The purpose of an educational institution is to impart knowledge. That, and to provide avenues to develop the various skills and potentialities of its students. So why exactly do colleges like MCC tell their students what to wear? Now I realize these are private institutions and its their prerogative to dictate any kind of dress code they want. If tomorrow colleges say that all students should keep pet parrots on their shoulders, that’s their right. Just like every business can impose any kind of crazy conditions if they want. Their business, their rules.
But here’s the problem. Colleges and other educations institutions don’t treat students as customers. They forget that the students and their parents are paying them money in return for a service. Instead these places have a kind of mentality that makes them think they have an ethical right to dictate what kind of lives their customers must lead. What they can wear, who can visit in their rooms, and at what time they should come back to the hostel. In many cases, these students are above 18. They’re adults and don’t require the permission of their “guardians” or anyone else. They come to college to get knowledge. Wearing jeans or sleeveless tops doesn’t magically prevent the brain from absorbing knowledge. So what gives?
Some people feel that a college’s job isn’t just to impart knowledge, but to develop a person’s character. That’s dubious because it begs the question of who gets to define the “ideal” character. Sure, a college can have a host of extra curricular activities – debate clubs, sports, trekking expeditions and what not. All these help build this mystical “character” thing and students can choose to join these groups or stay away as per their wishes. But colleges don’t stop there. They go further into trying to dictate morals to their students and that’s where the problems start.
Another line of argument claims that sleeveless tops and “skimpy dresses” distract students from their studies. I feel this is a load of horseshit for two reasons. First, there’s no data to indicate that colleges where boys and girls can mix freely have a lower academic performance. If anything, the reverse is true. None of the well known, top, and famous colleges have absurd rules like “Boys shouldn’t talk to girls” or have ropes segregating the sexes in buses. Second, as this article in the TOI shows, students passing out of colleges with restrictive policies are ill equipped to deal with the modern workplace where people of both sexes mingle with each other on a day to day basis. The focus is on getting the job done – not with the gender of the other person.
If the goal of a college is to prepare a student for professional life, then institutions with stupid rules that don’t reflect the modern workplace are simply unsuitable, incompetent, and a fraud. Even a purely girls college or a purely boys college is better than a “co-ed” institution where the focus is on keeping the two genders apart. Because this just sends a message that talking to the opposite sex is wrong. And that’s simply unacceptable in the modern workplace. If the excuse for these rules is that it’s “distracting”, then what happens when the pass outs need to deliver on their deadlines in an environment where working closely with male and female colleagues is the norm?
I also feel that the absurd segregation in schools is responsible for the warped attitudes we Indians have towards the opposite sex and sexuality in general. There’s simply no opportunity for developing the necessary skills. So when hormones hit, many people choose grossly inappropriate methods like stalking, and harassment generously helped along by films and Indian movies that propagate the myth that harassing a girl is the best way to get her to fall in love with you!
I sincerely hope that well known companies will openly stop hiring from colleges that implement backward practices like segregation of the sexes. It’s in their best interests that they hire employees who have experience working with everyone regardless of gender. Once people are aware of these hiring policies, they’ll stop applying to such places. It’ll be the only thing to finally get through to them.