Saturday, September 21, 2013

[Social Eye] What they didn't tell you about NUST...

When I got into NUST's sprawling H12 campus, a couple of years back, in my mind there was this lavish place full of opportunities and unbridled promises of success. Well, it didn't turn out the way everyone sees it from the outside but it was still good enough to be labelled Pakistan's premier engineering and sciences institution.

Come the fall semester of 2013, everything started changing at breakneck speed. The university started curtailing student freedom and the administration got extremely autocratic overnight. Rules were implemented to cut down on 'immoral activities' and bring in 'more discipline'. It was as if someone from the dusty, Taliban-infested region of Islamic Emirate of Waziristan has taken ahold of NUST's reins.

Students are to be locked in their hostels post 7:30 p.m. and anyone seen roaming around after this cut-off time will face probable suspension along with a hefty fine. The university's cafeterias are off-limit for guys after 5:00 p.m., to deal with the gender inter-mingling beyond the class room. Guys and girls are not allowed to sit together on pavements and in lawns after this time as well. The girls living in hostels will have to acquire guardian permission to leave university premises.

The Taliban would sure love NUST now.
If these restrictions were not enough, the despotic NUST administration have banned students from expressing themselves through or enjoying entertainment. Loud music in cars is banned. Concerts are banned. Torrents can't be accessed. Websites pertaining to movies and games have been filtered-off. In short, the life in NUST is mostly a grayscale prison wall that you have stare at all day with a few flashes of the azure sky here and there.

Talking about the net, it is pathetic. When I first came into NUST, the internet speed was like a dream. Touching 40 Mbps at times but now, due to an unresolved feud with the service provider, the speed barely crosses 0.60 Mbps during peak-times. Even Google opens laboriously.

Only recently, a rumor has started circulating that the NUST admin wants to impose uniform on the students, in order for them to dress 'morally'. This would be the final nail in the coffin for this NUST campus whose student body is already reeling with unforeseen constraints. It is like they think we are academic robots who should check into classrooms each day, check-out, go to the hostels and sleep soundly. No substantial fun and stuff in between.

People give various reasons for this sudden onslaught. Some say that this is all because of E&ME, an army-run campus of NUST, which is dethroned for the first time in 34 years as the top merit electrical and mechanical engineering university in Pakistan. This might be so because student life in E&ME is close to non-existent, the administration is nothing short of a dictatorship. So naturally more and more students opted for the more lax SEECS and SMME (both NUST H12 schools) and E&ME's merit fell. In order to nip the problem in the bud, E&ME's representatives, who are believed to have considerable clout in NUST's governing board are for a uniform autocratic environment across all schools of NUST. This might bring back E&ME's recently lost glory but at the expense of student freedom, here at H12.

All these moves are questionable as they tend to force people to change their way of living much like Kim
Jong Il had altered the way North Koreans live. But the most acrimonious of these all is putting red-tape across the whole idea of co-education which permits male and female students from communicating as they please. This is the whole problem with the Pakistan society that it has put males and females into separate boxes. Women are just seen as sexual objects and need to be hidden way in some basement for their whole life. If, by any chance, they tend to get out of that basement, they have restrictions and constraints forced upon them thus stigmatizing their existence. Universities are from where the society gets its cream. If this cream isn't open minded and lives in a box of seclusion then how can we curtail the rampant gender disparity in the country? This is why I am vehemently against this rule which has been forced into effect in Pakistan's top ranked engineering university.

Student liberty is an essential part for a university. After all beyond the flash and glitter of universities lies the monotonous corporate life. This is why I hope that NUST administration rolls back on these new laws. If not then I sure as hell hope that they have their ranking shaved so that this new authoritarian admin (which I picture with a knee-length beard and a shalwar rolled up to mid-shin) is fired for good.


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