A long dreary fight for responsibility
The interview with Nari has been surprisingly popular for a blogpost of its length. Thanks are due, I suppose, to people who shared the thing with their friends. I am done with the IITM thing for now, except to say that I’ve noticed that this has been a recurring theme in my writing, a fight I’ve picked more than once, only to lose every time.
Among my very first posts was a crib about why my parents had to sign a form that said I won’t rag juniors or drive a vehicle on campus. I made the point that parents weren’t in charge, or even in the know, of what their children are up to. In fact, if you read the post from July 2008 (!), the arguments we’re going through now are eerily similar.
I remember almost having a spat with a former Dean of Academics about why somebody had to get his father to sign a form for change of branch or conversion to dual degree. (Ravikanth was there, I remember.) He said something like “I don’t know what relationship you have with your father, but I am answerable to him if he asks me tomorrow why his son is no longer in Aerospace Engg.” I didn’t have the cheek then to ask him why it was any of the Institute’s business what relationship I had with my father, and there the matter was left.
I actually did pick the fight at JNCASR – my graduate institution. Why, I asked, did I have to get a parent to sign something that said they would be responsible for my conduct at the Centre, when several people who enter the Centre are themselves parents? It became enough of an issue here that I’m told a reasonably high-level meeting of people happened. And the only effect was that the JNC student guidelines were modified to say explicitly that students will not be allowed admission into the Centre without having their parents sign the form. It is quite silly to ask my parents to be responsible for my actions. Such a document isn’t even enforceable legally – if I kill somebody, will my father get put in jail?
It is an argument I attribute to Christopher Hitchens that this sort of thing is beyond silly. It is, plainly, immoral. It would be immoral of somebody to offer to take responsibility for my actions, and it would be immoral of me to accept. My responsibility is mine, and mine alone.
The worst part, surely, is that my professor doesn’t remember having to do any of this when she went to IIT or did her PhD.