Following the tragic suicide of a PhD student, the students at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT Kanpur) organized a protest on the campus, calling for substantial changes in the evaluation process of research theses in both PhD and master's programs.
The protesting students advocated for a comprehensive overhaul of the existing faculty feedback system. They emphasized the need for "mutual accountability, transparency in the implications of SRS methodology, and improved communication for student trust." Additionally, the students proposed the creation of a 'Master's Monitoring Committee' (MMC) modeled after the existing IIT Kanpur Doctoral Monitoring Committee.
In their list of demands, the students urged the IIT Kanpur administration to conduct faculty sensitization sessions through external organizations twice per semester, with mandatory participation.
The decision to stage the protest was made during an emergency meeting of the IIT Kanpur students' senate, prompted by the recent suicides of three students within a span of 30 days. The senate directed the student body to focus on a "holistic discussion on all aspects of students' well-being and all-round wellness on the campus."
During the meeting, students expressed dissatisfaction with the institute administration's responses to previous efforts to address problems. Concerns were raised about the perceived incompetence of various redressal bodies in recognizing and resolving student issues, as well as their limited power. Students highlighted the lack of student representation within these bodies, leading to insensitivity towards student issues.
The students also discussed a perceived "significant power gap" between students and professors, both in administrative roles and as research supervisors. PhD students emphasized the unchecked influence of their supervisors on their campus lives, without reliable accountability mechanisms.
One prominent concern focused on the accountability of supervisors, with students asserting that academic setbacks disproportionately fall on them, while advisors and the institute bear no responsibility. Students highlighted the authority of professors to fail thesis credits without providing explanations, creating hesitancy among students to question supervisors due to fears of straining relationships, risking future career prospects, wasted years, and having to start a new.
Financial challenges faced by research students due to inadequate stipends were also brought to the forefront during the discussions. The students argued that the current stipend structure is insufficient for a five-year research period.