Thought processes on a private university campus
The pandemic is changing perceptions, with students feeling the state is necessary for the collective good and their well-being
Teaching at a private university for the past seven years has been a strange and rewarding experience for me. I consider it a chance to have a job in Indian academia, especially as I teach subjects such as Israeli studies and international politics which are important to me. These topics are very limited in the Indian context.
Being part of a private university is also strange because I have never studied at a university and so I find myself a kind of foreigner here. I have only been to public schools and universities. If I was a student today, I couldn’t afford to study at a private university and all of its opportunities. Language, culture and class of a privileged private university is not the world that I have experienced a lot. Being part of OP Jindal Global (Private) University makes me more privileged now than my friends who teach in government colleges and universities across India with less autonomy and academic resources.
Teaching politics and its concepts such as state, democracy, and society, I often encounter resistance to caste-based reserve or any affirmative action (like women’s reserve) among undergraduates who believe that merit and competition are more productive values for us as a society and in the interests of India’s development. In my regular classroom exercise, I ask students around 18 years old what will they vote for when they vote in a national election. Their usual responses are development, infrastructure, employment, responsibility, women’s empowerment (security or equal rights not included), foreign policy, etc. Each semester, the quality of the responses remains the same as the people who come to study at a private university represent their mostly home-formed worldviews which are upper castes and upper classes who believe that merit and competition are the things. most important to do and India has resources and time wasted on welfare programs or affirmative action for a long time.
Most of the students attended only private schools; they go to private hospitals when they need it and they think the state should privatize most of its aspects. Private entities bode well for efficiency, accountability and professionalism, and as a result the state will wither away. Thus, their assumptions and views are organic and therefore legitimate when we take them based on their lived experiences.
The pandemic has forced a lot of rethinking, and I have picked up a shift among my privileged students when it comes to public health and state accountability. While these students did well, as usual, with their education over the past year, they took online classes for the entire semester, with non-shortened classes and diplomas and exams completed. on time.
Personally, they went through the pain and agony of the pandemic as some of them lost their loved ones, and some caught the virus and felt helpless. The worst achievement was that their regular private hospitals did not provide services this time around. This might never have been the case before, because money could always ensure a safe world. Suddenly, access to a private hospital, health insurance or access to the best doctors in the country didn’t matter anymore and they had to go through vulnerability and fear like the masses. The state was expected to intervene, but it was not.
Socially, they went through harsh realities when they witnessed the collapse of the Indian state (something they believed to be “a rising power”) and people managed to survive on their own for a long time. the second wave. The bodies left to rot in the rivers of northern India or the constantly burning crematoriums were too much for their young age. Such an existential crisis is transformative and has forced many to view public health facilities as a bigger problem than, say, a high speed train or economic development.
Rather than wanting the state to disappear, they felt that the state was necessary not only for the collective good, but also for their personal well-being. They could now appreciate the principles of reserve as it is the responsibility of the state to protect the vulnerable and the weak.
John Locke, a liberal political philosopher, said people need the state as a “night watchman” so that they can continue whatever they choose to do and that there is a state to protect them. Long live the welfare state, we can do better without obsessing over meritocracy.