New Delhi, May 4: Boys cannot catch up with brighter girls without a quota crutch, an aborted initiative at one of the best-known colleges in the country has acknowledged today.
A proposal to introduce a 40 per cent quota for boys at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi was shot down by teachers. But the very fact that such a proposal could be mooted was a reflection of the unbeatable heights girls have reached while pursuing merit.
Valson Thampu, the principal of St. Stephen’s, proposed the reservation in an apparent attempt to strike a balance between the number of girls and boys in the college. Girls account for around 66 per cent of the students in the college.
Students are admitted to undergraduate courses in the college on the basis of their marks in the higher secondary examination and an interview. Reflecting the trend of girls outscoring boys, the number of female students in the college has been rising over the past decade.
Thampu convened a meeting of staff members today and sought their support to introduce the reservation for boys in admission.
The college, a minority institution, enjoys the power to devise its own reservation policy. The governing body of the college decides the general admission policy and the supreme council of the college, made of the Bishop of Delhi and representatives from Churches of North India, can take steps to ensure that the minority character of the institution is not affected. The college has 50 per cent reservation for Christians.
Any change in policy on admission will have to be recommended by the staff council to the governing body that will take the final decision.
Thampu pointed out that St. Stephen’s was a college for boys initially and it became a co-ed institution in 1975. When it became a co-ed college, the governing body had agreed that 75 per cent students should be boys.
The trend of increasing number of female students indicates the scope for male students would be further restricted in the future unless some measure is taken, Thampu said.
However, a majority of the faculty members at the meeting opposed the proposal.
“It is a regressive step. There are more girls students because they are doing better than boys in the board exam and our interview. How can you deny education to a meritorious student because she is a girl?” said staff association president Nandita Narayan. Narayan said boys should be encouraged to study and compete with girls.
One faculty member walked out of the meeting in protest. “Such a proposal cannot be discussed in a civilised forum. Over centuries, women were subjugated in all spheres of life. We would commit the same mistake by having reservation for men,” he said.
Vice-principal R. Clement Rajkumar, however, suggested that the proposal had a certain rationality. Out of the 60 colleges under Delhi University, nearly 15 are meant only for girl students. The seats in the remaining co-ed institutions are open to boys and girls, which indicates that the space to accommodate male students is less than that for the female students.
But the former vice-chancellor of Delhi University, Deepak Pental, said: “Women’s colleges were started as part of an affirmative action to encourage girls to get into higher education. There is an historical sanctity behind opening such colleges. The argument for reservation for male students because there are exclusive women’s colleges is not correct. I would say any new college being opened in the national capital should be co-ed.”
Mani Shankar Aiyar, an alumnus of the college and a Rajya Sabha member, said:“I am delighted that the number of lady students has overtaken the men to the extent that reservation for men is being thought up. I do not think that we should have reservation for men. It is a college for the best students. The best students happen to be women. Congratulations to them. Reservation for men would dilute the quality of the institution,” he said.