Monday, July 18, 2011

Poor Hostel Facility for New Students

Today was the day when new under-graduate students started arriving on campus, along with their family members. Smart looking confident students, but yet a bit fearful about the new life. Worries about ragging were at the top of the agenda even as the Student Guides will tell them that there is no ragging. One significant difference from the time when I was one of those new kids and today is that very few of us had their parents coming to campus. Today, it will be difficult to find a student whose entire family is not on campus to drop him/her. But I digress.

I went with one such student to the Girls' Hostel to look at the entire process. I must say that while the student volunteers were very helpful, polite, welcoming, the process itself was not befitting an IIT. At the entrance, it said, new students should report at the TV Room, and there were no directions to the TV Room. We asked someone, and she was nice enough to take us to the TV Room. I am not sure if everyone would be able to find such a helpful person all the time. At the TV Room, there were 4 student volunteers sitting on the chairs right next to each other, and there was one family in front of us. I don't think all four of them were helping that family/student simultaneously, and could have helped us in parallel, but since all four of them were sitting right next to each other, there was no way, we could approach them till the family in front made way for us. For us, it was a wait of less than 30 seconds, but what if 3-4 families came at the same time. If the volunteers had spread their tables just a bit, they would be able to help people in parallel.

Then we got the key to the room allotted, and the bad news: Three girls had to stay in the room designed for 2 students. One of the Student Guides took us to the room. It cannot have 3 beds, 3 desks, 3 chairs, and one almirah (2 almirahs being part of the civil structure). So, of course, there will be no almirah, and somehow the 3 girls will have to share 2 almirahs. There won't be 3 tables and chairs. One could keep one table in the room, and have a bit of space, or keep two tables and have no space to move about. How are students supposed to study. Well, they can go to library and study there.

We came to know that the second year students have been given single rooms. This was, frankly speaking, shocking. Why couldn't there be double rooms for both first year and second year students.

And, even if triple-seated rooms were necessary, there was an alternative that I have seen elsewhere. You put 3 beds and one extra almirah in the room. Take out all tables and chairs. Put several tables and chairs in one common room within the hostel (instead of asking them to go to library) and to make it attractive for students to study there, make that room air conditioned, just like library is.

The walls of the hostel were dirty, the corridors were dirty, and this is when the majority of the students haven't returned back. I am sure there are supposed to be sweepers in the hostel cleaning all this. Couldn't we do this a day before the new students and their parents arrived.

I am told that what I have seen today is much better than what is available at other IITs. And I have no reason to doubt that. After all, all IITs know that they will get the best students even if the facilities were much worse. But it is not a satisfactory answer to me. We just need to do the best we can, always, irrespective of what the expectations are, or what our competition is doing.

Of course, we can raise larger questions. When we knew the intake of 2011 in 2007, why do we have a shortage of hostel rooms. Is four years not enough to build sufficient capacity?


  1. This business of putting 3 to a room is ridiculous especially if some senior students have similar sized rooms to themsleves. Only IIT-D can get more perverse by putting even incoming master's students 3 to a room while 4th year undergrads are in singles. FCFS mentality taken to stupid extremes.

    And painting, clean-up etc. All IITs are terrible at planning.

    Standard excuse for girls hostels: we don't know how many girls will be admitted... As if.

    1. What is wrong with that ? I feel the new students must get opportunity to bond. They come new, from different backgrounds and have mostly known people, made friends with people whom they know from a long time. They must get a chance to make new friends and realize that their fellow students are not so different. Room mates are the best ways to do that. Also, they know that they will get a room to themselves once they are senior. No one gets jealous of a senior for having a single room to themselves.

  2. I think its very important to provide high-end lifestyle in IITK. This is the time which will define them for rest of their life. It is as important as education itself.

  3. @Sanjiva, you are right about the excuse for the girls. But, that is obviously false, since the number of girl students vary within a small band, about 7-10 percent. And even within this band, you know at least a couple of weeks in advance, what is the likely figure.

    The private responses to me and the response of people in the administration is exactly what you have written. "Don't bother about IITK. The situation of hostels is worse in IITD and IITB." Basically, we should compete with IITD and IITB on everything they are unable to improve, but when it comes to positive things, we will say, they have geographical advantage. For hostels, we have the geographical advantage.

  4. A couple of more suggestions have come in, at least for the situation in the girls hostel.

    One, we could move a few PhD students out to the houses where we had kept IIT Rajasthan students till last year. They remain vacant since last year.

    Two, there are spaces in the girls hostel which are covered partially. One such space I noticed had a roof, and walls till about 4 feet high, and was being used to dry clothes. The space can be converted to a room with temporary construction (aluminium walls, for example), large enough to hold 4 students with everyone getting a bed, almirah, table, etc.

    We don't really need a lot of space. 72 girls are being put in 24 rooms, while the need is for 36 rooms. So only 12 rooms short. By pairing up some 2nd year students, by using IIT Rajasthan vacated houses for PhD students, and by converting some spaces in the GH to temporary rooms, it should be trivial to take care of such a small gap.

    But only if someone cares.

