In light of the recently established curfew, there is an urgent need to have an open
By Vaibhav Parik, (Class of 2020)
Last semester, as I approached the end of my first year at Ashoka, I realised a fundamental change that was inevitable as batches passed, the fact that there was a significant departure in our relationship with this place compared to our senior batches. After all, what we got when we came here was a certain established product, as opposed to them, who saw this place being built from scratch. There is no denying that this has led to a significant change in our relationship with this place.
But it is a bit jarring to see that relationship transform into a rising hostility between the students and the administration. I never thought that the finished product we are getting would create a relationship with the administration such that we hastily generalise and blame them for the slightest of flaws. Instead of contributing to fix any flaw, or pushing our boundaries to reach out to the administration, we hope that everything is fixed for us. In the light of the curfew, what we fundamentally need to realise is that instead of blaming the administration for the manner of the curfew’s imposition, it is far more important to look at the lack of genuine discussion around the culture of substance abuse at Ashoka, as a reason for this fallout. And that lack of discussion is something that can be attributed to our convenience and entitlement, alongside our inaction as a community.
In the beginning, we need to see why blaming the administration at this point of time does not make sense, because in doing that, we don’t realise how we are undermining the idea of the discourse on the culture of substance abuse that needs to happen. The Student Government’s(SG) mail saying that the argument about this action’s manner is not ancillary but rather important*, completely takes the element of the discourse (although not belittling it) and puts it as if it’s not a priority at this point of time. I do not see how this argument and pushing for student involvement as a consequence, given the current constraint, allows them to accommodate for the unheard voices that haven’t come up so far, because this only postpones the discourse mentioned above, that has needed to happen for a very long time.
I understand the concern that the SG might have, that this constant coercion is not something we should give in to. But as a community, instead of just trying to use their argument as a rallying point for more hate towards the administration, what does it mean for us to not engage in discourse creation? Not that I blame the SG, but is it so hard for us to see that we’re totally missing the point with all that distrust towards the administration? If discourse needs to be created, we need to be cognisant of its need and engage with it.
So why has this discourse genuinely been held back? Is there an honest answer for this delay apart from our convenience and our entitlement not to push our boundaries? Do we ever breach uncomfortable discourses beyond our convenience or rather, despite our inconvenience? What we have done so far is try to create a sort of image of the administration as this external threat, ignoring that they’re working to do things for us. We want to make this an us-against-them matter in, something which reeks of convenience. It abhors me to the greatest degree when narratives like “you’re just concerned about the reputation of the university” exist; trying to firstly say as if this is not your university and that its reputation does not affect you, while secondly just trying to show that the cause you are actually trying to fight for is about social justice.
That’s the biggest double standard we are setting for ourselves in this case. Breaking the law, but convincing ourselves that the fact that we might be in protest of it justifies our defiance. If that is what satisfies our moral conscience every Thursday night we go out there, then we truly have no integrity. It is undeniable that the protest of the law has absolutely nothing to do with breaking it in this case, and if protest is our main concern, I do not believe it is a concern that shall be reasonably highlighted or understood by anyone at a shack on a Thursday night.
Our convenience has often pushed us to take things for granted and feel that we deserve all that we need. After all, we pay so much. But here again, this is not just about one issue or fix for that matter. This is about the fact that we do not realise that this is merely a five-year old institution that is not perfect and may not have all the right systems in place. There is an implicit sense of expectation that there should exist no flaws in the structure, and if they do, the administration needs to work around them in such a way that it doesn’t infringe on our freedoms. How exactly will students ever be involved, if narratives exist to other the administration and the university from us?
This leads to the idea of inaction amongst us. We complain about the administration’s unresponsiveness. On how many occasions have any of us in the recent times, being unsatisfied with the administration’s response to a certain action, done something about it? The genuine lack of initiative at this point of time seems a fair concern, particularly because there is so much that can be established, but also because our preference for convenience has the tendency to translate to inaction.
I don’t want to limit this inaction just to initiative. It is something that can be extended to the fact that we need to push our own boundaries as individuals, in trying to go out and communicate with the administration. That is one of the biggest inactions I see, particularly within my own batch (the Class of 2020). It is amazing how we at times assume the administration’s inaction, and totally ignore our own.
In fact the administration members at times, push boundaries more than we do, which I think demands for a certain reciprocation from our part. If the VC and the erstwhile Pro-VC have been pushing their boundaries to communicate with us, why can’t we as students do the same? For instance, the Dhaba sessions they have been organising are opportunities where concerns can genuinely be voiced, as they keep asking us about our problems and the issues that need to be addressed.
Just because we have not been using mechanisms to communicate doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The entire curfew shows how the absence of discussion manifested into such a stringent action, and while that isn’t a failure solely on the students part, what I think needs to be made clear is that it is not entirely the administration’s failure either. It’s a collective repercussion of the lack of an inclusive discourse about the culture of substance abuse at Ashoka and deep down, we know that voices do exist on this issue, inside this space. It is our failure as the Ashokan community to create that discourse and sensitise ourselves that is definitely the biggest contributing factor of this fallout.
Fundamentally I do believe that the right way to go about this is through organised conversation early on and approaching this in a constructive manner. But as we approach a finalisation of this policy, let us get this conversation started, because deep down, the narratives we hope would be a mutual point of great deliberation and reason should not recede to take their place as small time conversations between concurring viewpoints anymore. Now is a good time to let them out and maybe that is exactly the fundamental rallying point this place needs right now.
*SG e-mail “Regarding VC’s town hall” Sep 26, 2018, 10:28 am