Not very welcoming for this student!
A lot of life’s lessons are learnt outside classrooms. And not all of them are rosy. Mine certainly wasn’t. Or isn’t. It’s been three months and I am still recovering from the ignominy of being ousted by my university - The Massey University of New Zealand where I studied only a few months ago. On December 9, 2011, while I was in India, Paul Fenton, manager, Student Life Services, e-mailed me a letter stating that university will not enrol me for semester one, 2012. Then on February 1, 2012, I received two-year trespass notice via e-mail.
My joy knew no bounds when education agency, Planet Education, secured my admission in Biotechnology programme at Massey and got me Palmerston Campus in 2010. The agency assured me a pleasant stay but gave no orientation on Kiwi culture. I had a spring in my feet. But within days of stay, a girl, who had befriended me, accused me of stalking her. It was a baseless allegation that affected my studies adversely. She left the campus within six months, being an exchange student but not before putting me on the altar.
Antony Nobbs, the pastoral support officer, insisted me to take counseling. The counsellor, Dr. David Coomber, asked me disgusting questions peeling me off like an onion. I tried hard to focus on studies but these incidents took a toll on me. My grades slipped. I was sleepless most nights due to anxiety. Dr. Coomber wrote me sleeping pills, declaring they were addictive. I wondered about taking those pills. But most days, teary-eyed, alone in my room, I battled with my pain, wondering about my overturned life, my future, my mother back home, my friends...I wondered about many things before I exhausted myself to sleep. I stopped taking the pills after a while; I didn’t want to get addicted to them.
Back in February 2010, I looked forward to studying in NZ; a country flush with lush green meadows, verdant mountains, ferns and lakes. That’s the image admitting colleges flashed on their websites. My other plans included engaging in extreme sports and after passing-out, heading to the Middle East, securing a plum job there, probably in Abu Dhabi. joining my father there. My notion dictated- a foreign degree holds global cachet. An Indian degree doesn’t.
Days passed. Warm, rainy and sunny days of July faded, giving way to cold and hail in September. One morning I woke up with fever and dry cough, went to Massey’s Dr. Morris. He gave me an asthma inhaler, saying the fever won’t last more than two days. I had no asthma history but I trusted his prescription. I coughed blood after two days. I had to see three other doctors to get better, paying each doctor 80 NZD. My parents flew in, mother from Delhi, father from Abu Dhabi each spending a lakh of rupees. My bad health kept me out of class for forty days. I received zero in all my assignments. I was burning candles at both the ends. When I returned to India in November that year, I was a wreck. I visited doctors here who gave me stress-reducing pills.
When I had to return, I decided to move out of Palmerston campus. So I changed my branch campus to Albany; switched my programme to Bachelors of Food Technology (Honours), and decided for a homestay, instead of campus. I was up for a fresh start. But we are a species, totally daft, in matters of predicting future.
Chinese students dominated the new campus. They didn’t take too well to my academic performance, ganged-up against me, passed snide remarks. My lab group, comprising only girls, taunted me, aped me and called me "curry". When I complained to The International Student Support Center ( IISC), I was suggested counselling. Antony, as always, was adamant that I take it. Counselling didn’t provide any concrete solution to my issues instead drained me out.
My studies had begun to get affected again. In addition, Dr. Kylie Foster’s class was unproductive.(Food and Bioprocess Engineering). I sought further guidance from her on the subject, she refused. (Eventually, my complaint regarding Dr. Foster’s performance would descend into my suspension)When I brought this to the notice of IISC, Antony pressed me for counselling again; this time raising his voice. The counselor, Grabrielle Graham, among many meaningless pieces of advice that she gave, also said that I’d be a better engineer if I took longer. She also told me I looked scary.
Flip flop of Massey University on enrollment
I am still figuring out why odds were stacked against me. On one Chinese student’s complaint, just a day before my exams, on November 10, campus security swooped in my room, looking for kirpan and drugs. I had to convince them I was not a Sikh. They didn’t find any weapon but seized stress-reducing drugs. I showed them the prescription but they slammed it, concluded, I wanted to commit suicide, took me to a hospital which declared: the drugs were safe. The immigration had cleared those drugs too.
The college authorities cancelled my exam. Between November 11 and 17, Antony took me to a psychiatrist twice. But in all medical instances put together, none of the doctors or counselors ever gave in writing that I had any kind of psychological disorder. Well, if the school was looking for any, they were certainly disappointed. When I met Penny Lyall, Albany Student Association’s coordinator, to discuss Dr. Foster’s performance, she admitted it looked like a matter of racism but said – “nothing will happen.” She gave me sweets and sent me off.
Totally disheartened and confused, I decided to leave. In hindsight, I was driven to a point where I could do nothing but leave. Antony booked my flight, November 17. He didn’t question my departure. He was polite but unnaturally distant and withdrawn. Anyway, I was used to his dry and random behaviour. I was in India on November 18.
A few days later, I received the trespass notice. Ironically, on December 22, 2011, Professor Ian Maddox, the regional director had stated, my enrollment to semester 1, 2012 ‘will almost be certainly accepted. I knocked all doors - of embassies, human rights, lawyers - to no avail. At NZ, human rights didn’t view my case (or didn’t want to) as racial discrimination, sent me back to the University for amends. In India, I called and wrote to Melanie Chapman, education counsellor, NZ embassy, but she stopped taking my calls. I too gave up calling fearing she would put harassment charges on me, if I called more.
I spent Rs 30 lakhs, separately on doctors and lawyers, returned with no degree. Just notoriety. Planet Education doesn’t respond. My expensive books and other items are still lying in the campus. Massey’s hostility stuns me. But I am more appalled by the apathy of Indian authorities.
Which door shall I knock to get a fair hearing? "
(As told to Urmila Rao)
Note: This correspondent on behalf of the student raised several queries related to the case with the Massey University and the New Zealand Embassy. Till date we have not received a response from the New Zealand Embassy. Careers360 will publish its response if received. The Indian Embassy replied stating that they summoned the Pro Vice Chancellor, Prof Anderson, but beyond that no action seems to have been initiated. And the boy continues to fight a lonely battle.
Massey University's response to Careers360 on June 6, 2012
"Massey University prides itself in being a world-class provider of higher education and in being a university that takes extremely seriously its obligations towards its students and their safety and wellbeing. We also have obligations to take reasonable measures to keep our staff safe including from false allegations levelled against them that unfairly imply they are unprofessional and uncaring. The headlines applied to the various and conflicting versions of this story on this website are inaccurate and appear to be an attempt to malign an entire country based on the account of an unnamed individual who says that he has had a bad experience. The story and blog you have published conflict with each other, contain falsehoods and are defamatory.
Various claims made in the accounts are false, misleading and misreport the actions and intentions of the individual staff members of Massey University, who repeatedly used their best efforts. Even by the account of the former student, it shows inappropriate behaviour by the person concerned, repeated efforts by the University to arrange appropriate care for him and assisting him in a variety of ways including to return safely home.
Massey was asked questions about a former student by Urmila Rao and declined to respond because we do not believe the public airing of the unfortunate circumstances helps the person concerned"