The Dhaka University authorities have once again failed to live up to their avowed promise. Just before reopening the university dormitories after 18 months of closure due to the pandemic, the hall authorities declared that there would be no 'gono room' accommodation. The vice-chancellor of the university also visited a few halls on the first day of reopening and sought cooperation from all to shut down the so-called 'gono room'. Within less than a week, all the dormitories accommodate students of the first year in these rooms as the authorities bowed down to the pressure from the dominant student organisation.
For the failure to close 'gono room', the authorities apparently feel no qualms. Over the years, these rooms became a demeaning symbol for students, especially the freshers. They have to stay there as some regular rooms are occupied by politically backed student leaders and non-students.
As authorities are helpless to evict them from the dormitories, they indirectly allowed the `gono rooms' where more than a dozen students stay and have to sleep on the floor although each of the 'gono room' can accommodate a maximum of eight. Moreover, these rooms are controlled by the hall units of the student wing of the political party in power. The leaders of the organisation compel students there to participate in the political programme and work for the organisation. Allegations have it that leaders and activists of the organisation use guest rooms of the halls to mistreat freshers in the name of 'instructing manners.'
Though bullying and torturing in the DU halls have long become regular, the authorities either denied or ignored these. Some student leaders, involved in the bad practices, indirectly acknowledge such torture by terming it 'disciplining' although they have no legal or moral right to do so. A good number of students have to bear the trauma of unwanted torture. A few even left the dormitories no matter if the alternative accommodation was more expensive.
The DU authorities have failed to rein in the bullies. The extreme form of bullying, however, was exposed with the death of a meritorious student Abrar Fahad of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) at one of its halls.
It is partially true that student dormitories do have not adequate rooms and so a few rooms have to accommodate more students than they can do in a decent manner. This can at best be a temporary arrangement for a few weeks. What is the rationale behind continuing the bad culture over the years? Why don't the authorities take the necessary steps to increase the accommodation capacities? A large number of students of DU stay at home in different parts of Dhaka and nearby cities like Narayanganj and Gazipur. Only those who come from other districts and have no other option in Dhaka are compelled to stay at the halls. The university authorities seem to be indifferent to providing students with the minimum decent accommodation. That's why the sad saga of 'gono room' continues and so does political ragging. These do not go with the country's highest and premier educational institution's image. After all the university is celebrating its centennial this year.