“Today's students are more outspoken, better aware of their rights and responsibilities''

The city's arts and science colleges have always been known for their vibrant on-campus life. Be it Stella Maris' cultural fests or Madras Christian College's environmental activism, college campuses are an integral part of the city's landscape.

With yet another bunch of students making the rite of passage from school to the brave new world of campus life, it is time for some stock- taking. In a majority of colleges, the new union has taken charge, topics for seminars are getting discussed by the faculty and a lot of academic and new extracurricular activities are being planned. A total of 44 arts and science colleges are affiliated with Madras University in the city.

While students of Queen Mary's College are waiting to occupy the new building on their campus that was inaugurated recently, a new hostel building of Quid-e-Millath Government College for Women is getting ready. Presidency College is sporting a new look, with the red- brick building undergoing renovation work and a landscape garden coming up at a cost of Rs.10 lakh. In addition, a new block has come up with 15 additional classrooms. On the academic front it has introduced M. Phil in two more departments — Microbiology and Computer Science.

According to a former faculty of a government college, it is celebration time when a government college gets a facelift as funds crunch and red-tapism delay developmental works. Queen Mary's College is getting a new building on the campus after 50 years, says the faculty.

Quite a number of institutions have new principals taking charge envisioning new ideas and many have introduced new courses or have started evening colleges.

S.I.V.E.T. College, Gowriwakkam, one of the oldest institutions in the southern suburb, introduced B.Sc. Visual Communication last year and this year it has started B. Com Corporate Secretaryship. Technology is the buzz-word everywhere and colleges are not far from adopting such advancements. While students of Madras University will be diligently clocking more hours on the campus with the smart cards being introduced, Government Arts College for Men, Nandanam has got an e-library.

Similarly, Madras Christian College's Bio-informatics Department is initiating e-content, where a collection of recorded lectures would be available for students for future reference. There is also a plan to share the e-content with foreign universities.

Beyond books

However, college life is not just about the classes. Most of the learning happens outside the academic confines — in debating societies and environment clubs, music bands and theatre groups. Those are the places where memories are made. Chandini Tandon, BA Literature student in Stella Maris, has already signed up for four clubs in her college. “The first two or three days, we had a lot of orientation sessions. The second day was dedicated for the club orientation. I was so intrigued by some of the presentations that I signed up for so many clubs.”

Joshua Fernandes, a B.Sc. Visual communication student at MCC, says "Extracurricular activities are the best way to get to know seniors. I am from Dubai and it was a culture shock at first. But I've learned to fit in mainly because of music. Just three weeks into college, a group of us have got together to form a college band." Canteens are taking the healthy route. For instance, the new canteen at Meenakshi College for Women is serving varieties of sundal as snacks and lemon tea with honey.

Challenges

The transition from the spoon-fed school environment, streamlining courses in English for students coming from rural areas and attitudinal behavioural problems are challenges a majority of faculty members have started addressing.

In the last academic year, Loyola College focussed on providing psychological counselling to students troubled with studies. This time, stress is also on improving the mentoring system. Each teacher will have 10 students to mentor and guide. For students who are financially poor, the staff are helping them find part-time jobs.

Today's students are more outspoken, better aware of their rights and responsibilities, say faculty.

R. Sridhar, admission in-charge, MCC, remembers facing opposition from students when the management was planning to cut the trees on the campus to build a hall — showing how environmental conscious they are.

(With inputs from Liffy Thomas, M. Lavanya, T. Madhavan and Ajai Sreevatsan)

WHAT THEY SAY

Devika Menon, first year student of social work, MCC:

The college life is completely different from the school life. We are no longer spoon-fed and are expected to take up responsibilities on our own. Also there are students from other States and countries in our class. There is a great amount of exposure to different types of people and cultures.

J. Gnana Pushpam, Principal, Patrician College of Arts and Science

Discipline is the foremost that colleges need to instill in students today. We have PTA meeting where parents are addressed once a term on their child’s performance. Also with students coming from different backgrounds and cultures, we do not allow students coming to college wearing t-shirts with flashy words.

Badhri Narayanan, Parent

There has been a huge transformation in campus life since the time I went to college. I have left it to my son to adapt to the new setting. He has the freedom to make his own choices. However, I have cautioned him about ragging and the need to adapt to multi-cultural settings. Just a month into college, his closest friend is a Chinese student.