Published: 06th October 2021
DU's SFI unit sets up a helpline for queer students who want admission but are intimidated. Here's how it's going
The students identify that there might be issues specific to the community, and are attempting to address them. These are how the experiences are
The Student Federation of India (SFI)'s Delhi University (DU) wing has come up with helplines specifically for students from the queer community who are looking to join DU. Admissions are ongoing at the varsity after the first round of cut-offs were announced last week. As students from across the country vie for their spots in various colleges and try to work their way through the nitty-gritty of the admission process, various student unions have come up with comprehensive helplines to answer any possible questions about admissions or other queries regarding the DU or, Delhi, for that matter.
Sumit Kataria, President of the SFI Delhi State Committee tells Edexlive why the need for it has never been more acute, "It has been found that there are still many challenges that queer people face while applying for admission to Delhi University, and many of them may continue to feel hesitant to get the necessary help. SFI's DU Unit in an attempt to create a safe, inclusive space for LGBTQIA+ students, to solve any queries regarding admission, to look for safe and queer-friendly accommodation and ultimately to be able to foster queer solidarities has come up with the queer helpline for admission and accommodation."
The poster carries the member's pronouns in order to normalise declaring to make queer students feel comfortable | Pic: Sourced
Who would you like to speak with?
SFI's queer-specific helpline is tasked with listening in to the issues that come with being a queer person in India. A big part of that is the apprehension in interacting with authorities when you don't quite know if they'd be hostile or not. An SFI member from another noted university in Delhi tells us that students from certain backgrounds and students from the queer community don't always feel comfortable interacting with the people in charge of the admission process if they're looking for details on the procedure.
A matter of the right pronouns
The helpline, which was set up a week ago, has 15 numbers listed, which have been divided into two broad categories of admission and accommodation in the North and South campuses. Sumit claims that the Delhi University Students' Union is doing precious little to help the queer community navigate the DU space, and the faculty hasn't been all that forthcoming either. "There is nuance to this issue. People from the queer community struggle with people using the correct pronouns for them. We try to ensure we ask their pronouns first and take the care to use them. We are trying to create a comfort zone for these students," says Sumit. One of the ways to go about it is to declare their own pronouns regardless of their gender and sexual orientation. The poster that carries the numbers and names of these helplines also contains the students' respective pronouns.
Hello, they're here to help
Swetcha Karanam, a second-year BA Economics and History student, is one of the members answering these helplines. She says that so far, they have received about 10-12 calls from queer students seeking help with admission to the university. "We have been clearing basic doubts regarding the process, and also helping them out with safe accommodation options," she shares. The team has a list of accommodations ready with them, which was compiled by visiting localities and identifying places that are deemed safe for members of the LGBTQIA community.
Spreading the queer love
SFI units in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Dr BR Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD) have also set up their own helplines for members of the LGBTIA community to reach out to during admissions. In Jamia Millia Islamia, where queerphobia is an issue people have been starting to speak about, the SFI says they have set up an Organising Committee, which will also announce their helpline soon. Anil Sethumadhavan, president of the AUD SFI unit says that they have also received several calls for safe accommodation from queer students. "We have Students Tenants Unions (STU), Delhi, which was also functioning actively during the lockdown. We have been helping students who have been harassed by landlords. With the help of the STU, we are trying to identify accommodation facilities for people from the queer community because they are not always welcome. Tenants union has been receiving several calls looking for flats and flatmates," he says.