Last night was no different than the previous ones. Doomscrolling, as they are calling it now, frantic calls for friends in need, and a lot of overthinking about the whirlwind of a journey this has been since 2020, the year it all began, and the year I graduated. At least in theory.
I think of the numerous opportunities and little bundles of happiness we had to let go of because a virus didn’t leave us with an alternative- lost job opportunities, goodbyes, congratulatory hugs, and just the company of a friendship’s silence in a shared physical space.
It’s been a year and now as the batch of 2021 passes, my heart feels heavy at the thought of how for most of them, more than half of their campus journeys were spent in the vicinity of a laptop, in a closed room. Despite carrying the burden of innumerable losses, amidst spending breaks between classes and nights doing relief work helping people, the administration in campuses refuted their plea of cancelling examinations.
What does it tell us about a system that cannot cater to the very people it was made to serve? When students are trying to clutch to life with (mis) governance that is fatal to minds and bodies alike, our authorities have been busy gaslighting students, showing astounding neglect, ignorance, and lack of empathy. History will be kind to students, that is a fact, but history will be severely unkind to these “systems” living in a veil of their privilege.
I remember a friend, who teaches at a media institute in Delhi, saying, “In the larger scheme of things, the course is not that important. Learning matters and any teacher would be proud if their students cared for the society. When students start initiatives for relief work and send me a link, I feel really proud that their priorities are what you would want them to be, and not the general ones that the world ‘expects’ them to have.”
I felt good reading it, happy even. I could see how many students would have just felt acknowledged had this been told to them. This is the bare minimum that students desire from their professors who are their partners in the exercise of learning and curiosity. The students need and deserve that the system is condemned, for it also harms professors, suffocating their pursuits and ethics, a lot of times.
And call out these 7 professors did. These 7 posts are for all the students who are feeling cornered, ignored and unseen by the system. They see you. I see you. And I promise that so many others who truly matter do. Thank you for your patience, perseverance and relentless pursuit of hope and good. To you.
I really hope that fellow academics are factoring in the material reality of what is going on around us while grading the students this semester. And trying to find out what is going on with the students personally.
— Anupam Guha (@Anupam_Guha) April 23, 2021
Education institutions in India seem to reflect the same thoughtless, vile attitude as the Indian government. Rigid rules of attendance, absurd demands for medical evidence, continued adherence to pointless deadlines – all this to ensure that 'a year is not wasted'!
— Rohini Sen (@Rohini_Sen) April 29, 2021
I dream of a university system where, in a crisis, everyone drops their research, admin and teaching work, and goes to work with the communities & people affected to address and alleviate the crisis. Feels unethical to salivate over writing papers during crises that cause deaths.
— Isha Bhallamudi (@isha_bhallamudi) April 22, 2021
My students are asking for extensions. Some of them have tested positive some are caregivers but importantly some are brave enough to share with me that they are undergoing mental stress in their family because of death and illness. I am trying to help.
— Arpita Sarkar (@ArpitaSIA) April 25, 2021
A professor who does not accord basic respect to their students, in any time let alone in a climate of tragedy, is a disgrace and has no job being anywhere near pedagogy
— Anupam Guha (@Anupam_Guha) April 26, 2021
My dear law students , Covid has torn through the fabric of our nation as never before. I am not alone in my grief as virtually all of us have lost near and dear ones.
— Nuggehalli Nigam (@nsnigam) April 29, 2021
UK Universities and Profs, please check in with your Indian students, cut them some slack with deadlines, offer concrete support as exams approach. Put effort and money behind all your mouthing about 'diversity' in your unis, and show some compassion this term.
— Sneha Krishnan (@SnehaK20) April 27, 2021
The students have spent a considerable time of their college life alone. That’s a lot to deal with. No friend to go eat out with, no shoulder to cry on, no privilege to exchange a mere glance with a stranger, absolute absence of stimulating and riveting classroom discussions, and add to that, the loss of a billion job opportunities amidst an already sinking Indian employment market.
That this is a raging pandemic with over 4 lakh COVID cases a day, that we haven’t even hit the peak yet, that mental health is crumbling with hope becoming a rare commodity in this pool of despair wired at the edges with numbness- none of it mattered to the system or to the people running the system. Amidst such a glaring crisis, there are several incidents every day depicting the cruelty being meted out by professors even- from casteism, abuse to gaslighting.
What students understand are your limitations, professors, your utter helplessness in front of the system, but when you deny them the bare minimum of solidarity and empathy, you do them, your profession and the community wrong.
Please stand by them. Let’s shed the ‘status’ that is assumed by virtue of your ‘roles’ in classrooms.
A few words displaying pride, a moment of encouragement, a note to take care of themselves, a simple message of “I understand, you’re going through a lot” weighs a lot more than we think.