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An Ex-Student Suggests 6 Policy Changes That Christ University Needs To Make

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By Arjun Krishna Lal:

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.

Respect us

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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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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