Every year, a lot of time and effort goes into college fests. Do they achieve what they aim to, and are they really worth it, though?
Ever since I joined University of Delhi (DU), as a fresher, I was really excited to experience my first ‘fest season’ this even semester, except a month and a few fests into the season, I’m questioning if fests are as great as they’re made to sound like. Sorry to kill your hype, I do get why most people might look forward to fests, but this article is just an analysis of whether they’re achieving what they aim to do and if they’re really as ‘fun’, in the truest sense of the word. Firstly, let’s understand why these fests are organised in the first place. They were originally intended to be spaces where people can showcase their talents and participate in activities, except that now, they’ve become a way for colleges to compete with each other in terms of who can attract bigger stars and a way to improve the ‘image’ of the college. This transformation is problematic because of two reasons; firstly, in order to attract bigger stars, you need more money, which leads to a higher degree of commercialisation.
That commercialisation of fun is a problem because when you start viewing attendees as merely footfall for sponsorship deliverables, you forget why you hosted the fest in the first place. Also, the ‘image’ argument is ridiculous because any institution builds its image by improving on its main objective. While fests may be a great way to break the monotony, colleges’ main objective is to impart education, which is what their image hinges. Secondly, let’s talk about the resources spent on fests. Annual cultural fest of Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), Crossroads’ estimated budget for this year is INR 1.5 crore. That’s probably the highest among DU colleges, but most colleges still spend around INR 40-60 lakhs per college on their fest except there’s no tangible benefit arising out of this spending as most of it is spent on hosting the stars that come for these fests.
This amount of spending is huge and throws a bad light on our priorities, especially when we see the deteriorating infrastructure in several colleges and the fact that the University is suffering from a severe fund shortage due to the increased intake of students under the Economy Weaker Section (EWS) category this year (the grant released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is barely enough to cover salaries, let alone improve and develop the necessary infrastructure) and was barely able to cover teachers’ salaries for a period of three months last year. Thirdly, and most importantly, let’s talk about safety and inclusivity. Recent events have made us aware of howfests can be unsafe, especially for women. In the past too, there have been too many instances where people have been harassed in such spaces and this repetition not only proves that authorities are apathetic towards such situations but is also another way how fests are antithetical to one of their major objectives, creating a safe environment where people can have ‘fun’. People argue that organising and attending fests is a great way to develop a host of skills and network, while also creating value for businesses that fund them. However, the benefits of organising fests are mostly restricted to the organising team, and thus, large scale skill development. Fests, are great, but the way they’ve been organised in DU for the past few years isn’t sustainable. There’s a serious need to re-evaluate how we perceive fests in order to ensure that they retain their essence while ensuring that more people benefit from them.
Feature Image Credits: Manav Ahuja for DU Beat
Khush Vardan Dembla