Sunday, 28 January 2018

University of Jaffna - Education for Life

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

28 January 2018                                     

Higher Education for Life or Living?

Even as I learnt about Standard Deviation from my husband Param of Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai, for the purposes of  understanding the needs of a student whose welfare is part of my wellbeing, my mind went to the commonness I could identify with in the two subject matters – Mathematical structuring of variances and Governance  structuring of  the University of Jaffna which structure is common by law to all Universities of Sri Lanka.

 In Standard Deviation, the difference between the average (mean) and the value of  data at a certain point is squared; the total of such squared  values is then averaged (by dividing by the number of times the primary values were so squared less one) and then the square root  of that is worked out as the Standard Deviation.

The parallel of that in the University governance  structure as understood by me was explained as follows in my contribution to defending an Academic against whom the Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna instituted Disciplinary Action:
a.     Section 45 of the Universities Act prohibits the Vice Chancellor from taking Disciplinary Action against Academics
b.    Section 44 (1)  of the Universities Act provides as follows:
[The Council of a University (hereinafter referred to as “the Council”), shall be the executive body and governing authority of the University and shall consist of the following persons:-
(i)            The Vice-Chancellor
(ii)          Deputy Vice-Chancellor if any
(iii)        Rector, if any
(iv)         The Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, if any
(v)           The Dean of each Faculty
(vi)         Two members elected by the Senate from amongst its members; and
(vii)       Such number of members as is total to the number of members in paragraphs (i), (ii), (iii), (iv), (v) & (vi) above  increased by one. All such members shall be appointed by the Commission from among persons who have rendered distinguished service in educational, professional, commercial, industrial, scientific or administrative spheres.]
My contribution included the following:

c.     It is submitted that in terms of approving Administrative Decisions, a simple majority would be sufficient. This is due to the limits of Administrative authority stopping with the CEO –the Vice Chancellor.
d.    But where a Governing Decision is required  to be delivered, the approval by vote of those in group 44 (1) (vii) – which is the Governing Authority, needs to be greater than the vote by the other  group identified by  Section 44 (1) (i)-(vi) which is the Executive bodyas indicated by the essential qualificationtotal to the number of members in paragraphs (i), (ii), (iii), (iv), (v) & (vi) above  increased by one’

I believe that I identified quickly with the value of the above,  due to me being a self-governing person through Experience. Experience leads to ownership. Whoever / whichever group -  that developed the above structure - is to my mind, self-governing. Hence as we say through Hindu epic about the Divine Love of Rama & Seetha – At their first meeting -   He identified and She also identified. The Tamil word used to present  this experience of ‘sighting’ is Nohkhinaan for Rama and Nohkhinaal for Seetha. Nohkham in Tamil means purpose.

In Governance we identify through our votes on behalf of those whom we represent. In Administration, we relate through the consolidated value of the standards of those who developed the laws and principles – on the basis of which we measure rights and wrongs. Such developers  may never have been our direct leaders. Hence the interpretation would vary as per our ‘belief’ in the person/developer or the value itself.

A person in rural Sri Lanka – for example may never have had a Westerner close enough to believe in. But through Christianity the leader from the West and the rural citizen of Sri Lanka who practiced Christianity, may have developed common faith.

The Sunday Observer editorial under the heading  ‘Northern Economic Re-Awakening’ , brings us the following picture of current affairs:

[As Northern business people and local citizens visit the Jaffna International Trade Fair (JITF 2018) venue in Jaffna, youth and students flock to the nearby ‘Higher Education and Career Exhibition’ being held simultaneously with the trade fair. The JITF 2018 and the education fair, both end today and, are symbols of the speedy re-awakening of the Northern Province after decades of war.]

Education for a living has long been an export commodity in Jaffna. It came also at the cost of ‘Education for life’.  Education for life develops higher common thinking. It prevents emotional reactions with or without faith. Emotional expressions without faith lead to violation of rights of those who raise their thoughts to the higher level by keeping the other side in their mind. Emotional expressions without faith lead to  violation of right-to-express by  those whose emotions are within the limits of their faith. The former – i.e. emotions lacking in faith are superstitions and the latter lead to manifestations of what we refer to as miracles.  Both are of absolute value and are outside our controls. Like the gods the latter  manifest outcomes at a higher plane while the former like Asuras / demons manifest at the lower plane.

