Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Honorary degree neglects people’s suffering

Honorary degree neglects people’s suffering

Al Makin, Jakarta | Sat, 09/10/2011 8:00 AM, opinion The Jakarta Post
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Theoretically not only should a university be a place of study and research, it should also be a place where knowledge and theory are examined as to whether they match what is really happening in society.

On one hand, a university should connect with reality, responding to political, social and economic demands. In this vein, a university, whose expensive administration is paid for through taxpayer money, should contribute to the needs of people.

On the other hand, a university — like an ancient monastery, ashram or other kinds of secluded places for hermits and ascetics — should be an “ivory tower”, immune from short-term political and social maneuvers.

This description is of an ideal university, where research among intellectuals and service to the people go hand in hand. The university is a modern monastery and intellectuals who live there are modern priests and monks, as Roland Barthes, a French post-modernist literary critic, put it.

However, in today’s Indonesia, politics — rather than knowledge or wisdom — is the driving force. Political considerations are often put ahead of everything else.

Sadly, the quest for knowledge receives too little attention. Bureaucrats and politicians are honored much more than scientists, scholars or intellectuals, who often want to become politicians when the opportunities arise.

Campuses in Indonesia illustrate this situation. The election of rectors, deans and heads of departments are engulfed by political maneuvering and intrigue. No wonder that politics has a higher place on campus than knowledge and research.



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