Thursday 23 February 2017

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam
23 February 2017

Who is the boss of Undergraduates?

President Maithripala Sirisena said he had directed the IGP to take necessary action against those involved in ragging in universities with the co-ordination of university authorities.
Referring to the ragging by some students of the Peradeniya University, the President said it was a disgrace to free education and the universities for senior students to rag the freshers.
He said this when participating – Daily Mirror article - President-asks-IGP-to-look-into-Uni-ragging

The previous, blunder bussing Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, drunk with power, went to the other extreme, by adopting a distorted, perverted and perverse model of the Malaysian/Mahathir system in 'dealing' with undergraduates.
The Rajapaksa regime made it mandatory for all university freshers to undergo military training, allegedly leading to the deaths of a few of those, as a result. – Ceylon Today Editorial -
Ragging, striking undergrads

Under the Subjective system which most Academics are familiar with – hierarchical positioning is more important than objectively verifiable outcomes. A Master enjoys high status towards comfortable positioning – so that the student/servant does not need to learn and produce all outcomes from zero base. Common belief/faith facilitates this natural sharing of the system even though one is weaker than the other in contributing to the core-purposes of the Institution.- Australian Tamil Management Service article – Time Based Sovereignty

The above excerpts confirm that as per Sri Lankan Governments – past and current – Sri Lankan Universities are not capable of Self-Governance. The Ceylon Today Editor goes on to state:

Seats of learning, whether those are funded with taxpayers' money or not, or whether those be schools or universities, or for that matter vocational training institutes, should not be tainted by ragging.

I disagree. To the extent University education is funded by the Public – the structure needs to be to include Government conduct – so a graduate would get early training in following orders of seniors in Public Administration. An undergraduate who has to pay for her/his higher education would need to be independent of the Government.

When armed officers are called in to manage Universities’ internal affairs – it is better for the undergraduates to learn about the minds of the armed forces. Even in Australia, the University of New South Wales Management brought in armed officers to unlawfully arrest me for peaceful assembly – of the kind that inspired the New Indian Express article ‘Tamil Nadu’s apolitical Jallikattu stir inspires Sri Lankan Tamil agitators’.

The simple rule for one to take authority over another is that one ought to have sacrificed earned benefits/pleasure for another to enjoy.  When more than two parties are involved the sacrifices go into the Common Pool from which the other draws benefits and opportunities. That  Common Pool is the Government in terms of Public Affairs. The subjective powers of the University system are developed through sacrifices of low level benefits by Seniors in the system. Is it therefore appropriate for the armed forces to be called in to manage and internal issue? A University that uses armed forces until a wrong has been committed at public level – is declaring itself to be military-style in its management and such a management is unfit to manage a University that values Independence of the Individual mind. The graduates of such universities carry the risk of turning out to be military-style leaders – as many Sri Lankan Politicians turned out to  be.

The irony of all this is that when mothers whose children have disappeared due to army action are grieving, the Government and the Media are highlighting the plight of fresh-undergraduates who are not able to manage their seniors. Who is more entitled to the focus of the Government – these mothers who sacrificed to groom their children – only to lose them to the war or the undergraduates who would become tomorrow’s seniors? What is the alumni of the University of Peradeniya doing to fight against such bullying? It is time they sacrificed some of their leisure time to supervise their juniors during the period of transition. Dual citizenship needs to based on such demonstrated service to Mother Lanka.

It’s time students were required to contribute proportionately to their debt of education once they become employed – within or outside Sri Lanka. Without this settlement they are indebted to the Public and therefore are obliged to take orders from the Government. The dignity of any institution of higher education is demonstrated by the sense of  Self-Governance demonstrated by its graduates, staff and Governors. Those who undertake higher education merely for a living have to pay the full cost of their education.  Otherwise the University would become indebted to the taxpayers and all those who take lower position than the university educated in Public life.  

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