Multiple problems of a multicultural campus

Divided in diversity

Multiple problems of a multicultural campus

Last week, a prominent private university in Greater Noida - Sharda University – was in news for a violent clash between its Indian and Afghan students. Reportedly, a minor tiff over car parking blew into a full-fledged battle and over 1000 students – from both sides - attacked each other with bricks, rods and other construction material lying around. At least two dozen of them were injured besides policemen who went in to control the situation.

Apparently, this was not the first incident of its kind in Sharda. There have been several such conflicts before between the Indian and Afghan student communities here. As Metrolife found, there are deeper reasons to this tension than those which meet
the eye.

A student of Sharda shared with Metrolife on the condition of anonymity, “All the foreign students at our varsity stay in a separate hostel. They also tend to stay in their own groups – the Nigerians with their own, the Nepalese amongst themselves; they come to the classes in a group, sit in the canteen likewise and leave at the end of the day. The Afghans are known to be particularly aggressive which gives rise to more problems.”

Another student added, “Just a few months back, the Afghans had a bitter quarrel with us after one of them commented on the Indian cricket team’s loss in a match. Before that, they had gheraoed the admin block after some problem in admissions. We often feel that they behave this way because they know that they have the backing of their embassy. They know that they enjoy immunity whichever way they may behave.”

Notably, Sharda is not the only varsity in India to be facing this kind of a problem. Earlier this year, NIT Rourkela witnessed an open fight between its Indian and Afghan students similar to the clash that took place at Ravenshaw University, Cuttack in 2011. Lovely Professional University in Punjab is also known to have frequent fights between its Indian and African students.

When Metrolife contacted another growing private varsity in NCR, Galgotias, its pro VC Prof Renu Luthra shared, “It is very lucrative for private varsities these days to have a large foreign student population. Not only does it bring them foreign currency in fees but these students also form an institute’s global face. However, a multi-cultural student population is a double-edged sword. If you don’t know how to handle it, you can land in a real mess.”

“To begin with, at our varsity, we never take more than a couple of students from a particular country. Otherwise, there is always the danger of gang formations. Secondly, our students are compulsorily taught a course called ‘Appreciating Diversity.’ After all, tomorrow, when they go to work in a multi-cultural set-up, they must know how to conduct themselves.”

Aditya Berlia, Pro-chancellor and co-founder, Apeejay Stya University, completely agreed with her, “It is very important that varsities make conscious efforts to bring such student groups together. An inter-disciplinary study approach, in itself, is very helpful in putting together students from different courses and nationalities. Then they must be necessarily made to work on projects and assignments together.”

“Other than that, frequent cultural events are a must where students from all parts of the world exhibit their culture and traditions. It not only increases their cultural knowledge but raises bonhomie as well. Hosting foreign students should not become solely a business means. Rather, these students should retain a good feeling about India long after leaving.”

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