The word ‘science’ always creates pre-eminence in the human brain, and we socialized in the same way of being, beholding this as an orthodox mark of excellence. However, the compassion and love for science are merely visible in just the lyrics and have vanished unhurriedly from academia. We are heading to a future of dark undemocratic path in science academia at most of the higher institutions in India.
The word ‘science’ always creates pre-eminence in the human brain, and we socialized in the same way of being, beholding this as an orthodox mark of excellence. However, the compassion and love for science are merely visible in just the lyrics and have vanished unhurriedly from academia. We are heading to a future of dark undemocratic path in science academia at most of the higher institutions in India. The speculative character, which is a teacher’s responsibility to give as a gift to their students, is only left on speeches and discourse where we show-off about our institution’s brand names.
Science is not only compelling degrees during education but to absorb a lot and contribute back to society, but before that, we need to acquire. I came across a statement in recent year which swings my head; “Tumhe Sirf research Karna tha, Tumhe sochne ke liye kisne bola. Tumhe chupchap rahna tha, tumhe bolne ke Liye Kaun bola …” These words were mentioned in a meeting where a grave discussion was going on. After reading the word ‘research’, a layman can also sense the people who were part of the meeting, of course, the teachers and some students from one of the premier university of India. However, we may not comprehend why, during a thoughtful conversation, where most intellect people were sitting, such a remark was made. Well, I will describe for you my reader, why such a statement was delivered in an official meeting.
This is the real air of the present academia of science in India. The context of the meeting was about a dialogue on severe sexual harassment accusations against a supervisor. The background of sessions may vary about teaching standards; research portfolios, research output, feedback from students, but the output of all these was almost like irrational statements in any academic institution. What kind of logical crises are we dispensing? This is a crucial question amongst the scientific research community. Should we accept this kind of principle and work beliefs, and be mute about it?
Conversely, if a reasonable response is given, it will result in a tag of a rebel on that person. Is being natural in behaviour and coherent in answering, a revolutionary idealist? This raises a serious concern about the atmosphere at present, where the academia accomplishes teaching, research, and supervision activities. The environment projects a mortifying image of moral and ethical values in science academia. India’s culture was never a part of science and humanities, but academicians gradually did it in the rising decades. We are merely growing scientist, but not a human being. Students in academia wonder what they are learning, and events are flashing in front of their eyes. The modern world is struggling to regain the moral value and learning of science more passionately.
If the moral value and ethics of the profession of being a science student or teacher ran in ventilator condition, we would not imagine the development. The passion for constant learning has not only lost from the discussion on the democratic platform but, from teaching and supervision too. A teacher’s role is not merely to take a forty-five-minute class but to create a sense of understanding, the connection with the topic by which how it is helping for society. If pages of the decade are turned, the academic culture in science has faced mediocrity and engulfing the undemocratic paths. Most of the recent year surveys show the depression is pinning down in students regarding their studies and works. This is because we are losing hope of getting any help from the democratic platform. We should be narrowing down the ability to build a positive atmosphere to think about a solution. Academia complaints are growing like a mountain, and we are still standing and thinking about how to suppress it from the top and not solving it at the root level.
The binary has been fabricated between teacher and students in science, in terms of respect towards each other. The inquisitiveness, fear, classroom vibrancy, and the controlling power over one exist in the binary. However, these are dangerous signs of science academia for its progression. A student spends a couple of years in a particular place during studies, but a teacher stays long for his job. A teacher’s role is essential in any academia as he spends half of his life in research and teaching, which shapes the future generation. A student stays in a place for a while and collects experience throughout his studies. Once he jumps on the other side, the responsibility comes in his court. If his learnings were not appropriate, he would not be able to continue the legacy of academia and its excellency. The chain is severely damaged in academia because of socio-political influence presently. The statement written at the top is the result of such an effect only; we are playing in a system of power hierarchy where everyone wants to overpower the democratic power of others. We failed to build science over caste, religion, race, and ideology. The social upbringing that must change after education is still holding tight on the brain that sits in the position of power. When you look around, you will find a varsity of ideological taste in science academia, and only those are designated to posts.
Nevertheless, forget the social responsibility of that position and work senselessly. This generates much dissatisfaction amongst both the teacher and the student community, and learners learn to follow this trend. Teachers are overpowering the inquisitive nature of students inside the classroom, while; the research supervisors are overpowering the uniqueness and rationality of their research students. Academia in science wants the power to suppress every quality of science built in you. At the same time, you are practising it in your bench work and life too. We embrace a legacy of excellence in many universities and institutions at some time; however, we collapse to continue because of the undemocratic trails and loss of ethics.
The signature remark, “Teaching is a novel profession”, now itself is fostering a giant question mark in his hand. It stands at the doors of every classroom/statuary body in a higher education institution. While accomplishing our responsibilities, we forget to be human, and that’s why such remarks come from a discussion platform. To bring a change towards the positive side, we have to reverse the track “Be a Human first then become a Scientist”. While walking on a darker path of science academia, the dim lights are always persistent and nurturing the democracy in their classroom, and in the other platforms to strengthen these lights. They not only educate but also ingrain the moral values of a conversation with the sense of distinction between discussion and argument. They prepare the young minds for the responsibility to carry forward because, without work ethics, the human race cannot endure. We may succumb under the negative atmosphere of science academia, still; the light definitely reaches through a small hole and will enlighten the academic world.
While I am writing this, I can imagine hundreds of kids dreaming of reaching the world of scientific academia. I wish they might land into a better academic world and a sunnier egalitarian path.
Preeti Umarao is a PhD scholar in the School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She would like to thank Pragyan for help with editing this essay. The views expressed are personal.