#LUMSKHOLO: The Campus Reopening Protest

On Monday, 25th January, around sixty students took to the streets outside LUMS to protest the HEC directives communicated by LUMS with regards to campus re-opening. While students claim that LUMS failed to communicate effectively, the admin claimed to have reported and implemented HEC directives within hours of having received them. Certain students went on to quote the admin about earlier comments made asserting the university as a private institution that needs not follow HEC directives. At the same time, the admin asserts that the second wave is hitting hard, and stresses the need to be careful. More so, even when the decision to open campus for all students was made, it came with the clause, “subject to government directives.”

The protest which took place outside the infamous store referred to as Kashi’s (actually: Smoke City) attracted some media coverage as well. Students came with placards that read: “In a toxic relationship with LUMS,” “give students their rights,” “we deserve better,” “lums kholo, lums kholo,” “we deserve campus access,” “we don’t pay so much for online classes.” The last of these seems to be a pressing concern as students say that this ‘u-turn’ no longer justifies the fee-hikes, particularly the hostel fee whose increase was premised on additional costs bearing out as a result of housing and transport arrangements being made at Askari-11.

The protest was successful in bringing two members of the administration to the protest site to hear student demands. The student council served as an intermediary between the two parties, communicating with both. Initially, the admin requested that a couple of students from the sit-in be permitted on campus so that demands could be heard. Upon student refusal, the Dean of OSA and the Provost joined the sit-in outside the main gate. While the Dean of OSA refused to engage with the students, the Provost, Dr. Tariq Jadoon, listened to the students’ grievances. The protestors report that about 43% of the student body will be allowed to access campus after the negotiations following the protest. However, on the very same day, many of SSE in-person classes were unfortunately converted to online classes. While students were left frustrated by this policy, the admin claims that the motive behind doing so was in order to ensure that priority/need-based admission of students on campus is made possible.

Another post in circulation around the LUMS Discussion Forum and the Democratic LUMS Discussion Forum claims that the government is allowing 50% of the student body to return to campus. This seems to have delayed the email promised to arrive on 27th January. While it is past midnight and students have not yet received an email with regards to accommodation, many students worry about cancellation charges as the forty-eight refundable window for plane tickets withers away. For many seniors, being allowed back on campus for Spring 2021 seemed to be the only glimmer of hope in an otherwise anxious time. As the night deepens, seniors sit behind screens, refreshing their inboxes, waiting. Waiting for accommodation, waiting for job acceptances, waiting for graduate programs. Waiting and wondering about what life after LUMS will be like, but wait, didn’t LUMS already end?

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