Not only does it sound absurd for an educational institution to expel students over something as normal, natural, and harmless as a hug, the decision to expel both students, to me, reveals severely frightening and misaligned priorities.
On Thursday a video went viral all over Twitter and Instagram of two students at The University of Lahore. In the video, a female student is on one knee handing flowers to a male peer, at the end of the video the two students hug and students around them are seen taking videos and cheering for the couple. The video of Hadiqa and Sheryar went viral and soon the University of Lahore took notice and decided that the “incident” was against the school’s code of conduct. The University said that the video violated section 9 of the “General Discipline Rules and Code of Conduct,” and a disciplinary hearing was also scheduled!
My initial reaction to the news of their suspension was what kind of code of conduct shames and shuns consensual interactions between students! What’s wrong with hugging? Who does a hug harm? What message is the school trying to send out?
In the past the administration has refused to take actions when sexual harassment happened on their campus and when students reported being harassed by teachers. As a university student myself, I’m particularly disturbed by the school’s lack of discourse on issues that matter! As I spoke to other college-going students they reflected similar concerns. Rida, a student at Durham studying law, shares her what she thinks, “In Pakistan, the most disgusting things like women being openly groped go unnoticed, yet two people being in love is so hated.” Similarly, Mustafa Khayam a student at Pomona College says, “I feel so annoyed that they consider something normal as inappropriate and deem it as misconduct, but they are too afraid to apply that to situations which are actually inappropriate because that’s too much of a ‘Taboo.’
Students studying at institutions in Pakistan shared just how personal the school's reaction feels. A LUMS polisci major says, "It is hilarious how public displays of affection are a bigger issue in this country than the lack of human rights for 1/2 the population. Similarly, a first-year student of Ziauddin Medical school says," I'm scared that this could happen at my school tomorrow if we don't make people aware of how problematic this is!" Shaniera Akram, Jibran Nasir, Shehzad Roy and Bakhtawar Bhutto were amongst the many people who used social media to express their concern over.
In Pakistan so many times institutions and people of power steer attention away from topics and conversations that matter because of the stigma and taboo, and steer the focus towards policing the way other people live: just like the University of Lahore's attempt at policing its students.