Let me set the scene. A sizable chunk of the student body has been recently struggling with a course, let’s call it Public Speaking 101, the faculty has put their foot down and declined to make any changes to the course structure, something completely within their right.
However, after much pressure from the student body, the democratically elected student government who is supposed to safeguard the rights of the student-body holds a public meeting with the extended faculty to discuss the issues plaguing the student body.
The Student Representative — Let’s call him Akshay Kumar takes the podium and lists down all of the issues that the students have communicated to him and all of those are shut down by the instructor by the use of numbers, graphs and well-documented evidence. Everything is civil to this point, students — while frustrated are content with the discussions thus far.
However, at this point, a senior faculty member took it upon himself to take the oh-so privileged students on a trip down memory lane. Recalling how difficult he had and countless others like him had had it. How privileged the students of this university were. Taking a condescending tone, almost screaming at the student representative of almost 200 students, 1/4 of the student body. How their concerns were stupid because they were studying in a world-class university. His anger while valid needed to be contained. The issues his little fit raised were twofold.
Number 1) Just because the university is better than most educational institutions out there doesn’t mean it cannot be criticized for things it does wrong. There is always the potential to do better, and the university must recognize that. We must, as students, as administrators and as faculty always strive to get closer to the ideal. While the ideal is not possible, we can always make amends to get closer to our goal. This apprehension to change has an uncanny resemblance to someone else we know. Something I’ll discuss ahead.
AND the most important
His tone, reaction and audacity to disrespect the elected representative of the student body was extremely disappointing to me. I sat there, listening to the Professor’s rant, waiting for the student body to do something, to stand up against this disrespect against their mandate and right. Nothing happened, I sat there, waited for the student representative to make a comeback and address the blatant disrespect of his institution, but to my disappointment, nothing of the sort happened and the discussion ended.
I left the room absolutely dumbstruck as to what happened, I was saddened. This was not the liberal arts university I joined, these were not the values I expected. The Habib bubble was just a bubble, the Habib Dream was just a dream. Yet, I was hopeful, I waited for a public apology, for student outrage and subsequent action by the student government, but all I heard was radio silence, and the loudness of the silence was deafening, yet ironically eye-opening.
I later realized that the students were not to blame, nor was the administration, nor was the Professor. We’ve lived our lives in Pakistan — where the parliament is in a crisis no matter who is in power, almost the only consistent thing about Pakistan. We’ve never really understood the sanctity of democratic and civil institution so we’ve never learnt their importance, the impact of our voices, the respect of such institution, the students stayed quiet because that’s what we’ve seen. Coup after Coup, Soft or Hard, we’ve seen the civil institutions bend over backwards for those who hold the real power. All of the students assumed the same role, and quietly accepted their helplessness, while the Professor assumed the role of the Establishment, the rest of the faculty and admin assumed the role of the Judiciary. The perfect trio. A real-life exhibition of the broken, rotten Pakistani civilian society.
A broken system trickling down to infect everything it touches.