Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lessons in unreason

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, (yes, once member of the Knowledge Commission), writes to the IIMs. Very poignant.

There was also the odour of double standard in what you did. When Murli Manohar Joshi had, in the name of justice, sought to regulate fees, cries of autonomy immediately went up. When Arjun Singh passes an order that is at least as serious, if not more so, there is quiet acceptance. For those of us who have despaired of our successive ministers of education, this double standard is glaring. Do we now judge institutional proprieties by the yardstick of our ideological allegiances? Whatever may have been your reasons, the effect of your decision will have been to erode the credibility of institutions. The mark of an institution’s greatness, after all, is its ability to rise above the taint of partisanship.

Let me be clear. The issue is not reservations. The cause for concern goes even deeper. The IIMs are, in numerical terms, small institutions. But their power to define aspirations is large. In succumbing to the government, in the manner you did, you disempowered all those who are fighting for values you hold dear: institutional propriety, autonomy, and a proper matching of ends and means. One thing the history of institutions teaches us is that autonomy has to be earned, it does not inhere in mere statutes. Your faculty, your boards can leverage the power of their eminence to reform higher education, if they so desire. Those of us interested in, and associated with, India’s higher education already feel considerably diminished by the track record of so many institutions. The day IIMs succumbed was truly a sad day, because we felt even smaller.

Read the whole thing...

No comments: