St. Aloysius PU students write stinging Open Letter to their Principal, oppose sexist rules

UPDATE:

Since this blog post was first published, it has garnered a lot of attention on social media and mainstream media.

Deccan Herald report  dated September 4, 2016 has been brought to my notice. The article states the following.

 Two days after a blog post on “discriminatory rules” enforced on students at St Aloysius PU College went viral, the college authorities are contemplating filing a complaint to the cybercrime police within two days. 

The college authorities still fail to understand my argument that the rules they have imposed are sexist, unfair and unjust. Instead, they respond by trying to attack me instead.

The Principal admits, in this TOI report, that the rules are in place and likens the college to a responsible parent. He also questions my motive for writing about the sexist rules in place.

So here’s a two-part response: One, what the students have to say and second, my rejoinder.

Ever since I wrote my previous blog post, a lot of students of St. Aloysius PU College have reached out to me. Some of them are ex-students who said they were glad someone was finally speaking up after all these years.

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Many current students also reached out to me. A group of them have now written an Open Letter to their Principal protesting against these rules. The following are excerpts from the letter.

According to the first rule on appearance, no high or low buns are allowed. We were told that buns were worn by maids, and fishermens’ wives and they were not appropriate. We don’t know what is so wrong with maids or fishermens’ wives because they are human just as we are.

When they read out that girls were not allowed to go out of the college campus for afternoon lunch we asked them why not, and why guys weren’t imposed with this rule. We were told the most senseless reason: guys can run faster and be back in the campus by the time the afternoon classes start. 

Why are girls asked to behave and boys, in the blink of an eye, accepted? Because it is universally believed that men will be men? The college encourages us to be social and talk to everyone, but if we’re permitted from meeting people who’re just one wall away from us, how else do they expect us to grow into “Men and Women” for others? 

We could not help but feel angry for being treated like boy-hungry animals.

 

Here’s the open letter in its entirety:

September 3, 2016

Respected Father,

We are writing this in response to the new rules that have been taken by the college for proper behaviour and discipline, which instead is just plainly sexist, patriarchal and unjust.

The rules were read out to us in class during an all female orientation, without any prior student body/parent-teacher meeting and were justified with the most senseless reasons that were offensive and weren’t something we’d expect to hear from lecturers.

According to the first rule on appearance, no high or low buns are allowed.

This rule would have been understandable if it was not for the justification that followed. We were told that buns were worn by maids, and fishermens’ wives and they were not appropriate. We don’t know what is so wrong with maids or fishermens’ wives because they are human just as we are. They might not be as economically well off as lecturers or other people with professional jobs but we are strongly against the fact that they’re considered as something lower to us. We are taught not to discriminate based on gender, caste, occupation and place of birth but people elder and expected to be wiser to us are doing it. Just because fishermens’ and maids standards of living don’t match ours doesn’t mean their hairstyles, dressing styles or any style for that matter should be used to refer to something derogatory. If the bun being a fashion statement is a problem, then we’d like to express our opinions on it by saying that many of us have long frizzy hair that cannot be handled easily, that wouldn’t stay put in a pony. For many of us, a bun is a neat and easy way of keeping our hair in place. We suggest that you impose rules on people who wear fancy clips or flashy rubber bands on their hair but not on all who have normal neat buns because for many of us, it’s just a comfort. We were also told that buns highlight our faces and it wouldn’t be appropriate of us to do so and by highlighting our faces we were giving the boys more chances to “flirt” or “have a liking” towards us.

The next rule which we completely found to be sexist was the afternoon lunch rule. When they read out that girls were not allowed to go out of the college campus for afternoon lunch we asked them why not, and why guys weren’t imposed with this rule. We were told the most senseless reason: guys can run faster and be back in the campus by the time the afternoon classes start. We told them it was not fair but they did not take back the rule. They agreed to have an orientation for boys (after much debating and outbursts) but have not mentioned it even once after that day.

The make-up rule is very understandable and we agree that according to college norms, heavy makeup and lipstick wouldn’t be appropriate.

