Published: 06th April 2017
You can't please everyone: Now that she's done, MCC's first College Union Society Chairwoman talks about her year in the hot seat
Rebecca Catherene, who has been heading Madras Christian College's CUS this past year, looks at her year in review and talks about the experience of being a woman in college politics
In all of Madras Christian College's history there has never been a woman in the Student Union, well unless you take into account the 'Women's Convenor' post — believed by many to only exist for the sake of having a woman on board. Whether you agree with that or not, no one has even considered the fact that a woman could hold any post in the union, till the vivacious Rebecca Catherene came around in 2016. And she didn't just choose any post. She went for gold.
Rebecca not only became the first woman to hold a post in the union but she also became the first-ever woman chairperson, almost exactly a year ago. You probably already knew that.
Fast forward to 2017 and she's done with her year in the hot seat. Looking back on her time at the head of the CUS (College Union Society) table, we asked her what it felt like now that it was over.
Moment in Time: When the outgoing chairman handed his papers over | Facebook/Sherwin Gladson
'You can't please everyone. I tried but gave up...'
She told us she'd learnt one big lesson — You can't please everyone. "I tried to do that in the beginning but then I gave up. You end up pleasing no one. Instead, I just focussed on my work and did my very best," she told us.
Doing your best can sometimes be a tall order when people are always watching you, wondering how you're going to be able to manage it. "People would constantly keep asking me how I would handle the job, how I would handle the late nights and the workload. But I didn't think the work was any different for a girl or a boy, so I didn't let it affect me," Rebecca explained.
Blame it on the W word
What DID affect her was the fact that every time something went wrong, they blamed it on the fact that she was a woman, Incidentally, being Chairperson is no easy task — Rebecca had to forget about attending classes or assignments for the year, was that an easy decision? Did her parents not think it was an unnecessary distraction? "Yeah, my parents were worried. But they were more tense about my late evenings especially since I had to travel all the way from Royapuram to Tambaram and back," she said.
In the beginning, I did feel bad but as the year went by I just got used to it and didn't let it affect my work. I realised that trying to please everyone just would not happen
Rebecca Catherene, College Union Society Chairwoman, Madras Christian College
D-mon in the Woods
For any chairperson the most important event of the year is MCC's annual cultural fest 'Deepwoods' — often considered the final encore (and report card dealbreaker/maker) for the student union. Rebecca said that as the event approached, she was constantly questioned about whether or not she would be able to handle it, again, because she was a girl, "Even some of my close friends were worried about whether I was fit for the job. To make things worse, we had to deal with demonetisation, cyclone Vardah and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's death, making it very difficult for us to get funds. Even our usual sponsors were not able to help us because of the demonetisation but we managed anyway and people, including the faculty, told me it was one of the best Deepwoods till date, " said a beaming Rebecca.
She recounted how she stayed at her friend's hostel for almost two months because of Deepwoods," I had a lot of support from my male friends too who constantly ensured I was safe and was able to do my work properly. Late nights never scared me at all because I felt so protected by all my friends," she added.
Rewriting history: Madras Christian College's CUS 2016-17
The Unexpected Contender
Funnily enough, Rebecca had no plans of standing for the elections, "My friend was going to stand but he got disqualified. And suddenly my friends started to suggest that I should stand and then I said 'why not?'" So two weeks before the election, Rebecca filed her nomination and then went on to win it. It was a close shave though, she only won by 13 votes, but she won nonetheless.
So does she think that she's broken the mould and will more women stand for elections for now on? "Even this year, there was a girl who showed some interest but she didn't end up standing but I'm sure there will be more women students who will stand from now on. Absolutely sure about that!" Rebecca says confidently.
Well, let's hope more woman students volunteer to lead the student union, it's about time.