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Dispatches from a Social Work College

This piece is about some events at the Madras School of Social Work (MSSW) in Chennai. In the past, we have covered the unjust dismissal of Prof R G Sudharson from MSSW,1 essentially for speaking up on behalf of social justice. Since then, we have been in contact with some students at the college, who have told us about the horrific mismanagement they are facing.

Testimonials

The students set up an online portal to collect anonymous testimonials from students, regarding the harrassment they faced. These testimonials were posted on the instagram page @mssw600008.

Together, they tell a story of an institute that is deeply sexist and abusive to its students. Some of the facts brought out are as follows. Faculty apparently feel empowered to discriminate against women and make constant comments about their attire and behaviour. They create a toxic and non-supportive environment for their students and often abuse them. Women who live in the hostel have very limited freedoms.

Here are some of the testimonials, from their instagram page:

Privatisation is Violence: On the Predicament of Medical Students in Ukraine

The last week has seen another addition to the litany of brutal wars ravaging our brothers and sisters on this little planet we call home; Ukraine has joined Syria, Yemen, etc, to the club of countries having to fight off invasions by imperialist superpowers, each one of them invaded for the economic and geopolitical interests of a small ruling class of ultra-rich oligarchs. But one thing that’s different this time, for Indians at least, is the surprising (to many of us) revelation that there are around 20,000 Indians stuck in the country, many attending medical colleges.

We at NotA have been watching, along with all of you, all the videos of young men and women pleading for their lives. They are being bombed1 and personally attacked2 by the Russians, and they are being beaten up and denied entry at the Romanian and Polish borders. There’s also a possibility that some are being used as human shields by Ukrainian forces.3

An Invitation to Ivan Illich’s Tools for Conviviality

— Anirudh Wodeyar

I have been looking for books that help me understand our world, and help me articulate my struggles with it for a while now. This is one of those books.

Tools for Conviviality laid bare why I find difficulty managing the speed at which the world operates — we’ve opted for a world that wants to go too fast at everything: cars, growth, new technology, travel, work. And my sense of being doesn’t operate at that speed. It has taken me years to justify to myself that it’s ok to operate at my own pace. Now I can actually tell you why it’s ok.

NotA Statement on the Hijab Ban

NotA strongly condemns the Hijab ban imposed by the Karnataka state government. We express solidarity with all the students who have been protesting this act of blatant exclusion and bigotry. These students have the good sense, virtue and courage to oppose this assault on their fundamental rights. We stand by them.

The ban restricts the student’s freedom to practise religion and denies them access to education. This is against the pluralistic values enshrined in our constitution. We live in a time when Islam is under constant assault by the ruling party. Now they have resorted to using students as tools of intimidation by poisoning young minds, clothing them in saffron and pitting them against their own peers. This reprehensible behaviour is yet another example of the regime’s agenda of exclusion. 

Embedded Journalism for the Working Class: An Interview with Workers’ Unity

Workers’ Unity (WU) is a news outlet that reports on working class movements in various parts of the country, from Bangalore to Rajasthan to Punjab and Delhi. They go to demonstrations, protests, and events wherever they’re happening, and interview common people and leaders about the problems they’re facing and why they’re out in the streets. It is perhaps the most important media organisation in the country.

We conducted an interview with Sandeep Rauzi and Santosh Kumar of WU in early January, and used the opportunity to ask them about the recently formed Mazdoor Adhikar Sangharsh Abhiyan (MASA), the recently concluded farmers’ protests, the Samyukt Mazdoor Morcha and landless labourers’ issues, and their perspectives on political struggles in academia. We have added some explanations and interjections in a small font like this one throughout.

While these topics may seem remote from the usual concerns of NotA, they are not. We cannot reform the academy while ignoring the outside world. Political struggle inside and outside the academy are deeply intertwined, as they bring out beautifully in the final section of this interview.

Introduction

NotA: Could you please introduce our readers to Workers’ Unity (WU)? What does your work involve and what are your aims etc?

How A Single Spark Can Ignite A Fire

This article was originally published in The Truth, as the editorial in its January 2022 issue, about the recent protests in Bihar.

School Is Cancelled!An Invitation to Deschooling Society

— The NotA Collective

Authored by a Croatian who at various times in his life was a Roman Catholic priest, a theologian-philosopher, and a social critic, the author of Deschooling Society comes out swinging and he isn’t pulling any punches:

“Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom, nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue’s responsibility until it engulfs his pupils’ lifetimes will deliver universal education.”1

After reading the above paragraph, excerpted from the book’s introduction, you might find yourself thinking that the pugilistic offerings of its author, Ivan Illich, are a poor fit for Notes on the Academy. We have, in our earlier articles, spent a lot of time trying to think of the many ways in which schools and colleges can be made better. If the above quote is anything to go by, Illich would much rather that we shut down the academy altogether. How does one approach a book whose rejection of institutionalised schooling is so vehement?

No Pedagogy for the Oppressed: Caste (in) Academia

– Deepti Sreeram

An upper-caste Professor at the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) in Hyderabad once told me that EFLU would have been better off if it was still a private institution.“It wasn’t disruptive and crowded back then. The campus was peaceful,” the Professor told me.

He was referring to the political unrest on campus. Between 2010-12, the campus was in the middle of the Telangana movement1. Despite the absence of a fully recognised student union, organisations like the Telangana Students Association (TSA) and the Dalit Adivasi Bahujan Minority Students Association (DABMSA) were at the forefront of various student-led agitations in Hyderabad. At one of the student protests at EFLU, the then acting Vice-Chancellor of EFLU had insulted a Dalit student leader for speaking in improper English. The leader graciously dismissed the remark even though there were legitimate grounds for public outcry.

A few thoughts on ceiling fans at IISc

– Pranav Minasandra

Trigger warning: suicide

Yes, I never expected that I would write something with that title, but then, here we are. Recently, the administration of the Indian Institute of Science decided to combat the rising wave of student suicides they faced…by replacing ceiling fans with wall-mounted ones. Several faculty and students presented this as a nuanced decision that will save lives, a well-reasoned method of means restriction.1

With the disclaimer that I know next to nothing about this subject, I make the following points.

Discrimination In Higher Education; Need For A United Struggle To Save Social Justice

This statement by a united front of student organisations in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi, was shared on social media. We are republishing it here, with permission.

Student organizations of JNU and JNUSU have received a massive number of complaints from candidates from SC/ST/OBC/PwD categories and minority communities who appeared for viva-voce examinations for PhD admission this year. These candidates have received extremely low and undignified marks for the viva resulting in their automatic exclusion from JNU. Despite scoring well in the written examinations, they have been unable to secure admission simply because they have been awarded marks as low as 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

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