The recent student blog on Aloysius that’s making the rounds in social media may or may not be a ripple effect from the Christ College episode but if an ex-student has brought it up, the society and the college management should sit up and take notice. Most especially, as it involves the allegation of objectification of women by male members of staff.
I am a conformist by nature and by default I also belong to a generation of conformists who were brought up on a steady diet of rules. We all grew up fine anyway because the set of rules that we adhered to did not diminish us as individuals. Neither did they force us to think less of ourselves.
I believe certain rules are needed in every educational institution to maintain a degree of decorum and discipline. Dressing provocatively, wearing excessive makeup, kissing and hugging in public are not things you do in an educational institution. Though most students would not be doing this anyway, but for the few who may entertain such ideas, rules need to be put in writing. The Jesuits did not start their educational institutions based on false ideals. Their mission is based on their Catholic faith and morality (thankfully) is a big part of this faith. Loyola institutions in India and around the world have churned out alumni who are not only highly respected in their chosen fields but are also good human beings who contribute to the society as a whole. I personally know some of the Jesuits (a few since childhood) and they are to this day upright, decent human beings who are fearless in the face of falsehood.
However, there is an alarming trend that is seeping into the very fabric of our educational legacy today and we need to wake up and smell the coffee before it’s too late. For the past few years, our educational institutions have slowly started catering to a hitherto unknown ideology that is disturbing to say the least.
For years our schools, colleges and universities have been imparting the highest standards of education and values to our society. But if we are now allowing archaic minds to dictate the rules of how our colleges should be run, then we are on a slippery slope indeed. Many of the more enlightened and modernized educators recognize this and some brave voices of dissent are periodically heard despite the proverbial threat of transfers that hangs over their heads. Teachers who have sided with the students have in the past looked for jobs elsewhere and students who have passed out are now speaking out and being judged for it.
I can easily understand why an educational institution goes overboard while enforcing certain rules on their students. We live in an increasingly immoral society. What shocked us out of our wits 30 years ago is considered normal by the present generation. But forcing archaic rules on the younger generation will not help them to develop as well rounded individuals. On the contrary, it will suppress their individuality and push their minds into dark, narrow, oppressive corridors.
In a democracy, dissent is healthy. It promotes accountability and upholds the truth. We should applaud the courage of any individual who raises a voice against injustice; be it a student, parent, teacher or someone from the management itself. If there is something wrong somewhere, it is our moral duty to correct it instead of sweeping it under the carpet.
Forget Aloysius for the moment. Most other colleges in Mangalore and South India have ‘certain rules’ that need to be scrapped pronto.
- Many colleges take no consensus from the students while making the rules. The student council consisting of President, Vice President, Class reps is there to represent the student body. If there is objection to a rule, review it objectively. Vote for it only if there is a majority consensus from both management and students. Don’t let ONE kind of voice dictate the terms no matter how much clout that one kind of voice generates. If it opposes the principles that the college stands for, that voice needs to be silenced.
- Do not label everything that happens on a college campus with a sexual connotation. For eg. boys and girls sitting on the pavement to study, standing in a group and talking, laughing at a joke together. You are supposed to teach these individuals that it is okay to have normal, healthy interactions with the opposite sex. These students will be going out into a global environment where the glass ceiling has shrunk quite a bit. In the future, one of your male students may be the chief surgeon to a team of female doctors and nurses, or one of your female students may be heading a board meeting with a majority of male subordinates. It will be a sad day indeed if they see their colleagues as sex objects instead of professionals.
- It is downright wrong of any management to objectify the female students and portray them as nothing but sex magnets who are present on the campus for the sole purpose of attracting boys. By doing this, you are demeaning all women including the female staff in your college and the women in your own families. Worse, you are sending a message to all males in the University that it is okay to objectify a woman. Along with the boys, those girls are also going to be the future of our country and they deserve to be treated with respect regardless of their age.
- Calling a student (male or female) to your office and accusing him or her of any offence without concrete evidence amounts to emotional abuse. If the student is innocent, your accusations could have an adverse effect on his/her emotional well- being. Verbal abuse is not justified even if the student is guilty. Deal with it in a mature, corrective manner. The management’s reaction could either turn around the student and make him/her a better person or could mar that student for life. Similarly, no student has the right to abuse any teacher or fellow student. Respect is and has always been mutual.
- Why do colleges keep counters for collecting fines for bad behavior? Are we teaching our students that it’s okay to break the rules as long as they pay up? Unlike us in our college days, most students are affluent now. Break a rule and pay up could easily become an unbreakable circle. The counter collects money and the student becomes more irresponsible. Why not engage them in some kind of community service whenever they break a rule? Kill two birds with one stone. Actually three. Increase the students self-worth, benefit the community and lessen a little bit of the corruption that our society is already burdened with.
- Many colleges these days use the partiality yardstick in the class room. Everything rests on ranks, accolades, competition and media exposure. The academically good students and the sports stars deserve their pats on the back. But it is the duty of every teacher to see the good in every student. You’d be surprised how many successful people today were back benchers in their college days. One teacher, one mentor, one positive incident, one sympathetic ear turned their life around for the better.
- Put an end to staff room student bashing that is rampant in all colleges. Let me explain. One teacher may have a dislike for a student for whatever reason. In the staff room that teacher does some serious student bad mouthing. Some of the other teachers form a bad impression of these students even before meeting them. These students get picked up by the teachers throughout the year. A double dose is given to the students whose parents have objected and class assignments are maliciously under-marked. You see they know the weak points of all Indian parents. Some good teachers try to do some damage control. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it does not. Depends on your luck as they say.
Here, I would like to mention one teacher (from St. Aloysius) who came to her first class with a long list of ‘difficult students’ that she had been given in the staff room. She held the list up and tore it in front of the students and said she would form her own opinion of each student based on their performance in the class. That teacher is a hero in my opinion. I’m sure she inspired her students that day.
Like all small town folks, I take great pride in the educational institutions of our town. I have almost all of my family and a good number of my friends and their families who have been students under the Jesuits for generations. I have also had the privilege of knowing some excellent educators who have been a part of these Institutions and still are. It is for them that I write my thoughts. It’s high time we pitched in to save our schools and colleges and make them what they were once before – Institutions of learning that gave compassionate and high thinking alumni to the world.
I’ve heard a few people saying social media is not the tool to voice such issues. I disagree. If you can make use of social media to promote your institutions, why is it wrong to use social media to air your grievances? More so if there is the absence of an ‘unbiased’ grievance committee in the college. Social media in fact puts both sides into perspective, unlike some biased news channels and tabloids that air and print only their theatrical versions.