The LUMS students are up in arms over the varsity’s recent announcement to reopen only in phases over the next couple of months, starting September 15, initially with a smaller number of students on campus
Early this year, the students of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) were up in arms about what they called an ‘unexpected and unfair’ fee hike. Today, they are worked up following the management’s announcement to stick to virtual classes and open the campus only in a phased manner over the next couple of months, while charging full fees.
For its part, the management has made it clear that there will be no rollback of the fee hike. Moreover, the varsity shall not open its campus until the pandemic has been contained.
The students, obviously agitated by the development, have taken to social media to register their protest. Last week some of them gathered in front of the Lahore Press Club (LPC) and raised slogans against the varsity’s management. Many students as well as their parents are of the view that remote learning means they have to bear the cost of the internet and utilities like electricity which was earlier borne by the varsity. Therefore, they say, they should not be charged full fees.
“Fighting for your rights isn’t easy,” said Ali Ahmad (name changed on request), a student. “We are under the administration’s radar. We fear that we’ll be victimised if we try to reach out to mainstream media with our complaints.”
He says that some of the students who had actively participated in demonstrations on The Mall and at the LPC have been marked out by the management: “Action has already been initiated against them. They are likely to be rusticated.”
About the fee hike, he says, “We certainly don’t approve of it. Earlier, the per-semester fee was Rs 380,000; it has now been raised to Rs 482,000. That’s not a small amount.
“Since the campus is closed, the university must return the saving in costs. Those [students] unable to pay the fees are seriously considering migrating.”
Many students as well as their parents are of the view that remote learning means they have to bear the cost of the internet and utilities like electricity earlier borne by the varsity. For this reason, they say, the students should not be charged full fees.
A member of the LUMS faculty told The News On Sunday on condition of anonymity: “A number of the students and their parents think the university management is focused minting money rather than imparting quality education. The admin as well as the faculty routinely receive strongly worded emails.”
“Considering the financial impact of the pandemic, especially on students belonging to the middle class, and the compromised nature of remote learning, the varsity should announce a reduction in fees,” he said.
Defending the management’s decisions, Ali Khan, convener of the Health and Safety Committee at LUMS, says that wherever in the world precautionary measures have been discarded prematurely, the consequences have been severe.
“The coronavirus is likely to remain in the population for at least a year or two. We also know that the virus starts spreading rapidly when human beings gather together. Consider the recent resurgence of infection in countries that had declared themselves Covid-free.”
According to Khan, a rapid decline in Covid-19 cases in Pakistan is a positive development, but reopening the campus right away poses risks that extend beyond the students.
“The next few months are going to be crucial and will decide whether Pakistan is over the worst or is lulled into complacency by a temporary decline in the number of infections,” he says. “Considering all these points, the LUMS has planned a phased opening, from September 15, initially with a manageable number of students on campus.”
He says that modalities of the reopening plan are being finalised, and updates on coronavirus being reviewed by health experts. “If the students and the faculty cooperate in terms of following the SOPs, the university will be in a position to build on that and increase the numbers on a rolling basis.”
Khan concludes by saying that the management is “taking a guarded approach because the virus tends to come back every time the SOPs are flouted.”
The writer is a senior journalist and can be reached at [email protected]