The students’ union at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai on Wednesday said that the restrictions on student activities and the “unprofessional, insensitive communication” by the administration on holding events on campus has raised serious concerns about freedom of expression.

In January, the institute’s administration had issued a notice saying that it was reframing the guidelines on holding events on campus, The Indian Express reported. The administration had suspended such activities, except for fixed annual events, till the new guidelines were formulated.

The students’ body on Wednesday said the administration asking them to convince the competent authorities for permission to hold events undermines student autonomy and creates an unnecessary hurdle in organising activities.

“Institute spaces are platforms for open discussion and discourse; not subject to arbitrary restrictions and approvals,” the statement said. “Students should be empowered to organise events, lectures and engage in discourse within the parameters of academic freedom without the need for undue justification or approval processes.”

The administration, however, had not received any statement from the union, The Times of India quoted an unidentified official from the institute as saying.

“We want our students to focus on academics,” the official said. “They are free to invite renowned academicians or industrialists, but we do not want to encourage any talks or speakers with political affiliation. This is not a political platform.”

Wednesday’s statement said that the guidelines that were promised on January 18 by the institute are still not released despite many follow-ups.

“It seems the restrictions are focused on creating an ‘artificially sanitized environment’ for the time being, rather than fostering a vibrant and engaged student community,” the statement said.

The union also said that there was a lack of transparency as communication between the students and the administration was not formally documented.

“It is of highest concern that despite the students’ union’s efforts to have official, written communication through letters and mails, the administration does not offer anything written as updates and is not using official channel of communication,” it said.

Comments on students' identities, infantilising of their opinions by the administration and making sure that nothing is documented is deeply concerning, the statement said.

The union also said that the current environment in the institute was a violation of student entitlement under the University Grants Commission. “As democratic citizens, the students are entitled to freedom of thought and expression within and outside their institution,” the statement said, citing University Grants Commission norms.