The next rule is the rule that stated girls and guys shouldn’t be found talking with one another and only some certain ratios were permitted and many others were not, for example: one guy and a group of girls, and one girl and a group of guys were not permitted. Being in a college of so many people, many of us don’t even know whom we end up talking to during the breaks. Sometimes while arriving at college or returning home, we might meet up with a friend of the opposite sex who would be walking the same route as ours, and we being friends would obviously walk together, how can we help it? Many of us have only good intentions in maintaining friendships with the people of opposite sex. Many a times we wouldn’t even notice how many girls or how many guys we’d be talking to in the campus. We suggest you take action against the ones who don’t keep their limits and not fine everyone out of who many only have plain good intentions. We were told not to visit boys of other classes during lunch breaks. According to the rules, it read “no girl should be found with boys”. Why can’t guys be found with girls? Why are girls asked to behave and boys, in the blink of an eye, accepted? Because it is universally believed that men will be men? The college encourages us to be social and talk to everyone, but if we’re permitted from meeting people who’re just one wall away from us, how else do they expect us to grow into “Men and Women” for others?

In many classes, girls were told to not sit in a particular position in class, because it was entertaining for boys. We were told not to wear nail paint, not because it wasn’t appropriate, but because it would attract boys and we should avoid anything and everything else that looked attractive. We could not help but feel angry for being treated like boy-hungry animals. Our question is why only us? Why are we being targeted for something that involved boys as well? Why aren’t boys asked to behave according to the social norms of the society? Why aren’t they imposed with rules so they don’t cross the limit? Why aren’t they asked to speak, act and walk a different way with girls? This kind of segregation will end up with students getting more and more curious in an unhealthy way.

Lecturers have threatened us by telling us that they can fine us then and there, without passing the copy of the rules, which by the way, does not have the principal’s signature nor the college seal. Another lecturer also opined in class that if students are found violating these rules, they should be humiliated in front of the whole college and then suspended.

Apart from the rules, a lot of us have been criticized and humiliated in front of many others for conversing with casual batch students. Casual batch students are just like us, studying in this institution, wearing our uniforms, being taught by our lecturers. It is inhuman to see them as something else the college isn’t fit to converse with.

A few lecturers did not approve of these rules and began reading them out by firstly apologizing to the students stating that they were utterly disgusted by the new rules but they couldn’t help but read it out because they were supposed to. They also started simply mocking the rules by announcing in class that they wouldn’t be teaching male students because they didn’t want to pay a huge amount as fine.

The whole college, girls as well as guys have found these rules to be very offensive, unfair and sexist and request you to lift the above mentioned rules and be just with us.

Thanking you,
yours obediently,

The Students Of Aloysius.

 

 

The Principal questions my motives, college authorities threaten police action

The Principal has declared in this TOI report that I had written my earlier post because I “… had issues with college had taken grudge by venting it on the net. ”

Author of the blog (satshyatharien.wordpress.com) had issues with one of the dean in 2011. So she has come out in public to vent out her anger now.”

Deccan Herald report  dated September 4, 2016 has been brought to my notice as well. The article states the following.

 Two days after a blog post on “discriminatory rules” enforced on students at St Aloysius PU College went viral, the college authorities are contemplating filing a complaint to the cybercrime police within two days. 

If the Deccan Herald report is to be believed, then the College is considering asking for police action against me. Considering that the Principal himself has confirmed that the rules in question are indeed in place, what could a potential police complaint against me be based on? That I merely opposed the rules?

Not only does it speak poorly of the way college authorities handle situations like this, but also highlights their complete lack of acknowledgement of the real issue at hand.

I had mentioned that this was not a post directed against the college, but against the sexism it is perpetrating. Questioning my intentions for speaking up just goes to show the culture of victim-blaming that is so blatantly clear in the rules he has issued.

The Principal indicates that my post was fuelled out of a sense of anger against the dean. I’m glad he understands that.

What he fails to understand however, is that that anger was born not out of malice, but out of the humiliation that was meted out to me. Unfairly. Because I was a 16-year-old girl who had to be disciplined, lest I bait boys my age by just sitting next to them. 

Why didn’t I speak up then? Because I was scared. Because people in similar situations who spoke out “against the college” were punished severely. By enforcing the idea that one must not speak out against the college in spite of unfair treatment, because “it spoils the college’s name”, you are encouraging thousands of students to be complicit in the injustice that they suffer.

That voice of patriarchy that reprimanded me four years ago is what resonates today in the rules handed out to the students of St. Aloysius PU College.

Rules that are offensive, unfair and sexist. 

Not my words, Sir – these are the words of your own students.

(Note: This article has been updated with details of the Deccan Herald report published on September 4, 2016 and my reply to the same.)

