Uniforms have become mandatory in many professional colleges. Students and college managements explain the advantages and disadvantages of a dress code, as Athira M. listens

Until a few years ago, uniforms were compulsory in schools. But they were meant to be shed as soon as one stepped into colleges. Campus fashion was a class apart! Students wore their attitude and flaunted their outlook through their clothes.

Cut to the present. In many professional colleges in the city and its outskirts, students are now required to wear uniforms in different colours and patterns. College managements, especially in the private sector, insist that the move is to instil discipline and uniformity. But as with everything else, there is no uniformity among the student community on whether it is a good idea to make these young adults wear uniforms.

Some call it a suppression of students’ rights. Many term the rule regressive. Another group laments that it takes away the spirit of campus life.

In most medical colleges, a white overcoat is mandatory for all students. That might be a reason why uniforms aren’t insisted upon in most of them.

“Oh… such a pain!” Aswin N. expresses his disappointment thus. Aswin, a former student of Lourde Matha College of Science and Technology, says he always hated wearing the uniform. Sharanya, a student of Sree Chithira Tirunal College of Engineering, is happy that she didn’t have to go back to her uniform days. “After wearing uniforms for 12 years, I can’t even imagine wearing one again to college,” she says.

But managements disagree. “It is meant to bring in discipline. Also, as in schools, it creates a certain kind of equality as students come from different economic backgrounds. The disparity would be easily visible once we do away with the dress code. Uniforms are affordable for all,” says Father George Paul, manager, Marian Engineering College. He adds: “It becomes the identity of a particular college. Dignity and professionalism are attached to the dress code. In fact, many educational institutions, including schools have copied our dress code.”

Agreeing with him is C.A. Saheeda, Principal of Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Technology for Women, which, though Government-run, follows a dress code. “A lot of discussions were held on the topic before a consensus was reached on having uniforms,” she says. The students are allowed to skip uniforms on Wednesdays, as in the case of Pankaja Kasthuri College of Science and Technology and P.A.Aziz College of Engineering and Technology.

T.M.George, Principal, Mar Baselios College of Engineering and Technology, too stresses on the discipline aspect. “In addition, we are a campus within a campus and a dress code is essential to identify our students. We did away with the salwar-kameez-dupatta combination for girls, since dupattas weren’t easy to handle. So, we now have a three-piece set (white top, grey pant and grey overcoat) for them,” he says.

But Ashalatha Thampuran, director, Mohandas College of Engineering and Technology, strongly opposes uniforms. “We don’t have a uniform for students, but we insist on formal wear for all the students. I don’t believe that discipline has got anything to do with uniforms. For 12 years they were stuck with the uniform, and it would be unfair to force the dress code on them at an age when they are supposed to look their best,” she says.

There were several ayes for uniforms too. Aksa Antony, a final year student of Mar Baselios, says: “Initially, I was not happy about wearing a uniform. But, after spending four years in the college, I don’t regret it. I don’t have to worry about what dress to wear every day.” Sanchana Elizabeth Cherian of St. Thomas Institute of Science and Technology, Kazhakuttom, too is all for the uniform. “That saves a lot of time and money! If there is no dress code, we would be spending more time on choosing the dress! That way, I prefer uniforms,” she says.

A consensus seems miles and miles away and so the arguments continue…

College maxims

Of the 20-plus engineering colleges in Thiruvananthapuram, over a dozen of them have uniforms. This includes Marian Engineering College, Heera College of Engineering and Technology, John Cox Memorial C.S.I Institute of Technology, MG College of Engineering, Sarabhai Institute of Science and Technology, P.A. Aziz College of Engineering and Technology, College of Engineering, Attingal, Lourde Matha College of Science and Technology, and Mar Baselios College of Engineering and Technology, among others.