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.


  1. you cant blame the dean totally. If you ask for his resignation another dean may even be worse. What needs to be changed is the system which forces everybody to put tremendous amount of pressure on the students. Awareness needs to be created about counseling systems and their importance. Parents need to realize they cant enforce their dreams on their children. Its complicated, not as simple as you are putting it to be.

  2. We are talking about two different issues here. The Dean isnt responsible for the time that students often misuse but what I am talking about is the basic attitude of the system towards students.

  3. Totally agree with u shruti. We all know that
    it might take years for the 'system' to actually change, but what can be and needs to be changed now, is the attitude of this so called system towards it's students.The comments made by the dean in the media shows that he does not care about a life, he has disrespected the sacredness of a life and this will not be acceptable by any means.He should not be let away for making such remarks.

  4. "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."

    frankly i doubt most people (including me) ever came expecting all that from iit. we all just came in well.. because it was famous. however what it did deliver was underwhelming. at least i feel stuck here now.

    i guess few would today call this place intellectually nurturing. the only development seems to be happening in the protocols and rules. agreed that iits might still be a little better than other engineering institutes (which makes u think how bad they wld have to be really), but it is still a pathetic place to spend 4-5 years of ur life. apart from the peer group little about this place is worth mentioning. nobody denies the occasional awesome prof. but really, 2-3 courses cannot justify half a decade's worth of agony. and frankly these-a-days even the much touted iit student input does not seem to be that awesome. none of us are turning out to be geniuses here.

    coming to the admin, it feels like the admin imagines itself as a cornered animal whenever u approach it for help (or anything). and like a cornered animal it only thinks of attack every time. one really cannot expect love and affection from such a creature. for some reason our institutes are trying to ward of attacks from imaginary outsiders while the problem is almost always us.

    a few recent incidents to make this comment more depressing (they are from a fb page in memory of swamy/firestallion who committed suicide this week)

    1.A 4th year M.A., was called for a DISCO and expelled from hostel for having a "pack of condoms" with him. Does the institute wants pregnant people walking around?
    2.You guys are probably aware of the passing away of Premranjan, M.A. 4th year, when he went to nagafalls with his friends on a trip. Freshies who were on the trip along with him have been expelled from hostel!!!!! The local police of the place held them back for interrogation but cleared them later on as they found no foul play, but the institute feels they are responsible for the incident in some way and held a disco against them. Their ridiculously irrational decision (irrationality ascertained in point 1) is going to scar the 18year olds with the guilt that they are responsible for the death of their friend. This is hours after they have witnessed their friend pass away. Next semester, the time they need support from friends and hostel, they will not have them. They have been uprooted from their routine.

  5. I dont think this is apathy from the professor's side. They also have tonnes of things to do, and if a student is not interested in completing his project on time, he is bound to get an extension. From a professor's perspective, if a student is apathetic about the project he is working in, why should the professor care about him. Its not that the professor had an ill feeling about the student, and he extended the deadline just for the heck of it.

    Moreover, the character of the Institute is partly driven by the students. Apart from the institution, his peer group is also equally to be blamed. I would say the institute fault is probably just 20%, while the student's fault around 50% and the rest 30% goes to the peer group and the students community at large.

    The comment of Dean is disrespectful nonetheless. Such remarks cannot be made even for the most foolish students. Life is indeed precious.

  6. Student,Dean both of corner make Problems while Most of Time :(

  7. I believe, that the institue is still liberal enough to give you freedom and opportunities, that are franky unparallel.

    Everyone can choose how he or she wants to spend the time in the insti.

    And anyone who is feeling stuck in the insti, I wonder what will happen when you join a more suffocating/bureacratic corporate enviorment.

  8. I agree to Bharat but the statement made was an irresponsible one.

  9. Did you guys read the response of the Dean?
    @Shruti - I was wondering if you know him personally through C-Tides.