 

8 Comments Add yours

  1. aharshac says:

    Thanks for speaking out on behalf of all of us. I believe that with the fines and the humiliation involved, none of us, would have challenged them then and there. These people believe that just because they are a century old, they are above the very morals that they preach. They’re morally bankrupt to comprehend your previous post.
    Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Zennon says:

    I don’t think it could have been more perfectly worded 🙂 let them understand that the intention behind all this isn’t to bash the college or ruin its reputation (that happened the moment these rules came to light). The intention is for women in the college to be treated fairly and not objectified and critized for talking to a guy. That kind of disgusting mentality is exactly what we are trying to eliminate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zennon says:

      Criticized* :p

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Zulfi ALI says:

    IF THEY WANT TO HAVE THESE TYPE OF RULES, THEN WHY THEY ARE HAVING A CO EDUCATION COLLEGE IN THE FIRST PLACE.
    JUST MAKE IT A BOYS COLLEGE OR A WOMEN’S COLLEGE.
    AS FOR THE SEXIST RULES YOU ARE RUNNING A COLLEGE NOT A KINDERGARTEN.
    AND FOR THE COLLEGE THEY TAKE IN HUGE AMOUNT OF MONEY AD DONATIONS, FEES AND EVEN HUGE FINES. ITS MERELY A CASE OF MAKING MONEY BY THE COLLEGE. THEY KNOW THAT THERE WILL BE ONE STUPID STUDENT WHO WILL BREAK ANY OF THE ABOVE SAID RULES AND HIS/HER CASH COW FATHER WILL PAY OFF THE FINES THINKING ABOUT HIS FUTURE.
    AND ONE MORE RIDICULOUS RULE IS IF THEY REPEAT A MISTAKE THRICE HE/SHE WILL BE SENT OUT OF THE COLLEGE.
    IT WILL BE FUNNY BECAUSE IF ANYONE ASKS THE PERSON AFTER THEY A DISMISSED SHE CAN “FOR APPLYING NAIL POLISH” THAT WOULD BE A GOOD TESTAMENT FOR THE MENTALITY OF THE MANAGEMENT AND THE INSTITUTION.
    AS OF NOW THE SIMPLEST WAY FOR THE COLLEGE TO AVOID ALL THIS IS ” JUST MAKE BURKHA AS YOUR YOUR COLLEGE UNIFORM”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Siddanth Sanil says:

    My Sister Anisha Sanil from PCBH faced similar problem. She placed her hand on one of her batch mates shoulder who was a guy while preparing for Hindi test. Her Identity Card was taken away for doing so, by one of the faculty. My mother was called very next day. The faculty exaggerated the incident while narrating it to my mother. But back then… We had no voice to raise the issue fearing the system. Thank you for speaking up.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Vibha Sequeira says:

    Dear Satshya,
    Thanks for highlighting these ridiculous rules and bringing attention to the issue of sexism in institutions of higher learning. I was a student of St. Aloysius PU college around 25 years ago when it was newly co-ed. While there were no printed rules, we faced situations similar to your own experience and that of the students today. Why didn’t I bring it up then? Because I had been conditioned by years of convent school education and the patriarchal mindset of society to believe that this is how things were, are and forever shall be. Fear of lecturers and management was strong. I had opted for this college because it was the only one offering Comp. Sc. at that time. So I was not willing to risk being thrown out, or my family shamed, for something as minor as openly interacting with male classmates! Not all lecturers were narrow minded… but the ones who were could strike terror in the hearts of any boy or girl who had the misfortune of being spotted with the opposite sex outside the classroom. Of course, in-class interaction was almost impossible since we had to sit separately.

    Things got better in the undergrad years and I still look back on my college life with a feeling of nostalgia and pride in being an Aloysian. But over the years, I have realised that not all educational institutions are fearful of male-female interactions nor are they sexist in putting tougher restrictions on girls. In fact, most Jesuit institutions worldwide are celebrated for their broad outlook on social issues. I speak up today to support you and all other women and girls who are fighting to change patriarchal mindsets, to take a stand against moral policing of any kind, and to wish my alma mater the very best in becoming a role model of equality.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Smitha Dhanaraj says:

    Hi satshya,
    As a female ex student of St. Aloysius, (and of a very different era apparently), it is incomprehensible how regressive this favourite college of mine has become.
    I appreciate your outspokenness in highlighting your own personal experience, and in letting the world know that matters have only gotten worse.
    Do not get bogged down by the various external pressures and the strain that you must be going through now, the truth will come out eventually.
    You have my support.
    – Smitha Dhanaraj

    Liked by 2 people

  7. whois me says:

    hahaha enjoy your work Father

    Like

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