St Xavier?s College, Calcutta

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By GET THE LOWDOWN ON THE INSTITUTE OF THE WEEK
  • Published 12.01.05
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One of the oldest and most prestigious educational institutions in Calcutta, St Xavier?s College was founded on January 16, 1860, by a small group of Jesuit Fathers under the leadership of Fr H. Depelchin. Rich in tradition and history, the college premise has remained unchanged ever since. Classes started at the present location in the building of what had been, since 1840, the famous Sans Souci Theatre on Park Street.

In 1862, the college got affiliated to Calcutta University. Four years later, Xavier?s presented its first BA candidate. Today, that tiny seed has grown into a mighty tree. St Xavier?s now has more than 4,000 students in a huge five-storey building with libraries, reading rooms, laboratories, computer centres and other facilities. The building, however, retains its old look and exudes a vintage charm.

A giant staircase greets you as you enter the building. The corridors, running along the classrooms, are wide and spacious The lush green playground at the rear end of the campus is a pretty sight. So is the narrow path lining the ground which is famously known as the ?catwalk?. And no matter which college you go to, student life in Calcutta is incomplete without a visit to the ?green benches? ? a cluster of benches in one corner of the campus where students gather for extended chat sessions.

VITAL STATISTICS
• WHAT IS IT? One of the most well-known colleges in Calcutta.
• WHO’S THE BOSS Father P.C. Mathew, principal.
• HOW TO GET IN? Each subject has a cut-off mark. Applicants for subjects like English, political science, masscomm and computer science must take an admission test.
• HOW CHEAP IS IT? The fee is Rs 230 per month. Hostel charge is Rs 700 per month.
• GLITTERING ALUMNI: J.C. Bose, L.N. Mittal, Sanjeev Goenka, Jyoti Basu, Saurav Ganguly, Vijay Mallya, Harsh Neotia and Buddhadeb Guha.
• WHERE IS IT? 30 Park Street, Calcutta 16, ph: (033) 2247 7278 /7725, website: www.sxccal.edu.

For all that, discipline has never been compromised with at Xavier?s. Loitering in the corridors or the ground is prohibited and bunking classes is discouraged. And an important event in the college?s history was when the BA, BSc and BEd departments became co-educational from the 1978-79 session.

?It has been a steady growth for our college and the process continues. We have already added several new disciplines and many more are lined up,? says principal, Father P.C. Mathew.

The college boasts an excellent audio-visual room that is used for the film studies course. Other than the main library that has one lakh titles, there?s a reading room that contains textbooks and reference books on all subjects. There are also well-equipped laboratories for physics, chemistry, statistics, computer science and biology. And for those who have more than just a passing interest in computers, there is a cyber room equipped with Internet.

In recent years, the thrust has been on upgrading courses and on introducing new ones. Statistics, mass communication and videography, sociology, BBA and computer science have been added along with film studies, journalism and microbiology. ?The idea is to strike a balance between application-oriented courses and basic disciplines. The importance of basic sciences and liberal arts can?t be undermined for they produce knowledge through research. At the same time, we can?t ignore emerging needs and challenges,? explains Father Mathew. Next year, microbiology and biotechnology are going to be added to the list of courses.

The college also plans to launch a postgraduate department with IT, management, media and biosciences at its new E.M. Bypass campus. Autonomy, too, remains on the agenda. A placement cell has been set up last year to help students find employment.

Even as new disciplines are being added, the college hasn?t changed much over the years. The canteen, the classrooms, the fests remain the same. Every December, the college wears a festive look for Xavotsav ? arguably Calcutta?s best-known fest. ?It?s all about music and fun that we all enjoy. Even organising the fest is quite an experience. And the most satisfying part is that students from other colleges enjoy it as much as we do,? says Abhishek Sinha of third-year mass communication. Agrees Bharat Raj De, who passed out of the college last year. ?Every student I?ve known is proud to be a Xaverian.?

Prithvijit Mitra

Old memories

Industrialist Harsh Neotia reminisces about his days at St Xavier’s

Even though it’s been 24 years, I still remember the first day in college. Father Joris was standing at the entrance as students were filing in. He was in charge of the BCom section even when my father was a student there and I told him that. He got very nostalgic for a few minutes. That was how my life as a Xaverian started.
The college always had a very open atmosphere. The teachers were friendly and helpful. Prof H.D.

Tiwari, for instance, was outstanding and there were several others like him. It was very difficult to bunk classes with Father Joris lurking around but we would still manage it. At the eight o’ clock break, we would sneak out of college and drive off to Russell Street for coffee. But there wasn’t much scope for extracurriculars. I don’t even recall if Xavotsav had started back then. But going to college and hanging out with friends in the campus was great fun.

As told to Prithvijit Mitra