condition of universities with lesser media attention and more autocratic administrations, if such is the condition of DSJ, a DU north campus college in the heart of Delhi.’ reads the open letter written by DSJ students to Naidu.

Yogi Manasvini, the officer on special duty, feels that dissent is important for all democracies, but it should be constructive. “The process works slowly; the cause of dissent is genuine but such protests hinder it. Students should help the administration in bringing this institution up,” she said. When asked about the unspent money, she said: “It is the students’ money and all that has been saved is theirs. It will be used for them.”

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DSJ was the dream project of its Vice Chancellor, Yogesh Tyagi. As of today, an entire year has passed since the school kicked off, but yet, students cry that the VC is asleep; he must wake up and make things right, lest the situation escalates and spirals out control to go on and become a nightmare. Amidst all the despair and chaos, the constant flicker of hope that remains is the indomitable will of this student resistance. Not bowing down is a good sign for the future of Indian democracy and will also fortify its fourth pillar.

Looking at how things are developing on campus, it seems that the deadlock is far from being solved anytime soon, even though the Vice Chancellor has received several charter of demands and written communiques, but all in vain. It will be interesting to see how things take turn in this system versus student tussle. As of now, the prevailing sentiment on campus among students is that of having been cheated, and some feel that they can be targeted for raising their voices against the institutional establishment. However, as journalists, it is their (the students’) duty to ask tough questions.


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