The Ethiraj College in Egmore, Chennai, is a living monument to its founder's dreams. V.L. Ethiraj, a magnanimous and wealthy barrister, wanted to set up an institution to provide quality education for women. So emerged the Ethiraj College in 1948. The college recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. The Principal Dr. Indhrani Sridharan spoke to Chennaionline on several interesting aspects:
Q: What was the main reason for going autonomous?A: The reasoning has been to orient education to industry's and societal needs. Not that the University has not done its job. It's just that now we will be able to offer many subject combinations that will cater to market needs and trends.
Q: Are there any specific goals for this year?A: Yes! The main goal for this year is the construction of our MBA and MCA block. We have an area of 59 grounds (more than 14,000 sq m) in the annexe, but have been unable to start construction because of not getting clearance from the CMDA and the Corporation. But this year, it will be done since we have already promised the AICTE that permanent premises will be available for the two courses. We will be doing it at a cost of Rs.1 crore, which has already been set aside.
Q: What is the purpose behind starting certificate courses?A: Actually the certificate courses are not new. But because the first and second year of day college have gone autonomous, we wanted to see if the idea of starting several side courses would be feasible logistically and with respect to time. This year, it is on an experimental basis and it has worked very well. We offer courses in several areas like travel and tourism, medical transcription, etc. which are available at a highly subsidised cost. We want our students not just to have a mere degree, but to equip them with something more.
Q: In light of the tragic death of Sarika Shah two years ago, how has the security been stepped up?A: See, I can only take care of the girls when they are in the campus. Only then are they my responsibility. But it is not possible to keep an eye on them outside. We warn them not to go to certain places outside the campus, but then I also feel bad. After all it's not fair that they can't even go to a card store to buy their friend a gift for a birthday! I can only appeal to them, but the minute they step out of the campus, they are responsible for their own actions.
Q: Do you think that an all-girls atmosphere is healthy?A: I myself come from a co-educational background because I studied at the Madras Christian College. Boys and girls studying together does not mean that they always end up romancing. So I think co-education is healthy.
Q: If you had your way, would you change Ethiraj into a co-educational institution?A: Remember that the founder of this college donated all his money only to see the uplift of female students. By admitting boys, we will be going against the very constitution of Ethiraj College.
Q: Do you think reservation of seats is a good policy? It just does not seem fair to students who really do well.A: In a welfare state like ours, illiteracy remains a big problem. So for these large numbers of illiterate masses, education has to be brought to their doorstep. This is a problem with all third world countries -- illiteracy and poverty. It may not be fair, but in the greater interest of the masses the interests of a few have to be sacrificed.
Q: What is your idea of the perfect Ethirajian?A: She should stand out in a crowd due to her excellence of performance and strength of character. We want our students to be quality products.
Q: What has been your most memorable moment in college?A: Celebrating the golden jubilee of the college has been one of the high points in my career here. And I have been here a full 33 years, having joined as a tutor, then serving as a Head of Department and finally as the Principal. My friends say that this is my first love. Indeed, I do not deny it and I'm much the richer for being in this chair.
Q: How do you see Ethiraj College 10 years from now?A: I would like to see it get the status of a deemed university. It has every single requirement for it.