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VIT Vellore Is A Really Great Place To Study, For Men

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This story is part of Campus Watch’s series #QuestionYourCollege where students from across the country are talking about how free their campuses are, based on curriculum, infrastructure, campus environment, etc. If you want to share issues that plague your campus, send us a 360 degree assessment, or tell us how your college is doing things right, write to us at campus@youthkiawaaz.com

At the end of Class 12, I was living in Dubai and busy scouting for a good college in India to complete my degree course in computer science engineering.

A visit to the VIT Vellore campus impressed my parents. I landed up here as a student because of their description of the college and what I had read online. While the university has an excellent reputation, it has its ups and downs too. This report provides an insider’s view on the major aspects of the VIT Vellore campus.

The first thing that grabbed my attention was the green campus. The VIT lake is also beautiful but sadly, students can visit the lake with proper permission and only for the purpose of collecting samples for biology experiments. Most students agree that it is a pity such a beautiful lake can only be seen from the windows of a few classrooms.

The Curriculum

While VIT’s curriculum follows a standard Indian model regarding content, the allotment of classes and methods of teaching are anything but standard. Following a more western approach to scheduling of classes, students are allowed to pick their own courses, teachers and timings before the start of each semester. Known as the Fully Flexible Credit System (FFCS), it has both advantages and disadvantages.

For instance, although the FFCS allows students to pick their courses, there is a set list of courses they must complete in four years. Since it works on the first-come-first-served basis, all students do not get the course they want every semester. The FFCS happens online, and every semester, students complain about servers crashing. Because of this, students often fail to register for classes with professors of their preference or make a timetable of their preference.

A bad internet connection could also prove to be your undoing. In an attempt to solve these problems, an “add” and “drop” option is given after the semester begins, where students can still try to get subjects and change around their schedules.

In 2015, the university decided to adopt CAL (Continuous Assessment Learning), an entirely new system of teaching and learning to keep learning fresh and interactive. As the name suggests, the concept behind CAL is that students should frequently be tested.

Digital assignments encourage research into the field beyond the syllabus since the questions are of a higher level. However, although the concept is a good one, the implementation is lacking. A second-year student said: “The teachers need to be trained by the management. They don’t really know how it works yet.”

The teachers are not used to the new, computerised system. Secondly, there’s more scope for “cheating”, with students being able to submit others’ assignments as their own.

Research And Innovation

The VIT faculty and students conduct research in a wide range of topics. The university ranks second in the number of research papers produced every year in the state of Tamil Nadu, behind only IIT-Madras, as mentioned in a report of Scopus, an abstracting and indexing database. Most faculty members, professors and assistant professors both, have published multiple papers.

Project-based learning courses are incorporated into the curriculum to encourage further research and project implementation of the subject matter. The PBL courses achieve the goal of making students conduct research, but the time limitation of a single semester (five months or less) does not assure a very high quality of research or output. However, students are encouraged to do projects outside of class, and lab facilities are mostly accessible for this purpose.

The Faculty

The faculty at VIT is highly qualified and come from some of the best institutes across the country. The senior professors have PhD students who act as their teaching assistants. While it is clear that the professors are very knowledgeable in their fields, some students say that the there is a gap of communication between the teacher and the student, and because of this, the student does not gain as much knowledge as they could have. This could be because teachers in VIT are generally very conservative. Some insist on women and men sitting separately in class, and are openly disapproving of close friendships between women and men.

Of Jobs And Internships

VIT has a very high placement rate, almost 100%. It has been mentioned in the Limca Book of Records thrice for the highest number of campus placements done from a single institution by a single company. The PAT centre is in charge of the placements done on campus. The VIT outsources placement training to professional companies like SMART Training Resources India and FACE Placement Training, and many highly reputed companies like Microsoft and Amazon recruit from VIT University.

Most internships are found outside the university. However, VIT does have a Student Abroad Program. The students can spend a semester abroad in one of VIT’s affiliated colleges all over the world. On the other hand, International Transfer Programs offer a system by which a student spends their first two years in VIT and the next two years in a foreign university.

Number Of Students Rising

The number of students being admitted every year increases exponentially. With this great surge of students, classes and hostels become overcrowded. Some of the green areas of the campus are being taken over by construction sites now, to accommodate all the students. “You literally have to stand in a queue just to use the sidewalk!” The increasing number of students puts pressure on the faculty which needs more members. However, in a rush to find new teachers, there is sometimes a compromise in quality.

Gender Discrimination

The VIT is known for its strict and unfair rules. Women have early hostel closing times and are only allowed outside campus two hours per day during the week, and six hours during the weekend. This means women are pretty much trapped inside the college for most of their time at VIT and have little to no interaction with the outside world. Even a simple lunch and shopping outing on a weekday can result in a warning because the student might exceed the “two-hour” rule. Secondly, there are certain routes in the campus which are closed off to women after 7 pm.

Hostel wardens are conservative, and sleeveless tops and capris are frowned upon, while no similar rule exists for boys, who are even allowed to turn up in class wearing shorts. One girl says her friend was called to the warden’s office because she was “roaming with boys.” The warden claimed she called her out of “concern for her safety”, because “people might do things to (her)”. A third-year student recalls a class in which her teacher would pick on her to answer difficult questions only on the days she sat with a boy. Teachers seem to have a general feeling of mistrust towards women who dress “modern”, or look like they are friends with boys. As for an LGBTQ community, there is no talk about it.

While there are many things good about VIT, I feel that women need to be made to feel like they have an equal right to be here. For that to happen, we need to be given equal respect and be taken as seriously as our male peers. Conservative rules that are ostensibly for our safety are in fact counterproductive and harmful to the mental well-being of the students. We need more platforms to voice our opinions, and a freer mentality, to have real conversations and debates, which could make students’ lives better.
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Image source: VIT website and Facebook
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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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