Campus Talk: Pratik Permey plans to make TISS campus more ‘inclusive’

Breaking all gender stereotypes, Pratik Permey has emerged as the new face of student leadership. A queer who identifies as gender fluid, Permey created history by being elected as president of the Students’ Union at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) this year. After battling for acceptance and validation throughout childhood, the 23-year-old last week took the oath to helm the Students’ Union of TISS. Permey opens up in a free-wheeling chat with The Indian Express that reflects how the victory is not just an overwhelming experience but a revolutionary episode for college campuses in Mumbai.

“After being elected as the president of the overall Students’ Union, my fellow students on campus have shown larger faith in me,” Pratik Permey said.

What led to your decision to contest for the post of president of the Students’ Union?

After starting my journey in the TISS, I was glad to see that this institute offers gender-neutral hostels. But the toilets on the campus are specifically allotted to only two genders – boys and girls. The gender-neutral hostel too is just a designated floor in a girls’ hostel. Even though TISS as an educational campus is way ahead of many others when it comes to inclusivity, there are still a few aspects that are not paid attention to, though unknowingly. I realised that a singular frustrated voice may not really work, however, louder it may be. Hence, I decided to contest for the Students’ Union eyeing a larger platform.

pratik permey “I am starting an initiative titled ‘Dream Project’,” said Pratik.

Being one of the first queer community student leaders on any campus, does it add on to the responsibility?

There may have been a few in the past, but they were closeted due to the stigma associated with it. I am the first openly queer to be elected the president of the Students’ Union. After being elected the president, many from the queer community from campuses across India are reaching out to me. A few of them have shared how they have not been able to overcome the challenge of stereotyping. At TISS too, there have been members in the executive body of the Students’ Union who belonged to LGBTQ spectrum, but not as a president. Their appointments were in gender-cell, equal opportunity cell, and cultural cell, the stereotypical responsibilities. After being elected as the president of the overall Students’ Union, my fellow students on campus have shown larger faith in me.

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What are your immediate plans?

I will work towards making the campus more inclusive by including voices of people from marginalised backgrounds and persons with disabilities, teachers’ community among all. I am starting an initiative titled ‘Dream Project’. The idea is to provide exposure to all students to shape their dreams which have long been neglected by schools that direct them towards making conventional career choices. I plan to create a network of current and former students along with help from outsourced expertise to provide exposure for students who dream beyond conventional boxes.