New Delhi: In a bid to maintain a peaceful and focused academic environment, the South Asian University (SAU) has made an unusual request to its incoming students. The university is now asking all new students to provide a written undertaking, stating that they will not participate in any protests during their time at SAU. Additionally, students are required to declare that they do not suffer from any mental disorders.
Many students called the undertaking “discriminatory” but said the university was leaving them with no choice but to sign it. “It is against the democratic principles of our country. If we don’t sign it, we will not get admission here,” a student said.
One of the 13 points listed in it reads, “I hereby declare that I will neither join in any agitation/ strike for the purpose of forcing the authorities of the University to resolve any problem, nor will I participate in any activity which has a tendency to disturb the peace and tranquility of academic environment of the SAU campus/or its Hostel premises.”
It further states, “I also declare that I am not suffering from any serious/ contagious ailment and/or any psychiatric/psychological disorder.”
The undertaking has also drawn attention to the issue of mental health on campus. SAU is keen on supporting its students' well-being, and the declaration regarding mental disorders is seen as a means to offer assistance to those who might require it.
Students' welfare paramount
Clarifying the intention behind this requirement, another university official said, "We want our students to know that we care about their mental well-being. This declaration is not meant to stigmatize mental health issues; rather, it's an effort to ensure that we can extend necessary support if any student faces challenges during their academic journey."
Following that, another student, who has applied for a Master’s in Sociology, said, “When I first read the declaration form, my first question was ‘how are we not supposed to participate in any strikes’?” She said she read the declaration only after paying the fees and realised she had made a mistake.
“I did not know that it would be that severe. The ninth point talks about a declaration on whether a student suffers from mental health issues and that is very discriminatory,” she said.
In November, after the university announced the expulsion, rustication or suspension of five students over the protests, 15 faculty members, including the four that have been suspended, wrote to the university community and expressed concern over the SAU administration’s actions, which they said had been taken “without following any due process”.