NIFT and its Social Media Policy: An inconspicuous suppression of Free Speech

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“All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression” states Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. Many times, authorities encroach upon this fundamental right of free speech and resort to censorship. Last month, the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) released such a notice. It included rules regarding the use of social media by students. It also mentioned some consequences of not following these rules. These consequences have received a very negative setback from the students.

NIFT and its Social Media Policy: An inconspicuous suppression of Free Speech

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What is NIFT’s Social Media Policy 2020 about?

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On July 28, the most sought-after fashion institute of India mailed its students the fee structure for the academic year 2020-21. Despite repeated emails and requests, NIFT has refused to waiver the fee even the slightest bit. A lot of educational institutions are debating this delicate issue amidst the ongoing pandemic. But the Social Media Policy issued by NIFT, before sending out the fee notice, has brought the institute to the forefront.

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The Social Media Policy states, ”Any content maligning NIFT, its policies and employees will be viewed adversely, inviting disciplinary action and inter alia, penalties, debarment from sitting in the examination, campus placements, etc.

NIFT’s entire Social Media Policy by The Wire on Scribd

Why is the Social Media Policy causing uproar among the students?

A second-year student at NIFT, Kolkata says, “Fashion Studies, being a practical subject, requires the students to spend most of their time in the labs. We gladly pay for this facility because we know that we make the most out of it. We happily pay for the free Wi-Fi too. But now, we are away from the institute and have no access to the infrastructure. We are missing out on the hands-on experience which forms the core of our studies. Considering this, our semester fee of more than 1 lakh should be reduced.”

NIFT and its Social Media Policy: An inconspicuous suppression of Free Speech

Fee for the academic year 2020-21 by The Wire on Scribd

Online classes have now become the norm and more & more people are spending a lot on Wi-Fi connections and data packs. These packs are exhausted due to online classes which last up to 4-5 hours. The students are also expected to write assignments, complete homework and give exams. Moreover, the college is also demanding hostel fees for keeping the luggage left behind by students. In an attempt to resist the Social Media Policy, some students have been boycotting online classes as well. Though with no luck as the faculty members have been discouraging their actions. They have been advising the students that no good can come out of this.

What is the current status regarding this Policy?

NIFT and its Social Media Policy: An inconspicuous suppression of Free Speech
Textiles Minister Smriti Irani at a NIFT Delhi convocation

The administration has asked the students to submit their fees by September 7. The institute shall strike down the student’s name if they fail to do so. The institute has thus, set a deadline for fee submission and has marked itself unavailable to answer any queries. This is a questionable policy which deserves immediate attention. Students and parents are already going through a lot during this pandemic. They are even ready to cooperate with schools and colleges. But the institutions should respect the diverse backgrounds of their students and understand that not everyone can pay such a heavy sum easily. The college and the Ministry of Textiles should address this matter as soon as possible.

NIFT and its Social Media Policy: An inconspicuous suppression of Free Speech

In spite of these restrictions, social media is full of hashtags like #StudentsLivesMatter, #ReduceNiftSemesterFees and #FeesMaafKaroYaHalfKaro. This just shows how ridiculous this policy is. Using such measures to reduce fake content and hate speech is one thing. But misusing them to divert attention from such important issues is unacceptable. After all, how does the institute justify teaching a practical subject through a virtual medium, without relaxing the fee? Will it really strike down the names of the thousands of students who continue to protest? Why should students pay for unnecessary expenses like library fees and alumni association fees when all they’re getting in return are inconvenient online classes? NIFT administration really needs to send out a serious response to these questions and consider the requests of its students.

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