Mepco Schlenk College Visit and a Moral Dilemma

I went on a trip to India recently. During that time, I got a chance to visit the college where I studied for four years to get my engineering degree. My professors were thrilled to see me. It was nice to get introduced as one of their best students to my wife. I gave a lecture to the computer science engineering students about the concepts of open source and the mutual benefits involved. I talked about opensolaris and about some of the technologies that are present there. The students were interested to know about Sun as a company, the way projects work at Sun, and about the culture. Overall, it was a rewarding experience for everyone. 
Mepco Schlenk Visit – 2008

It has been more than 10 years since I last visited the place. There are lot of changes in the college since last time. There are lot more courses offered now and therefore many new buildings have sprung up. It is good to see the college growing in this way. I got to visit the new mathematics lab. This lab is very interesting. The lab contains many puzzles, analytical problems, and tools to solve them in a practical manner. The lab is a very good idea.

Mepco Schlenk Engineering College is also known for its very strict rules and for its severe punishments for breaking the rules. The rules of the college have gotten stricter, since the time I studied there. A more recent rule in the college hostels is, a girl can leave the college hostel to go out, if and only if, one of the girl’s parent is physically present with the girl. The stated purpose of its rule is to prevent dating and for the girl’s protection. This rule does not exist for the boys in the college hostels.

The effect of this rule is that girls cannot go to technical conferences or present papers outside the college campus, unless a parent comes over to the college to take them there. This rule is discriminative based on sex. It is very sad and I can understand the frustrations of the students.

I did get a chance to talk to the Principal of the college and give my feedback, but  I think there is very little chance of this changing anytime soon.  All this puts me in the horns of a moral dilemma. Should I support my alma mater, share my experiences and help the students studying there ? Wouldn’t it indirectly endorse the rules of the college ? If I do not ever go there because I do not like certain rules of the college, then who loses ? What is lost ? How does the voice of dissent get heard ? I do not know the answers.

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24 thoughts on “Mepco Schlenk College Visit and a Moral Dilemma

  1. (My previous comment got lost or wasn’t published. Trying again.)
    Augustus, if I were in your position, I’d still go ahead and share my expertise and knowledge – which would be useful to both male and female students.
    I think a policy like this is best handled by the students themselves and administration, rather than by a "guest" – unless I were a permanent member of the college community. Otherwise, I would support any attempts by the students to change this policy in whatever way I could, but they’d have to take the lead.
    In terms of priorities and picking battles, to me, this comes across as not very high (maybe it’s different for you). There are two approaches – one is boycotting, and the other is working with the people. I always prefer to try the latter first, unless it’s an issue that’s really egregious and blatantly discriminatory.

  2. Amit, I agree with you, this is not my battle to try and change the rules of the college. It is up to the college community to do that. The question is, would you associate yourself with a community, where there are rules that you strongly disagree with. I hear a "yes" from you. Thanks for coming back to leave your thoughts.

  3. Augustus,
    Nice to know that you had visited Mepco recently. I’d have invited you to my house if I had known before! 🙂 The problem with colleges like Mepco is the attitude of the parents themselves. 90% of people who enroll their daughters praise this brain dead rule. The college doesn’t want to risk its good "reputation" for the sake of the rest 10%!!
    Feedback from successful alumnus like you goes a long way to change attitudes rather than isolation which suites their motive.

  4. Hey Madhan, I did not know you lived close by Mepco. Well, next time. The reason that you mention is part of it, I am sure. There must be other reasons too. The good thing is the college management was atleast willing to have a conversation with me. However, like Amit alluded to, there must be a wider discussion within the college community, including the students too. You know how that is big "NO" at Mepco. Anyway, I tasted some excellent parottas and curry at Virudhunagar.

  5. Thank god to see such a page regardin mepco . . And do some steps so that every body gets furnished with latest technologies. . . And rules are to be broken if its not likely to be taken. . . Try . . Succeed. . Win . . If u can change mepco i think its easy to change even complicated matters. .

  6. how glad i’am to see this post…i’ve graduated outta mepco only a few months back and u cannot imagine my relief…i mean the attitude so outdated..i’am glad u are thinkin so deeply abt u’r alma matter..the feedback from alumny like u will help change things hopefully..thanks a lot sir..hopefully someday i’ll make it big like you and help change things too..proud of you sir!

  7. Yes this college will never change, dont try and waste your time. Discipline etc etc are means and ways to harass students and make more money. For a parent in Sivakasi / V Nagar it is heaven but for any sensible soul from cities Madurai / Chennai Mepco is a worst place. I came from Chennai and feel that my 4 yrs were waste. I learnt only bookish stuff, we become negative and always fearful. Collge life is the most beutiful period and it becomes a curse if you are in MEPCO. The governmenr and Human rights teams should take action against such institutions.

  8. Maha,
    There are certainly some brain-dead rules in the college. You are right that those rules are meant to satisfy the local customs and culture. However, Mepco is not all doom and gloom place. I am sorry that you feel that Mepco is a bad institution. As I mentioned, there are certainly positives in the college.
    It would be a interesting exercise to play the college principal for a month. Imagine that you can do anything you want in the college and change any of its rules. What would you do that will not alienate the local population and still provide the freedom necessary for student growth ?
    If I get enough thoughts on the above question, I may post another entry on what can be done.

