An Open Letter from Dr. Lekshmi Nair to Students of the Kerala Law Academy
Recently Jishnu Pranoy, a first year Engineering student at the Nehru College of Engineering and Research Centre, Thrissur, committed suicide owing to alleged harassment from the management. This has opened the floor for debate on harassment faced by students from college managements and many allegations have been raised against several colleges.
The Kerala Law Academy Law College, one among the oldest institutions in the State imparting legal education, has remained shut down from last Wednesday after various Students’ Union started protests against alleged mismanagement by the Principal, Dr. Lekshmi Nair and a demand has been raised for her resignation. Dr. Lekshmi Nair has decided to write an open letter to her students through The Kochi Post to clear her stand on the issue and also to bring her side to the allegations leveled against her management.
It is with a very heavy heart I am writing this open letter. It took a few days for me to come to terms with what is happening at my beloved institution where I was also a student. I started teaching at the Kerala Law Academy (KLA) Law College from 1990 as a part-time lecturer and later I was appointed a full-time lecturer. In a career spanning 27 years, I have been promoted as an Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor. Five years ago, I was appointed as the Principal by the management and I believe I have done justice to the role entrusted upon me.
The KLA campus would be the most politically vibrant campus in the State. There are five active student organisations in the campus and all of them are allowed to carry on their activities without any kind of prohibition. When all the colleges in the State have only one Fresher’s Day, here in KLA, we allow all the parties to have their own Fresher’s Day celebration, which makes it a total of five Fresher’s day celebrations on the campus. Protests, strikes and boycott of classes have happened in the campus several times in the past and the silence of the unions about my alleged mismanagement until the Nehru College incident is questionable. In a campus where the unions are even allowed to organise membership campaigns, this silence will come as a surprise to many.
Moot Court Society, the college’s body to train students going to participate in Moot Court competitions outside the college, is something very close to my heart. It is alleged that cash is being collected from the students for the activities of the Moot Court Society. This is an allegation without even an iota of truth. The college sponsors all the costs involved in the preparation of memorials for the competition and the students only pay for the travel. The prize money is also divided among the students. We have never made a claim on it.
Money has never been a priority for us here at the KLA. Every college can collect a refundable deposit of Rs. 50,000 from the students at the time of admission. If we collect and keep that amount in our bank account, the interest alone would be enough to run the entire institution. KLA might be the only private college in the State to not collect that amount. Also, for the management quota students, we can collect higher fees (up to Rs. 10,000) than from the government’s fee. We collect only the same fee from both government and management quota students.
Every year we conduct numerous national and international seminars in the campus. Recently, we have instituted Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer Memorial Lecture series in honour of the late maverick judge. Dignitaries from top legal institutions are regular visitors to the campus. All these are conducted for the sole purpose of the benefit of the students studying at the KLA. A lot of expenses arise in conducting these events and the funds are allocated from the college without even a second thought.
The ladies hostel is situated in the campus itself and it is alleged that the inmates are treated like in jail, an allegation very far from the truth. The inmates are allowed to go out anytime for any genuine purpose and the only condition apart from an entry in the log book is that, either the warden or I should be intimated. The condition of taking prior permission is kept for their own safety and well-being. I am also a mother and I can understand what it means to have a daughter. Tomorrow, if someone is missing from the college hostel, I am the person answerable.
This brings me to the next issue of having CCTV cameras in the campus. The University has made it mandatory to submit footage from examination halls after the exams. This prompted us to install CCTV in the campus. These are installed only inside the classrooms, library, hostel kitchen, store rooms and open spaces. It has been installed at open spaces only as a security measure. Fewer cameras would have meant less cost for us, but we obviously did not want to compromise on the safety of our students.
There are students who have decided not to join any political students’ union and have kept their focus on academics alone. These students who help us in organising events and co-curricular activities have become a soft target for the student unions. I have been also receiving complaints from the students being threatened. I also came across a video (video embedded below) where these students who chose to stay away from campus politics are being threatened that if they keep silent now and come back to college after the strike, they won’t be able to sit in the campus peacefully.
My only request is that I may be able to handle the trauma I am going through but not these innocent souls whose only aim is to pass out with flying colours from the campus. Please spare them!
Lastly, it is alleged that favouritism is exercised in allotting internal marks to these students and students worthy of high internal marks are discarded. Again something very far from the truth! Moreover, if you had any grievances about arbitrarily allotting internal marks and attendance, you should have approached me first. I would have been more than happy to discuss and arrive at an amicable solution. But you chose to protest without even letting me know about your grievance. When you create issues for political mileage and to cement your union’s position in College, don’t forget that you are tarnishing and maligning an institution which you are also a part of and one that has a very rich legacy.
I am a strict faculty in terms of academics and that is for your benefit and well-being. My only intention is that you all should prosper and live happily. Your parents have entrusted you in my hands and I will be firm with you like I am firm with my children, who were also students of this great institution.
It is also heard from many circles that “woman’s rule” should end. Is your problem about me being a woman or my rules? I have held an impeccable record during my academic career and these kind of allegations which don’t even deserve a reply will not bring down my morale!