As an ‘ordinary’ student I joined EFL University (CIEFL), struggling to cope with a completely different atmosphere. I felt inferior in every way; the way I spoke, my written language and even the way I read. Sometimes even the way I dressed when my friends pointed out made me feel inferior. Now I am able to start a blog, I got my fair share of visibility and I involve myself in activities because of the Cultural Studies Department. This Department evoked my interest and made me question many things especially Caste? Therefore the one issue that has been troubling me often for the past two years is the Mess I eat in. So this article is about the Mess and Cultural Studies students of EFLU.
In CIEFL we had just one mess, after it became EFLU, the administration arranged for two messes where they wanted to divide Mess membership based on Gender. Students protested, asking why the administration should differentiate students on the basis of gender. Therefore the earlier VC supported this argument and held a referendum. The referendum was in favor of the protesting students, for a common mess membership where anyone can join any Mess. When the membership started on first come first serve basis, surprisingly Basheer Hostel Mess had a majority of Men and Bai Chanda hostel had a majority of Women with around 30 Men as its members.
An understanding between both the messes
After a year the Womens hostel office gave immediate mess Membership to women in Bai Chand mess and the Men were given membership in Basheer Hostel mess. Both members have never come on a single forum to address their grievances, though they both had serious problems in their respective Messes during the last two academic years.
The Third Year as the strength increased Basheer Hostel had 850 members and the Baichand hostel had 470 members.
Let us focus on the Structure of both these Messes.
Has a seating capacity of 120. Mess Members 329 (some around 25-40 Boys and remaining were women)
2008, the administration chose 6 Mess secretaries for a period of two months each. These 6 Mess secretaries will run the mess for a total of 12 months. (majority of the mess secretaries were Men during this year, though there were only 40 men as mess members.)
2009, in order to reduce the work load of the Mess secretaries they chose 1 secretary for each month. Among these 12 secretaries (3 were men and the rest were women but not from all categories, Still Men were dominant in the Mess)
Though there is a high women population in the Mess there is a serious under representation in the Mess administration and women from different social categories are never seen.
Has a seating capacity of 220. Mess members 470, (including 5 girls)
All the Mess secretaries were men.
On the 11th of August most of us in the Campus saw posters calling for a general body meeting to discuss the Mess issues. It was surprising for some of us to see a call for a general body meeting (Indian students) to address the Mess issues, as such a thing has never happened before. Before going any further, we must know why such a meeting was called for.
The Academic year started on the 2nd of August 2010, the admissions to the Mess also started on the same day. The Basheer Mess allowed its members to join the very same day but the Bai Chanda Mess did not allow students to join the Mess (this includes old members too). The people in charge said the old and new students will be allowed to become members once the office provides enough staff till then they can be a Guest. After a few days some of students raised their voice against this saying such a bias should not exist, students should be able to become members according to the university rules.
With this their membership were accepted in Bai Chanda. Since Basheer Hostel has 850 Members they were not able to have their food in the allotted one hour, there was not enough space either. So in just two or three days the members of the Basheer Hostel went on a protest against the administration asking for a new mess where all the members can be accommodated.
Since Bai Chanda also had the same problem they organized a general body meeting to take up this issue. This was the reason a combined general body meeting was called for.
Note: Bai Chanda hostel has a furnished mess hall which has been kept closed for the past two months from the time it was constructed. This Hall has a sitting capacity of 100. It is quite surprising why the new Bai Chanda mess hall is kept closed when people don’t have any place to sit and eat. As mentioned earlier Bai Chanda has a seating capacity of 120 and if we add the seating capacity of the new non operational mess it is 220, same as the Basheer Hostel Mess.
I have some points to raise here:
1. The referendum we had was for a common Mess in both the hostels, accordingly the membership must be renewed every academic year. This was not what happened, students who took admission in 2009 or 2010 were never given a choice to choose the mess of their liking as it was decided in the referendum. They automatically became members of their own respective Hostel mess. This year Bai Chanda was forced to take a few extra members from the Basheer hostel after a few students demanded to be taken in. Since then this became a General issue.
2. Why was Bai Chanda hostel reluctant to give mess memberships to their own Hostel members when Basheer Hostel could give immediate mess memberships?
3. After the General Body Meeting they brought up their demands as a Memorandum, they mention: Temporary dining arrangements must be set up, immediately, utilizing available spaces on campus, such as the non operational mess space in Mahlaqa Bai Chanda Hostel, the basements of Akka Mahadevi and Tagore hostels.
The above mentioned point doesn’t clearly say what they mean by temporary dining arrangements. Basheer Mess has 850 members and Bai Chanda 470 members, but both messes have the same seating capacity. So why can’t the students ask for equal membership in the both the Mess? Then, Basheer and Bai Chand will have 660 members each. But they are asking for temporary seating. Which means Basheer hostel mess will have the same strength till the next semester, they will be provided with a place to eat and thus settle their issue for this semester alone and Bai Chanda will have no pressure to accommodate any new members?
4. The whole issue is directed only towards the administration but we should not forget that the issue here is not only about space but also about membership and exclusivity. Membership can be sorted out among the Mess secretaries; but all they are asking for is temporary seating arrangements and a new mess. In this sense the GB does not ask the Bai Chanda secretaries to have equal students in both the hostel.
5. Issues raised in the General Body meetings concerns only ‘Indian’ students. The international students in the Campus are seen only as vote banks. When is this trend going to change in this Campus?