Notes on the Academy is a magazine that aims to critically evaluate academic institutions and culture. Our efforts are directed at making the larger community admit that these problems are not one-off cases but are systemic. We hope that our efforts spark a conversation among your circles about how higher educational institutions may be re-imagined, and how we, as a community, might work to cure academia of its illnesses.

As we see it, our major efforts will be directed towards the compilation of testimonials — anonymised accounts from people across as wide a base as we can find. Take a look at the detailed introduction for our thought process and instructions to move forward.

We also host articles about these problems. If you’re here for the first time, we encourage you to consult our manifesto, which highlights our foundational beliefs.

All these links, and more, can be found in the main menu.


Making Sense of the Present Moment of ‘Onlinisation’ of Teaching

Along with COVID 19 and its associated terminology, we are currently being educated in a new jargon regarding one of the oldest occupations, namely, teaching. We now are told of online learning, e-teaching, edtech, edutech, smartphones in the new role of teacher, and so on and so forth. Some think that, though the pandemic forced it upon us, this development opens up new possibilities and realms for education; others consider this a temporary phase, after which things would go back to ‘normal’.

Breaking Away

I don’t remember the last time I sat down, with nothing to do, and stared blankly at the evening sky. I often find myself casting about for something to do, which is to say I often find myself without work, but this is not the strange part. And I do occasionally look up at the evening sky, but it hasn’t ever been this deliberate.

I wondered then why it had been so long since I sat down and stared at the sky. Why did it seem like the last time I allowed myself to sit idle was as a child? I guess I could say I had always been busy, but I’d feel like an idiot saying that. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way, either. I work at a research institute in India, not too far from an invigorating stretch of shoreline. Brisk winds beat against the coast in the early evenings, occasionally shepherding in the tides, and at other times encouraging waves to jostle and lap against the breakwater that hugs the shore. I’ve been a postdoctoral fellow there for over two years now, and I’ve really only been to the beach fewer than a dozen times. Everyone I know says the same thing: “It gets old quickly.” I accept that this is true, and I say the same thing to my visitors, but I feel stupid about it: how could the sea get old?

Contract Workers at IITK: A Response to Commonly Held Misconceptions

We at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IITK henceforth) today are dependent upon contingent workforce for most of the work and services and a large amount of such work has been contracted out. Today the campus, where close to 10,000 of us work and stay, is almost completely dependent on contract workers, whether for cleaning, horticulture, security, messing, civil & electrical maintenance, construction, laying cables, research assistance, the list can go on. By reliable estimates, as the institute has no system to keep consolidated records of such workers, the contingent workforce can be as high as 3,000 1. Given such a large workforce and given the fact that they work without any framework of rights and responsibilities, we keep hearing of arbitrary hiring and firings, accidents, grievances, signature campaigns, office orders, reports, and so on relating to the contingent workforce, and yet we do not seem to be any closer to addressing the ‘problem’. The present write-up is based on my 2 interaction with various constituencies on the issue during the last 15 years. Over these years of my stay in the campus I have primarily endeavoured to understand the problem from ‘below’ by interacting fairly closely with various kinds of workers. In the process I have also engaged with different constituencies on the issue – students, staff, faculty colleagues, authorities at various levels, contractors and have also been involved with minimum wage monitoring, handling worker grievances officially, etc. In this brief piece I am attempting to understand various aspects of the problem and what can be the possible ways of addressing them as I have understood personally with all its biases and limitations.

Pay five-months salary or we stop work: JNU sanitation workers

For the last five days, sanitation workers at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have been protesting the non-payment of their salaries. They have not been paid in the last five months, reported Dalit Camera.

Tired of being sent from one department to another, All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) members demanded a concrete resolution to the problem of pending wages. Workers warned that if their demands were not accepted in coming days, every sanitation employee will stop work inside campus.

The Mine Field

It was a very hot summer. As part of the unwritten curriculum, as undergraduate students, we were expected to do summer internships- for the long period of 3 months outside our parent institute. As a naive second year, who hadn’t done an internship in the first year- I eagerly sent mails to many professors all over the country. Amidst the pile of rejection emails – a positive reply set my spirit high, and I committed the first mistake in ‘Mistakes in Academia 101’- stepping into the lion’s den without noticing the pile of bones behind the rock

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