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Lord of the Rank: The Ugly Truth About College Elitism

Elitism has been ever-present in the varsity environment of DU, playing a twin role of shame ranking and humiliation. Has the rank of your college ever influenced your life in convoluted ways? Read to find out more. 

Did you know that numbers hold the power to decide the type of air you breathe? And no, not the hilariously dangerous game of Takeshi’s Castle that Delhiites plays with their air quality numbers. I mean the more nuanced air of Delhi’s academic hubs— North Campus, South Campus, and off-campus colleges. The obsession with this elitism begins the day you make the choice (Read: mistake) of entering Delhi University. From your best of four scores, you upgrade to college rankings and CGPAs. Numbers mean everything in DU, and sometimes they can mean the distinction between hearing “woh college DU mein hai kya?” and “Oh wow, woh college!

While the former is an exhibition of patronizing surprise, and the latter screams respect. Unfortunately, this chasm begins to manifest itself in the form of a lifelong inherent bias, one that makes you see people from a “higher ranked” college in a different light from a relatively lower ranked, off-campus college. When the rank of your college heavily influences- and sometimes determines- your social interactions, it’s called the Elitist College Syndrome. Thanks to the many silently implied rules in DU that plague the lives of freshers, it is widely assumed that the creme de la creme, set shop in the single-digit ranking colleges of DU. But what makes these colleges so great that makes students surrender all sense in the mad race to choose an elite college over the course? 

The elite tag doesn’t come easy- it comes with cutoffs so record-breakingly high that they leave no room for imperfection, and a legacy of illustrious alumni. The historical reputation of these colleges is so well cemented that it has exerted itself even in the 21st century. From consistently dominating the national headlines with ranks almost too good to be true, to having a stellar Placement Cell and star-studded fests that attract crowds by the thousands, these top-drawer colleges have it all (or claim to, at least). They revel in this elitism- they take pride in it. 

Elitism and classism go hand-in-hand. What happens when these fancy numbers start dictating your life in DU? 

College rankings in DU can be toxic. The adjudicators of debating tournaments are victims of this reputation bias as well. They have preconceived notions of Hansraj and Ramjas’ Debating Team being a cut above an off-campus college like DCAC. As a result, the outcome of these debates seems in favour of these elite colleges as well.

Rishabh, a student from DCAC.

Sometimes these rankings can be notorious for influencing students’ self-confidence while interacting with their peers from other colleges in DU. 

For a long time, I was a source of this self-inflicted embarrassment of studying in an obscure off-campus college. Every time someone asked me which college I studied in, I used to hesitate to reveal the name, fearing rejection and dismissal. But over time, it got better and now, I am happy and have fully accepted my college! I wouldn’t ever change a thing.

A student from Vivekananda College while talking to DU Beat. 

If we look past this inherent bias and internalised hierarchy of colleges that we have fixated on, a possibility of a more inclusive DU germinates. A place where each one is accepting of the other’s intellectual capacities. A place where people accept their privileges while they celebrate their achievements. A place where ranks just show positions, not perceptions. Beyond this obsession with the elite tag that could be termed as the ‘Freshers Complex’, there is a collective emotion that binds us all, and that is the reluctant love we share for our dear DU.

Read Also: The Elitism of Education: Acknowledging the Privilege

Feature Image Credits: Rediff

Tanvi Varigala

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