The simple example that comes to mind is the spilling of the red holy powder – Kungkumum, on the floor. Kungkumum denotes love and is worn on the forehead by all when it is  claimed to be sacred and by married women to denote they are married. When we use kungkumum merely as a ritual – the spilling is taken as superstitious – a bad omen especially in the case of a married woman. But when we use Kungkumum with faith – especially as part of sacred ceremonies or at a place of deep praying by oneself – such spilling is taken as a Blessing from Above. The latter is like the ‘plate and glass smashing’ at Greek weddings.

The more Jaffna Tamils studied for a living, the greater the risk of leaving Jaffna for good when they were economically ‘free’. Without ongoing faith based connection through the umbilical cord, such emigrants tend to not return. This often breeds militancy due to the gap between the official laws of Administration and the knowledge levels of rural folks driven strongly by their respective cultural faiths.

The University of Jaffna is such an institution where students from rural areas are in the majority. As per my observation through life in current Northern Province,  students from rural areas in Northern Sri Lanka,  – (especially from communities that have isolated themselves on caste and/or militancy bases) – tend to  learn  Tamil and/or Hindu culture related subjects than science subjects that are directly of global value. When they become more active than the science students and/or those who learn subjects like English – that are of common interests,  majority power tends to lead to militancy due to superstitious value of ‘Nationalism’ – Tamil Nationalism in this instance.

This was demonstrated through the matter in which I was/am advisor to the Defendant’s side. The complaints came from Arts faculty students and according to the information made public – there were hundreds of alleged complainants to suspend the Academic. That was use of majority rule. But when it came to inquiry – to initiate which the Defendant had to start a Fundamental Rights case in the Supreme Court – only three witnesses came forward and two of them as per my assessment were not genuine. The third one revealed at her level of knowledge that she lacked self-esteem due to inability to cope with the current requirements.  No objectively measurable evidence was produced. At the level of ‘subjects’ those who provided evidence demonstrated serious weaknesses in relating to fulfilling their position responsibilities. Using the yardstick of ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt’ method, I dismissed mentally, all complainants who through the function of giving evidence demonstrated serious weakness in ownership through their official positions in the University’s prestigious structure.

The  weak student who claimed sexual harassment through phone, but without her complaining to the authorities by herself – was neutralised by another student who categorically stated that she did not feel sexually harassed but was stressed due to getting zero marks in a small part of the exam. That ‘gap’ between acceptable,  reliable/ reasonable evidence and  the number of statements received as complaints confirmed a large deviation from the accepted levels of reasonable errors.  This to my mind, established that the complaints were frivolous and vexatious, due to lack of ownership through core values of a University. One who confirms ownership could never be dismissed as frivolous and/or vexatious.

The ownership miracle that happened was the arrival of Professor Velupillai Tharmaratnam, who is a University Council member and who specializes in Maths and whose name I cited in another matter when I prepared the papers to  obtain leave to Appeal in a Testamentary matter – using Thesawalamai Law – particular to that part of Sri Lanka. Professor Velupillai Tharmaratnam arrived on the day of the submission in relation to the internal inquiry of the University matter – but after we made moves to list the individual Council members as respondents in the Fundamental Rights case in Colombo. Professor Velupillai Tharmaratnam may not have heard about the changes to amend the Petition in the Supreme Court. But that is the way of Absolute value  which stands on its own merits and does not need endorsement or proof from others. True owners merely identify with each other when their minds are still. To my mind, it was Maths that arrived through Professor Velupillai Tharmaratnam to endorse our submission on the basis of Governance values which are absolute values.

The Maths and Science parts of the University and indeed Sri Lankan Population that has invested in Maths and Science, need to use Standard Deviation and know who is further away from the acceptable level of conduct in Jaffna and to what degree ? The answer would surprise someone who used the flat method of majority rule in haste  which led to the ethnic war and arrived at a negative answer about this academic of the University of Jaffna from the point of view of the Vice Chancellor who used simple majority instead of  Standard Deviation method.

Majority vote at primary level is the flat level  using physical power. When minorities have easy access to external physical powers – such as Indians in the case of Sri Lankan Tamils and the power of weapons in general – this physical power could be overridden. Taken at the exponential level – the outcomes show positive value of Tamils who seek to be more Regional and Global. If Resident Tamils fail to value this – but keep claiming ‘genocide’ they get disconnected with Jaffna’s deeper investment in Higher Education for Life. 

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