Presidency University held a “special” convocation at Nandan III on Tuesday after its plans for the ceremony were disrupted due to the agitation by students over hostel accommodation. The university conferred DSc and D Litt (Honoris Causa) on eminent scientist and Bharat Ratna recipient C N R Rao and veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee respectively.
The authorities were forced to shift the venue on Monday after a section of protesting students, demanding hostel accommodation at Hindu Hostel, locked the main entrance of the university’s College Street campus and denied entry to Vice-Chancellor Anuradha Lohia and Registrar Debojyoti Konar.
“We had to shift the venue of the convocation from the university campus to Nandan Complex to ensure that the security of the two dignitaries who would be conferred honourary degrees was not put at risk. It is extremely unfortunate that we could not hold the function in Presidency campus itself…” Lohia said in her speech.
She also slammed students for prolonging their protest.
“It is my duty today to tell all of you why are we sitting in Nandan and not in Derozio auditorium (inside the campus). Hindu Hostel building was constructed 130 years ago. In 2014, when I took over as the vice-chancellor, students would come on a regular basis to say that it was uninhabited. The government was quick with its support but everything takes time… Students should remember they have not come here to live in that hostel. They have come to study in Presidency University. What is it that makes that particular location and that particular building so important? They are living in comfort with every facility which is paid for and free,” she said.
Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, who is also the chancellor of the university, was not present at the convocation, which lasted for around an hour.
DSc recipient Rao called upon students to come to an understanding with the authorities. “This is a highly reputed institution and students are also part of the institution,” he said.
Chatterjee also asked both students and authorities to sit for talks and resolve the matter.
“It is between the students and teachers and they must sort this out. We are outsiders and we have no role to play here,” Chatterjee told reporters.
Eminent scientist Bikash Sinha, who was present at the convocation, wondered whether outside forces were involved in the protest. “It is very unfortunate. I don’t know whether any outside force is at play. Students cannot be this unruly,” he said.
The university was open on Tuesday and those who were supposed to receive their degrees at the convocation expressed their shock.
“How can this be a convocation if students were not invited to attend it? We came to the campus thinking we would receive our degrees but we came to know that it has been shifted to Nandan III,” said a student.
Lohia said 750 students, who were supposed to collect their degrees at the ceremony, will now receive the certificates from their respective heads of department.