  5. I'm surprised and sad to know that IITK offers a double bedded room to 3 students. Maybe , the students will still flock to IITK even if IITK provides rented accommodation in Kalyanpur or no accommodation at all. But, gradually , this will have a fallout on the IIT system functioning, including academics.

    Excellence of an institution is just a state of collective mind. The collective of an excellent institution is in virtuous cycle in whatever sphere they set their focus upon. Academics is just one dimension.
    Once , 'chalta hai' attitude sets in, it eats away the vitality of the institution . And it spreads on every aspect of functioning and inevitably academics will also be affected.

  6. Dheeraj says "since the number of girl students vary within a small band, about 7-10 percent". Is this an accurate or current figure? Here are the figures for IITM. In the graduating batch, we have about 10% girls in the B.Tech./DD program and the overall fraction is about 15%. But in the incoming batch, we have about 15% girls in the B.Tech./DD programs and overall, almost 20% of incoming students are girls. The 56% capacity increase bubble is still going through and we are still a few years from steady state. This means that there will be a mismatch in numbers between outgoing and incoming, but the above fractions mean that the pressure on girls accommodation will be much higher. To use IITM's numbers, the net increase in enrollment this year is about 600, but of this about 200 are girls. So the percentage increase required in boys hostel will be moderate but huge for girls hostel. If these trends continue, in a few years, we will have boys being replaced by girls in the campus population and we may even end up with vacancies in boys hostels and corresponding overpopulation in girls hostels (do i hear unisex hostles?). I am not sure if this trend is only for IITM; after all, at Anna University across the street, the enrollment is approximately 50% female.

  7. @Sriram, I think parents are more willing to let boys study in non-metro IITs than let girls study there.

  8. Sir,

    When compared to IT- BHU, (three girls in one room)IITK is Luxurious. In IT-BHU, six girls are packed in a room literally without table/ almirahs. Yet one surprising fact is , no student took this issue seriously. (we, the parents are worried lot).


    Aarveeyar from Veloor.

  9. Sir,

    I was shocked to read about IT-BHU and other IIT's accommodation woes. When compared to other IITs, atleast IIT, Guwahati is giving single room accommodation to all its students. But the facilities in the girls hostel which I have visited are poor. I have heard that they are much better in the boys' hostels as the boys are much more in number. Uncleaned rooms, toilets(some of them have broken doors), mosquitoes, cockroaches and lizards welcomed us. Mosquitoes are all pervading! Nothing is done to control them.

    Coming to food, diluted milk and dal are served. Potato is omnipresent! One banana per week, one tiny cup of ice cream, once in a while. No fresh fruits in the juice centre nor anywhere else in the campus! No South Indian restaurant in the campus. (Heard that 30% of the students are from the southern states). This was least expected from the reputed IITs.

    The situation is far more better in IIIT, Hyderabad. They may be charging more fees than IITs, but it is atleast justified. They have single room accommodation with attached toilets (atleast in the girls hostel. I don't know about the boys hostel). The food served is of a much more better quality and the campus is maintained spotlessly clean.

    The students work so hard to get into IITs and are worried about the hostel facilities.

    Something needs to be done on a war footing to improve the facilities in the IITs to make them comparable to those anywhere in the world.

    1. In my 1st year, I shared room with 2 other students in a double bedded room. But I liked it better and it was overall more beneficial for both my academics and social life than the single room that I had in my 3rd year. I did have to share amenities and we got in some petty arguments at times, but it was all fine, because it also allowed us to bond and have a social life. These social circle and close student to student interaction are the most cherish-able moments of most of alumni.
      Few days back I came to know from a 2011 passout student, that with now 1st years get a single room at IITK, that they stayed glue to laptop and facebook all the while, and their circle, even playing games together happens over net. People don't pull you out of your room for activities and games. This is something that used to happen during inter Hostel competition, Galaxy (scrapped in our year because of its other aspect. Really unhealthy rivalry between hostels).
      World class facilities are fine, but they don't make you the best in the world. The ultimate aim of IITs is not give you a comfortable life on an island. It is to transform you from the may be isolated, individual school boy to a true professional in whatever area of life you choose. And in corporate life .. Team player, confidence,leadership skills, hiring and developing the best, communication skills matter more or at least as much as the individual contribution.
      Hostels are formative of those. This is where we spend most of our time and I will strongly recommend room sharing for students for 1st 2 years at least. For 3rd year, it can be mixed (like being put in 2 hostels, so people can make their choices)
      Another thing, when you are in deep hole for whatsoever reason, having a room partner really holes. IITK has highest number of suicides from 2006 onwards. During my years, 2001 to 2005, there was a single suicide. One factor that I believe would have helped is, having student's sharing room. And mixed model in 3rd year.

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  11. Nothing wrong in accommodating three students in one room as helps in socialization, learning to work in team, learning from each other, developing bonding and learn to develop bonding etc.

    But standard of cleanliness and hygiene in canteen, rooms, washrooms, toilet etc is disappointing which is basic condition for health of students. In particular when I happen to visit Satpura hostel in IITD, I was shocked to see the horrible condition of canteen, toilets rooms etc. Canteen washbasin & adjoining area was full of dirty water. Seats of toilets were broken, Urinals stinking. Bathroom walls dirty. Is it culture IITD is trying to teach their students?