On the morning of 29th August, campus residents awoke to a notice put up on hostel notice-boards, scrapping the holding of valedictory functions in hostels. The notice came on the back of a mail from the DoSA’s office back in April that warned against “substance abuse… abusive and obscene language, sexist and misogynistic statements” in these functions, and another mail that forbade Hostel 8 to conduct a valfi for the next 3 years.
Valedictory functions or ’valfis’ as they are called in the institute, are intended to be exaggerated and sensationalized public recounting of all events and occurrences that an individual has been a part of, during his/her stay at IITB. This decades-old tradition was brought to a halt after the administration received complaints of physical assault in the functions organized in Hostels 6 and 10, besides the prevalence of vulgar, racist and derogatory statements.
More often than not, ‘valfis’ descend into rants, with some down-right nasty and derogatory remarks and references that might defame individuals publicly without their consent. The scripts, prepared in groups, reek of objectification and chauvinism. Armed with blaring sounds and ‘aamras’, the functions stretch into the wee hours of the morning, creating a major nuisance for other hostel residents, very close to the end-semester exams. With their funds drawn from the students’ mess accounts, one might be forgiven for feeling hard done by the entire concept.
The intention behind the entire tradition, however, is to bring together people and celebrate the culmination of a memorable journey while giving them an opportunity to iron out differences and get closure, for everything from professional rivalries to friendships turned sour.
Would banning the valfi stop the abuse, sexism and unwanted activities that take place? No, the same things would happen elsewhere in a different setting. What is needed is for students to have a valfi, maybe in a different way, in a more mature setting. But banning just shows the inability of the administration to make changes to the way things are while also highlighting their reluctance to engage with students on a sensitive issue. If the administration genuinely wanted to take on issues of misbehaviour head on (and yes there are issues with the way valfi are), it would engage students instead of imposing an unexpected, uninvited ban on valfis.
At the same time, it also falls upon the students to listen to the concerns of the administration because the complaints received for the past few years have accumulated for them to take this drastic measure. Every spring, there are long threads of discussions on Facebook that occur and are left behind only to be had again by new set of people. There are also some emails sent to the institute community.
If this has to change for the good, the administration, by virtue of its power advantage, has to start an engagement with students, online and offline, so that there are actual acceptable results instead of what we have today – both in terms of the ban and the way valfis are.
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