Saturday, May 7, 2011

Statistically Insignificant

I had dreamt of graduating from an IIT, one of the finest educational institutions in the country, ever since I can remember. The major reason not being that it kinda guarantees healthy wallets later in life, but that it was always projected to be the place which would nurture the best in you and give you the strength to carve out your place in the world. It was a  place which could provide the infrastructure, not only in terms of physical facilities but also in terms of mental conditioning needed to succeed in life and make you dreams come true. Which is probably why I am still having trouble accepting the fact that the Dean of what is apparently one of the finest centers of excellence, at least in the nation, if not the world, could actually call the death of 3 students out of 5000 as "statistically insignificant", right in the national media, and worse, get away with it.
There are two issues here: 1. increasing number of student suicides; 2: IIT administration's apathy towards students. I'm not talking about the first one here, that needs to handled by students themselves, by growing up and becoming stronger and more responsible. So, I am not suggesting that the rising number of suicides in IIT campuses is the administration's fault. Far from it, in fact. Deep down, we all know how most of us had spent our time in campuses. There were just so many of us  who lived only for the Inter-IIT, Schroeter, Lit-Soc, Shaastra and Saarang. Even besides those, there were so many diversions which often became more important than the academic responsibilities. What angers me right now is not only the fact that a student felt his life was not worth more than one Dual-Degree Project, but its also the fact that the institute, whose basic character had been seeping into him, also felt the same. 
For about a while now, IIT administrations, regardless of the campus, have been becoming increasingly apathetic towards their students. Back in our fourth year, after the unfortunate demise of a student following lack of timely action by the institute hospital's medical staff at IITKGP, their Dean had tried to calm the angry students by saying, "It's no big deal". I remember my own institute's attitude after medical negligence resulted in the death of one of my juniors on his own birthday during my final semester, "You guys give bumps, what do you expect." My five-year stay at the campus showed me more lives cut short and almost cut short by weakness than I would ever have wanted to see. And everytime, the administration was more worried about how it would "look" to the world outside rather than even bother asking what really went wrong. Maybe if they did try finding that answer out, they wouldnt have to worry about situations that could hurt their "image". The administration has always tried playing ostrich, pretending nothing is wrong, instead of trying to fix problems. IITK's grand solution was do away with ceiling fans. That escapist character, I guess, has become the very nature of the institute. Maybe that is why they cant tell the students to be strong and face their problems, because they are inept at doing that themselves.
It is a stressful atmosphere. Nobody in that institute has sucked at studies ever before. Early on, even the very fact that your marks are at 'class average' sting like acid. Away from home, lots of dreams at stake, and a time when growing up into full-blown adults brings its own emotional complications, tough times are a part of the package. They equip you to face reality.You need to be more responsible and pay more attention to the things that are really important. You need to work harder and use your time more wisely.  You need to derive strength from the support system of friends around you and your profs. Trust me, there are plenty of good ones out there and they are a real support if you give them a chance. Of course, our mistrust stems from the openly paraded apathy of the administration, so, I guess, even these profs have a reason to be pissed.
If the Dean was asked to comment, why couldn't he simply have talked about the need for students to be stronger and more responsible, instead of saying that students living or dying simply did not matter.