For any fresh graduate from school, the prospect of studying at Delhi University seems like a beautiful one. This blandishment arises not only because of the academic flair that DU promises to award but also because of the variety of extracurricular activities that the various colleges under the University offer. The charm of Delhi University societies attracts many and has been a determining factor even during admissions.
The culture of Delhi University societies however is one that can only be understood once people are formally inducted into the college environment. For some these societies turn out to be a blessing as it paves a way for them to enter into the university through the ECA quota. Amidst the pandemic, the ECA quota was spoken of to be scrapped off but was brought back soon after. Debates surrounding the importance of extracurricular activities and the consequent need to have a variety of societies in college circuits are abundant. There is nonetheless, a question of privilege that still arises in the aspect of how these societies function.
It is often seen that certain societies among college circuits are revered more than others. This pedestalization occurs due to a Westernized obsession that puts talent in a hierarchy too. For example, Hindi Debating Societies are looked down upon while English Debating Societies are celebrated. Similarly, there is an aura of festivity that surrounds the Western Dance and Music Societies. However, the same respect is not granted to their Indian counterparts. This is also noticed in college fests which often become a ground for the English-speaking crowd. All the while, the rest are often made to feel unwelcome.
This hegemony also exists within the threshold of societies. The societies though made to be accessible to all are often subjected to gatekeeping. There is very little representation of Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi persons within these societies. Hence, they don’t feel comfortable reaching out to the council to address the exclusion that they face. Furthermore, the admission criteria into these societies are also often elitist in nature. The emphasis is given to a particular language and also the assumption that every individual has the resources to be able to sit for these auditions are exclusionary in nature. Additionally, audition intake into societies is rarely disable friendly. This overlaps with the inaccessible areas in which auditions are held. Most colleges lack disable friendly infrastructure which makes reach moreover distant.
College societies are supposed to be safe spaces for individuals to express their talent and showcase their merit. Yet some students are often incapable of even reaching the platform for a variety of reasons. Hence, the way forward would be to make council representation in these societies reservation friendly and enable better access. Moreover, a more approachable audition would process would also solve the problem of students feeling discomfort while doing something they are passionate about. Delhi University societies have opened up a road for many to explore their talents, however, the inaccessibility to it if considered will further open up this space to more.