Recent news mentioned about proposal in St Stephen’s college, Delhi about instituting 40% quota for men in admissions.
To preserve what was once an all “male” bastion, the Supreme Council of St Stephen’s College has decided to reserve 40 per cent of seats in the college for male students.
Some hue and cry is being raised about the issue of having boys to raise their standards to get admission into St Stephens, and it is unfair to women who get admission based on merit. 65% of total students studying in St Stephens now are women.
Let’s look at the history of St Stephen when it comes to giving admissions to boys and girls:
St Stephen’s was an all male college till 1975 when the college opened its doors and admitted girl students for the first time. It was the then Governing Body that had decided to have a minimum of 25 per cent reservation for girls in this prestigious institution. The first co-Ed batch of the college had only 12 girl students. Over the years, however, the of girls have outnumbered the boys.
There may be an angle to it that the girls outnumber boys because of the kind of courses that St Stephen’s offers and is known for:
Courses like English and History Honours have more girls than boys. “The English literature class has a very skewed male-female ratio. The third year English Literature class has 26 girls and only three boys,” said Karen Gaberial of the English Department. Gaberial is also the media advisor of the college.
Not being known as a college for studying science, commerce, business education could be one reason why there are lesser number of boys getting admitted to their courses.
But the point remains that an all-boys college was opened to girls in 1975. Most importantly, a quota of 25% for girls was instituted in a prestigious institution where getting admission for boys would not have been easy either.
St Stephen’s and Hindu College had been boys’ colleges for years before they were open to girls in the 1970s. However, girls’ colleges, including Miranda House, Indraprastha and Daulat Ram, have so far remained all girls’ colleges.
So opening boys colleges for girls is fine, giving 25% quota to girls in admissions was considered fine and not against any public policy, but giving 40% quota to boys now is considered a sacrilege and against meritocracy!
From same news on Times of India, a woman professor Nandita Narain of the St Stephen states:
“Arguments were made that women students are taking up a majority of seats and that there were also a number of women’s colleges in Delhi University. If this is the case then you should make the boys do well, not deny seats to meritorious girls,” she said.
What happened to laudable goal of meritocracy when 25% quota for girls was instituted in 1975? If that was some kind of affirmative action in favour of girls and women, isn’t a similar affirmative action needed now in favour of boys and men?