Eden College principal believes solutions to students’ 'mistakes' is in 'counselling'
Tamanna Jasmine Riva and Razia Sultana, president and general secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra League's (BCL) Eden Women's College unit, were accused of hall seat trading, extortion, "blackmailing students into carrying out unethical activities," and torture. There were also issues regarding the other faction of BCL.
Supriya Bhattacharjee, principal of the college, believes that it is those two students' "mistake" that can be resolved via "counselling."
"We don't always do the right thing," she said. "We have a counselling procedure in place."
Eden College, which has 35,000 students, is the talk of the town right now. In this regard, The Daily Star spoke with Supriya Bhattacharjee on Tuesday.
The Daily Star: Eden College seats are allegedly under BCL control. They are not within your or your administration's control. Allegations have come up that the college is under the supervision of BCL, not yours.
Supriya Bhattacharjee: These things actually…a lot can be said for the sake of it, right?
TDS: Who is in charge of the hostel seats then?
SB: It's not about control. For seats, we ask each department to request them based on the student ratio. Following this, the departments interview girls to determine who lives far away and who has more issues, and they provide us with a list based on that. They also offer a waiting list because we have so many girls. We assign hostel spaces based on these lists and the departments' declared requests.
TDS: So, how does BCL handle the seat trade? What do they do to keep the rooms occupied?
SB: In reality, one may say a lot of things just for the sake of saying them, right? Nowadays, if we hear something like this, we verify it.
TDS: Did you verify similar situations in the past?
SB: Yes, yes, and yes! When we hear anything like that, we look into it right away.
TDS: Did your 'investigation' provide any results when anything happened in the past?
SB: We didn't come upon any such fact; not in that sense.
TDS: Does this imply that no seat trading occurs?
SB: So, let's assume that individuals who claimed such, if they notify the hall authority or the department, as I previously stated, the issues come to us. Please understand that I am speaking from the victim's perspective.
TDS: A few days ago, the president of Eden College BCL allegedly locked one student in a room, threatened her, and then her conversation got leaked. They are now fighting. Seat trading, extortion, and blackmailing students into carrying unethical practices—doesn't this come within the definition of crime?
SB: You should be aware that we have a psychologist on staff. She is employed by us. As a result, if we learn about similar events involving our students, we set up counselling sessions for them.
TDS: Is it a matter of counselling or crime?
SB: Aren't these our girls? As a result, we arrange counselling to guarantee that our girls think properly, accept things positively, and respect the college norms. Because nothing is bigger than this. All of us won't do the right things all the time. Right?
TDS: Students will make mistakes, do things they are not meant to do, and break certain rules—this is not unusual. The way the two BCL factions clashed against one other, and people all over the country witnessed it on live television. Is it a mistake or a crime?
SB: See, we don't always do the right things all of the time, do we?
TDS: So, you believe extortion, seat trading, and blackmailing students into 'carrying out unethical actions' to be 'mistakes'? Do you believe 'counselling' is the answer?
SB: We are taking action.
TDS: You are a college principal and a teacher. How do you feel about the debates and critiques about your college?
SB: We established an inquiry committee. The committee is investigating, and we will take action depending on their findings.
TDS: Concerning control of the hostel, it appears that you have no control over the events on campus...
SB: How would the daily classes, tests, and practicals run if there was no control?
TDS: Can you remove the BCL leaders who have been occupying the hostels and rooms for 10 to 12 years?
SB: As I already stated, our inquiry committee is working on it. Based on their findings, we will take appropriate action.
TDS: Did you organise investigating committees when such situations occurred in the past or came to light?
SB: Yes, yes, and yes.
TDS: What happened then? What was found?
SB: We were unable to finish that inquiry. We need to hear everyone's perspective, but we couldn't interview everyone. And then another unwanted incident occurred. As a result, our inquiry is still ongoing.
TDS: Another thing that being said is that you are helpless before the Chhatra League. When you phone the Chhatra League leaders, they ignore you.
SB: It's not at all true, it's not at all true.
TDS: What is the situation right now on campus?
SB: Normal. Our examinations, lectures, practicals, and viva all are going on at the same time.
TDS: These incidents are the fault of your students.
SB: We are taking precautions. We have ensured the utmost security.
TDS: How are you providing security, by using police?
SB: Our teachers are always present. We do have hostel administration and committees.
TDS: Is the hostel actually functioning?
SB: How come so many girls are living in the hostel if it is not functioning?
TDS: It is said that Chhatra League leaders are running it.
SB: Certainly not. Hostel authorities run the hostel.
TDS: However, when an incident occurs, the hostel administration is nowhere to be found.
SB: This is absolutely false. Our hostel administration is always there for the girls.
TDS: When the clashes broke out, when there were fights, were they present?
SB: Of course, they were! Everyone was. They were also injured there.
Thanks, thank you. I'm getting another call. I have two exams today. As a result, another important call is waiting.
TDS: Last question, will you take action against those who fought?
SB: As I stated already, we will take measures depending on the findings of the investigating committee.
TDS: Who are the members of the investigating committee?
SB: Our teachers are in it!
TDS: Will the investigation be completed? Will the report be made public? The last one is yet to be.
SB: We will take action based on the investigation report.
TDS: Will it be completed this time?
SB: Of course, it will. No reason not to.
TDS: The earlier one isn't completed.
SB: The previous one is not over yet. As I told you, we have to talk to everyone.
TDS: This one might go through the same process.
SB: We can't do anything positive if we start thinking negatively from the start, right?
TDS: Hoping you can do something positive.
SB: Thanks, I seek your cooperation.
Translated by Mohammed Ishtiaque Khanand and Kazi Mubinul Hasan