College is where teenagers blossom. A place where they learn, evolve and transform into better human beings. College provides them the opportunity to be responsible and to take up responsibility. During one’s college life, apart from one’s favourite teachers, it is the student union leader, who is admired the most. The team of office bearers play a positive role within and outside the college campus. Every college union has its own special character, as we find out in this story.

Largest group

MOP Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai

Final year journalism student, Kandrikar Afza Fathima, prime minister of the Student cabinet, of MOP Vaishnav College for Women, is confident that the immense experience that she gains will take her places in future and enable her to play the leadership role efficiently. “Our union is organised like the Indian parliament, with the principal of the college as president. Ours is one of the biggest unions with 22 members of parliament, each delegated a portfolio,” she says. Subashini B. who is the minister of intellectual affairs, explains that each of the 18 departments of the college forms a ministry, with elected members from each ministry. Our team is involved in maintaining discipline, ensuring that students adhere to dress code and don’t use mobile phone in campus,” says Ms. Fathima.

Mahmoodha Nowshin, who is responsible for media and PR says that she and her team are gearing up to celebrate the institution’s 20th year of existence. “All events that we organise will pertain to this theme,” says Ms. Fathima. These 22 key members are assisted by two or three deputies, making this student union team (222 members) the biggest in the city.

Decision makers

Madras Christian College, Chennai

“Our college has a list of illustrious alumni and most of these alumni have donned the role of the general secretary of the college students union,” beams Prashanth Doraiappah, the present general secretary of Madras Christian College(MCC) students union. The union here comprises eight members who form the core team. “No other college in the city treats the student union the way MCC does. We are invited for all management-level meetings and all major decisions are taken in concurrence with the students union,” says cultural secretary Allan V. Jose.

Deepwoods, the annual cultural festival of MCC is one of the most popular events organised by the college. Every year, the events that find their way into Deepwoods are determined by the union. The scrub society of the college joins hands with the students union to maintain the biodiversity of the sprawling MCC campus that has a rich flora and fauna. The union had sought the assistance from Blue Cross of India to care for the dogs in the campus.

The MCC management involves the chairman of the student union, before taking any disciplinary action upon any student. College principal, Dr. Alexander Jesudasan says, “The student union creates awareness among students to desist from ragging. It cooperates with the college administration in upholding the decisions against ragging,” he says.

Socially conscious

Loyola College, Chennai

Loyola College holds three cultural events —an inter-departmental cultural meet called Ovations, an inter-collegiate dance festival in the even semester and a philanthropic event called Sterling Street where they offer food and medical aid to the people living around their college. Theirs is a 66 member union in which five are elected and the rest are nominated or selected. Associate secretary, Roshni Cherian, is the only girl on the team and says “Compared to the boys, the number of girls is low. And for instance, in sports we are not given as much opportunity. By introducing a girls’ team we try to gain more opportunities.”

Their union is strong in voicing protests against social injustice. Father Mahalingam, the vice-principal recalls, “In 2009, when there was ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka the students union mobilised the students and we made a manifesto. In 2008, when there was violence and many people were killed in Orissa near Kandhamal district, Loyola students conducted a human chain programme.” The list goes on.

Packs a punch

Stella Maris College, Chennai

Stella Maris students elect their leaders when they are finishing their second year itself, so that they enter the third years with a portfolio. Theirs is the smallest union with only six members in the core team. Their union is completing sixty years in 2012 and celebrations are around the corner. They have a strong alumni association and many illustrious members, most recently, singer Shweta Mohan who was the cultural secretary a few years ago. Their culturals is called Aquilae – “after the constellation” the office bearers are quick to add. Union president Maria Joseph says, “It was an eye opener. We worked within the rules and it was just fantastic. Suddenly this year, we had 21 colleges that entered Stella Maris… People complain that we have so many rules but if you really have a goal, these don’t matter.”

These college unions are strongly supported by staff advisors who pitch in as and when it is required. Cooperation, responsibility, management, enforcement, team work — all this and much more is what these youngsters learn and what they learn here goes a long way in making them future leaders in their chosen fields.