  9. Hi Augustus
    I agree with you , the college targets the local population. But then we are running a engg college and not any "Seerthirutha Palli". The students in MEPCO are defenitely treated like those. These are about to be professionals and deserve better treatment. The current principal Dr Balakrishnan is helpless, these are the rules set by Dr.Shanmugham, who has tought in countries like Iraq and more suitable there. If our collge doesnot change it will meet the same treatment meted out for Sathyabama and other so called "disciplined" colleges. It is a irony that our college talks loud about rules whereas it charges its students heavily, more than what DOTE prescribes, where are the rules now ? As I said these rules are only to harass the students and make more money. I am sure every year they collect lakhs of rupees in fines alone.
    I really appreciate your endeavour in highlighting our college about its Brain dead philosophies. Let the 25th anniversary become some eye opener for the college, else it will only be associated with the students from V Nagar & Sivakasi.

  10. Hi sir,
    This is Arun SAG of Final CSE :).I was inspired by your talk on free software and the community on that day.Your talk made me to think.
    Now i am doing a project in linux environment :).Please keep coming to mepco and share your thoughts.
    Asking mepco to drop the brain dead rules is like asking Microsoft to make windows free 😦 .
    Any way some of the girls in the hostels boycotted and got some of their freedoms last year.
    You asked about whether any one bypassed firewall on that day and compared mepco and china (LOL)
    I raised my hand from the crowd.. 🙂
    I do break rules,but Breaking rules harmlessly is an important aspect hacking….
    I know some of my seniors who used cellphones inside hostels and escaped with their playfull cleverness…
    you said all the bad memories will go in air when you come out of mepco and the moment we cherish will remain in our heart, i believe in this sir……
    Please come back to mepco and help changing people sir..still mepco is not aware of free software and its benefits.. in our labs we are still using damn windows…

  11. Hi
    This is crapy blog, donno why somebody wanna talk about dead tech of Sun. May be it makes more sense to talk such concepts at dead places like Mepco Sivakasi. Well every knows brian dead people rule the college where brian deads study.

  12. Frank, Wat do u expect from "viruthu patti" people. They don’t change and don’t like to change. They r addicted to the word "DISIPLINE". But good thought and start. Way to go!

  13. Frank,
    Great effort!
    I just wanted to mention that the college is an extension of the local culture. Turn around in outlook is possible only when they stop recycling old students into lecturers. Fresh minds can make a difference.
    For all its merits, we did not have any exceptional lecturers there. Don’t know if that has changed.
    What say?
    I can’t recollect everything I typed here the last time. Maybe I screwed up the simple math question at the end.:)
    Here goes…

  14. "For all its merits, we did not have any exceptional lecturers there. Don’t know if that has changed."
    No,nothing has been changed, To reduce the cost incurred when employing experienced staff, they are keep on recruiting freshers..Who are mostly ME degree holders and incompetent in handling the students and subjects (mostly not all)
    You know they are trying to get university status….And this year they have come first in anna university ranking (Number one college in terms of academic score)I am sure its because of the students not the teachers…
    Seem’s to be their service mentality is declining, the new management is trying to make the college as a money machine……..

  15. Glad to see more thoughts around this topic. Good point about getting fresh minds into the situation to get a varied perspective. I will have to disagree about the "exceptional teachers" comment and the comment about academic score. It is unrealistic to get a team of only exceptional teachers. There will be a normal distribution of talent at best.
    Based on my experience in the field of software, it is clear that the performance and behavior of a team is greatly influenced by the constraints in which they operate and the leadership of the team. In other words, you can get very good result with a team of average talent with the right environment and leadership. I have also seen a team of exceptionally talented members failing to work together to produce anything meaningful, because of the constraints they operate under or just a bad set of incentives.

  16. "It is unrealistic to get a team of only exceptional teachers."
    I agree. In fact, I did not mean to convey that all the lecturers should be exceptional ones. The point I was trying to make was we need more outsiders in the faculty. During our time, the faculty was flooded with old students and people born and raised in and around Sivakasi. Insecure lecturers uncomfortable with the English language, Lecturers with very little exposure to the real world, HODs without merit – we had one or more of these. And they were the majority.
    My classmates, Nari and Riaz and Raghavan were the real lecturers in our batch. These were students taking classes on a regular basis while the lecturers sat in the last bench. Quite pathetic when you think about it.
    Okay! I vent on Fridays. Back to the happy place.

  17. the coll on the whole is "bull shit"…. dats the only word dat best suits the college/…… yeah dats true and obvious from the talks of students.. no one can say hw much we hate dis college… we r really strugglin a lot

  18. Well
    I am from Virudupatti. I was in Mepco for a month. The first chance I got, I took off to another college. The management reads letters that come to you. Now in what way is that allowed? My friend who studied in Anna Univ in his letter addressed to me had described Mepco as a jail and I had to write an apology letter or that. Sirthirutha Palli is a apt term for that place. I wouldnt call it a college or institution. A college is supposed to set your mind free and get you moving forward / thinking / innovating
    Bala

  19. Disappointed to read that folks are still stuck in time! Nice of you Augustus to expose this issue of discrimination in your alma mater.
    I studied Engg when we were only 6 girls in my whole batch. We too had to follow "rules" but we fought very hard against all who believed it was for our good! It worked, it worked very well for us and for our juniors and am very proud of it. But I had my parents/brother who *strongly* believed in equality. That was huge support.
    Rise ladies…if you have the drive, follow your dream and break out of those shackles that people want to put on you. Supposedly for your good!

  20. you guys never knew what happened before the rules.
    i know a couple of gals from my batch who went on dating under the cover of presentations that’s the reason to shut your doors.
    Mepco gave me an identity to stand out in the crowd
    Leave the rules and discrimination ,
    if you are to learn you’ll find a way to have fun with it leaving the dump rules behind

  21. Hi,
    // i know a couple of gals from my batch who went on dating under the cover of presentations that’s the reason to shut your doors.//
    Punish couple of girls, why punish the whole race?
    This happens only in communism 🙂

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