Samrita Shankar
Samrita Shankar

Law Grad gets University to include mother's name in degree certificate after she questions norm of only recording father's name

When she requested that the Examinations Officer include both her parents’ names in her college documents, she was informed that the practice has always been only to mention the student’s father’s name.

Meera Emmanuel

More often than not, it is difficult to recognise or challenge patriarchal norms that have become deeply embedded to the point that they are rarely questioned.

However, this is precisely what a 2020-batch law graduate, Samrita Shankar has done, when she made it a point to insist that her college degree and other documents reflect her mother’s name as well, rather than identify her as only her father’s ward.

When she requested that the Examinations Officer include both her parents’ names in her college documents, she was informed that the practice has always been only to mention the student’s father’s name. Her request was, therefore, denied.

Speaking to Bar & Bench, Samrita said,

“A degree is a special milestone in every student’s academic life; so, when I received my provisional degree certificate, I expected to see both my parents’ names because they have been equal contributors to my education and academic pursuits. But a simple google search told me that the rule was only to include the father’s name in all academic testimonials and that this practice has been the norm in most Universities across India.”

Undeterred, Samrita decided to e-mail the University authorities, laying out why such a practice is problematic.

In her July 10 email, she pointed out that both her parents have contributed equally to her education and are, therefore, equally deserving of seeing their names in their daughter’s official degree and other documents.

Going further, Samrita raised concern that the practice of only including the father’s name in a student’s documents would not be fair in a situation where the parents of the student are divorced or where the student has been raised by a single mother. In such cases, the choice should ideally be left to the student, she opined.

“Moreover, in a situation where a father has abandoned or has abused their child, why would the child want to see only her/his father's name in their degree certificate instead of the mother’s? We live in an era where such situations are not only likely to happen but are indeed very much happening”, she noted.

Most importantly, she added, this practice is a hard blow to achieving gender equality.

“… continuing with an anachronistic practice such as only including the father's name in educational procedures and certificates is not only a step-back in achieving gender equality but also disrespectful to single/unwed/divorced mothers and their children”, underscored Samrita in her email.

To boot, she pointed out that the University Grants Commission had already directed that colleges should include the father’s and the mother’s name in academic testimonials in 1998. This directive was reiterated in 2014 as well.

Samrita’s vigilance over the issue paid off. The University’s Vice-Chancellor was quick to respond, acknowledging the need to change the practice of only recording the father’s name in College records. He wrote,

You are absolutely right and we have already changed this practice. I have told the Controller’s officer to correct this grave error and ensure that we re-issue a revised Provisional Certificate immediately!

The Vice-Chancellor added in his reply that they had decided to address this issue in recent days.

As a result, not only has Samrita been issued a college degree that reflects her mother’s name as well, but all other students have also been given an option to choose which parent’s name (s) should be included in their documents.

“Oftentimes, we glance over such seemingly inconsequential things. However, what may appear as small changes can actually have a significant impact on how gender equality is perceived in society.”
Samrita Shankar

She added, “I am grateful that the Vice-Chancellor of my University was very receptive to this feedback and immediately initiated the required changes. I hope other universities also take note of this and bring about the necessary changes in all academic procedures."

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