Over the last few days, there’s been a lot of back-and-forth on media platforms and about the situation at Christ University, particularly with regards to some of the more onerous rules and regulations imposed on students. It isn’t really difficult to point out what’s wrong with Christ. There is a lot that’s wrong. But it is arguably a more constructive exercise to try to understand how things can be made right. From personal experience at Christ, and in the context of prevailing norms in other private institutions, I arrived at the surprising conclusion that the majority of student concerns can be effectively resolved if the management can implement just a couple of key reforms. So how to go about fixing Christ? It’s not nearly as hard as you’d think. This is how I think it could be done:
Hire Female Security Staff
In the wake of allegations of the harassment of female students, this is the most immediate reform that needs to be implemented. The unyielding campus dress code bans synthetic dress material and calls for females students to wear patialas, both of which are presently checked by male security staff. If the comfort and security of female students comes in question at the very gate, everything else is frankly a moot point. While having a more reasonable dress code is certainly an option, hiring a few female security staff would address the immediate concern here — these women staff could look over female students to ensure dress code compliance without making them feel uncomfortable and insecure.
Set more reasonable attendance thresholds
There’s a reason the UGC mandates 60 percent as the minimum threshold for college attendance: it’s because as much learning, if not more, takes place outside college as compared to inside. Between internships, extracurricular activities, and pursuing those things in life that drive them, students must spend a good deal of their college life outside campus for meaningful, holistic development. Setting more reasonable targets for attendance would free up space for students to engage with the things that matter to them. This is especially important when we’re talking about employability in today’s workforce. The fact-based education offered at Christ does not provide many of the key skills today’s employers look for in graduates. It’s easy to overlook the many ways successful candidates develop their employable skillset: party planners gain valuable client-facing skills. Young entrepreneurs gain far more insight into business processes than commerce lectures could ever give them. Practicing journalists get critical on-the-job experience that can go on their resumes before they graduate. And even if you’re not being productive, even if you spend 40 percent of college tenure chilling with friends, you’re developing lifelong relationships. Considering that Christ has a reputation for academic rigour, it might not be appropriate to drop the attendance threshold to 60 percent. However, the existing 85/75 percent thresholds could be dropped to 75/65 percent. This not only empowers students to prioritise the things they value, it also ensures a degree of academic rigour as attendance thresholds will remain higher than in many other institutions.
Don’t slam the doors in our face
No, really, just don’t do that. Possibly the most irksome demonstration of the arbitrary powers wielded by security staff is the way they open and close doors and gates as if on a whim. The policy of closing the doors for the first ten minutes of every lesson is a major factor behind many students’ attendance woes — the most worrisome aspect is when some guards, apparently when they’re annoyed, close the doors before the allotted time. Moreover, even though the campus buildings are positively riddled with doors, only a handful are open at any one time. There are 14,000 students in the main campus, all of whom have to move around during the day. Each building only has one, narrow doorway held open (with a security guard taking up half of that space.) The easy solution here is to leave all doors open not closed for the first ten minutes of class. Teaching staff are responsible for recording attendances and absences. As of last year, staff enter student absences through a computerized system, which in itself minimizes the potential for attendance leeway. Trusting the teaching staff to decide on attendance – and not security personnel – would go a long way towards building an atmosphere of trust. This would also solve the problem of the crowding that occurs outside building entrances at the start of every hour. Ease of entry and exit would make life easier for everyone on campus, and significantly reduce student stress levels.
Don’t drag our parents into everything
Comments that the college needs to ensure student safety in the absence of guardians entirely miss the point that students are adults. The only guardians they have are themselves. Here’s what a lawyer has to say on this matter. By extension, responsibility for actions, even for the stupidest actions, rests squarely with the students, and no one else. The argument that parents may be paying for college tuition is irrelevant in this context: who pays the fees is none of the college’s business. If parents have an issue, it’s an issue between them and their children, not them, their children, and a third party of dubious credence. There needs to be an immediate stop to the humiliating and inconveniencing practice of dragging parents into disciplinary proceedings. Discipline for breaking the rules is a matter that’s strictly between students and the faculty/management. This would have the immediate effect of reducing parental resentment of the management. Most parents work full-time and having to come to Bengaluru on short notice to attend disciplinary proceedings for their adult children is both demeaning and impractical.
Don’t give us a student council. Let us pick one
It’s a great thing that a Student Council exists to take student concerns up with the faculty and management. The not-so-great thing is that the students themselves have no say in representation at the Student Council. Unlike in other institutions (but uncomfortably like many high schools), the student council is appointed by the management and faculty. If the key function of the student council is to ensure that student issues are brought to the attention of the faculty, it makes far more sense for the students themselves. We’d have far more confidence in the ability of elected representatives to be in touch with on-ground student issues than an appointed ones.
At the end of the day, it’s the student body that makes a university what it is, not the management. Treating students with due respect and understanding that they’re mature enough to take responsibility for their actions will go a long way towards bridging the gap between students and management.
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