Last week Tanuja Viswanath (18) wore a crisp, starched orange kurta and stood in front of a panel of teachers to face a barrage of questions on her experience and goals. This was not an admission interview, but an interview to be part of the student council of St Xavier’s College.
Across campuses, students are filing nominations to be part of student councils, the most powerful student body in a college. Though the final selection procedure for the council starts only after the university issues guidelines, students are already preparing for their interviews.
Unlike other universities, student council elections in Mumbai lack political colour because of a government rule that bans elections. Members of student councils are chosen by faculty members rather than a democratic election.
“Being part of a student council is important to the whole college experience. I had to write a brief note about why I wanted to be part of the council and then the interview. I was a little nervous but I hope I make it,” said Viswanath, a second year BA student.
College faculty looks for certain attributes in their student council members. “We select students who are actively involved in various college activities, have good academic records and possess leadership qualities,” said Sangita Kher, vice principal, Narsee Monjee College at Vile Parle.
Besides adding value to the CV, being part of students’ council also helps the students gain practical experience. It helps improve communication and leadership skills. College managements also take the suggestions of their council members seriously so these councils act as a bridge between teachers and students.
“I had the opportunity to start various initiatives such as a monthly college newsletter called Subject to Change and conducting surveys regarding students’ opinions on campus issues which I wouldn’t have got otherwise,” said Oishani Mitra (21), who was the general secretary of St Xavier’s College in 2008 and a council member since the first year.
In some colleges such as St Xavier’s, HR College of Commerce and Jai Hind College, student councils go beyond their role and help with all college activities from admissions to the annual day. For example, at HR College the entire junior college and degree college admissions are handled by the student council.
Students who have been part of student councils said that the experience had helped them even in their professional lives.
It gave them practical knowledge and trained them in human resource management. “Being part of the student council taught me that execution is more important than planning,” said Yashraj Akashi, a brand management professional, who was in charge of managing the brand of his college R.A.Podar College. He was the general secretary of his college in 2006. “I realised I had to value others’ suggestions. Managing the brand of my colleges helped me immensely in my work life,” said the 23-year-old.
Know your council
A student council comprises toppers from all the three degree years a cultural representative, a representative from the National Social Service Scheme, a representative from National Cadet Corps, sports representative and two female representatives. Council members elect a general secretary from among themselves. The general secretary represents the college at the university level. The council meets regularly to discuss campus issues and is a link between students and staff members. The government usually issues guidelines on student councils 45 days after the last admission is done.Yashshri Soman