A prisoner of LAN-ka-ban

Do many Ph.D students play computer games late in the night or watch videos on YouTube? I last played a network-based computer game exactly six years ago. Do many Ph.D students spend their hostel Internet time on Facebook, and sleep late for classes next day? No, Ph.D students don’t have classes, beyond the first year.

I work in my lab on weekdays until late evening. I walk back to my hostel, have my dinner and work again late in the night from my hostel, often reading a paper or two before I sleep. Even when I sleep, I  initiate heavy experiments (and this applies to PhD students across departments who use software that cannot be operated remotely for their research) on a server/computer in the lab, before going off to sleep.

Most conference/journal deadlines do not follow IST – allowing us extra time to complete our work. At least once a month, I spend my time staying up all night working on a manuscript. These are stressful times where there are no extended hours of sleep. I must rely only on quick naps in my hostel room. And no, I don’t miss my classes the next morning – because I don’t have any.

With the LAN ban in force

The LAN ban essentially means that I need to be in my lab when I am working. And before you say,”Oh come on, you should be present in the lab anyway. You are a Ph.D student”, let me tell you that I already spend 6 hours a day on an average in my lab.

With the LAN ban in force, I cannot read papers from my room at night, I cannot start experiments before I sleep, I cannot work on experiments late in the night. I am restricted to my lab in the Academic area.

With the LAN ban in force, I cannot read papers from my room at night, I cannot start experiments before I sleep, I cannot work on experiments late in the night and I am restricted to my lab in the Academic area. With little options to eat or take naps in the Academic Area buildings, I am sure that working in the labs late at night is not going to be particularly awesome.

During the hectic conference/journal submission times as well, I have to stay back in my lab or perhaps travel back and forth – with my sleep cycles getting messed up even further.

I see the possible reasons why the LAN ban must have been introduced. However, I feel that it severely worsens the already-not-so-great lifestyle that Ph.D students on campus enjoy.

The Report

Although IIT Bombay had been known for some very stringent policies when it came to nightly LAN availability, students had been enjoying almost uninterrupted (except the short 3-minute cut off around 4 am) internet in their rooms for many months now.

The reinstatement of the ban from 10th March onwards has been on a very short notice, but most Hostel Sys-Ads had notified the students about the ban. Recently there was an email sent on Student Notices by the GSHA which included a link to a survey to gauge the opinions of students on the ban.

When consulted about the ban, Computer Centre Head Prof. D. Manjunath mentioned that the absence of the LAN ban before this period may possibly have been an oversight, as no communication to remove the ban was received from the Dean’s office in the first place. The official policy has been to lift the ban during midsem and endsem times and its reinstatement immediately after the end of the respective exams.

Interview with DoSA

We talked to the DoSA regarding the reinstatement of the LAN Ban, why it was not in place for around a year and future plans of the Institute regarding this issue.

What was the rationale behind the LAN Ban?

In November 2005, a student had committed suicide after being failed in three courses on account of dropping attendance, which was attributed to his excessive usage of the internet – he was known amongst the students as a ‘networking wizard’ – late into the night. After that there was a necessity felt to have some form of restrictions on LAN, as many professors thought that the 24/7 availability of LAN had been affecting student performance adversely. Hence the ban was put in as a disincentive. A committee was then formed which included the CC head, DoSA, Dean AP, and a couple of student representatives. (We contacted the then-CC head, Prof. Anurag Mehra, but the exact details of the committee could not be recovered).

Certain students were very happy about the ban being removed earlier. Was there any survey conducted to gauge student opinion about this?

Right now there was no consultation or survey, because officially, the ban has been in place. In 2012 there was a LAN Ban committee meeting which led to the reduction in the ban to the current timings of 1:30 am – 5:00 am.

However, given that it has been quite a long time since the ban has been in place, it is time to review and assess the impact and necessity of the ban.

Do you think it amounts to policing in any way?

No, this doesn’t really amount to policing. It is reasonably within the purview of college authorities to restrict Internet usage if it seems to affect student performance, and the ban isn’t draconian in any way.