Democracy at Harvard, Varnacracy at DU

Chandra Bhan Prasad

Sometime around the year 2050, we will pass the landmark when there will be no majority in this country. Everyone in the US will essentially belong to a minority group. But long before that, it will be de rigueur to have women and minorities (Black/ethnic groups) in leadership positions in our industries, our government and, we need to be sure, our medical schools" - Dr Martin, Dean, Harvard Medical School.

Ranked as the world's Mecca of knowledge, Harvard University was established in 1636. With an endowment of US$ 19.2 billion, the University's income in 1999 was US$ 1.7 billion. Harvard has so far produced 38 Nobel laureates.

With a teacher work force numbering 8402, and another 5900 trainees, Harvard Medical School is the world's most credible institution for medical education. The institution has a unique department called the Minority Faculty Development Programme, with the singular objective of locating and appointing talent from amongst women, Blacks and other ethnic groups. Their motto is simple: the racial/ethnic composition of America's population must reflect in the faculty/student population of the institute. Consider the following:

Harvard Medical School Faculty Census 1999:

1994 1999

Total no. of teachers: 7131 8402

Women: 2154 (30.20%) 2747 (32.69 %)

Blacks/ethnics: 0681 (9.54%) 1150 (13.68%)

Trainees: 5192 5900

Women: 1894 (36.5%) 2280 (38.6 %)

Blacks/ethnics:1574 (30.31) 2210 (37.5 %)

The school's management, in order to achieve complete diversity, sets an annual goal to be achieved in all departments. No where does it talk of merit or ability, and yet the institution remains the world's most credible reference point for medical education. While advocating diversity, Harvard University states:

"Diversity within the University community advances the academic purposes of the University, and an affirmative action policy is essential to achieving such diversity. The University endorses the goals of equal employment opportunity and affirmative action as supportive of University values and of the values of a democratic and pluralistic society".

The aggressive diversity recruitment drive at Harvard University had the following result:

Non-Medical Faculty Census

1994 1999

Total No. of Teachers: 2016 2062

Women: 455 (22.56%) 0508 (24.63%)

Blacks/ethnic:246 (12.20%) 282 (13.67%)

Researchers: 0566 0651

Women: 153 (27.0%) 0183 (28.1%)

Blacks/ethnic 0160 (28.3%) 221 (33.9%)

As the above table shows, gender and race divides are still strong, but a serious effort is underway to correct historical wrongs. As the Harvard site shows, the University sets annual goals to be achieved each year. The Harvard page gives graphic details about the position of women, Blacks and other ethnic groups, along with the efforts being made.

To right the wrongs, the administration states: "Well conceived and directed efforts along with commitments from senior University administrators are necessary to lesson the impact of historical patterns of discrimination." What is amazing about Harvard is that their White Faculty is more keen on implementing diversity than the administrators.

But back home in India, what is happening in most universities in general and the University of Delhi in particular? The University of Delhi has a total of 6,500 teachers, of which 1400 should have been Dalits. That is the Constitutional mandate. But there are only 100 Dalit teachers, 1.53 per cent of the total. In response to a recent directive from the Union Ministry of Personnel & Training, the University administration, in order to fill up the backlog, decided to reserve all new vacancies for Dalits. The impact? Instead of behaving like sensible citizens, the teaching fraternity took to the streets. The convenor of the Association of Young Academics cried out on March 12, "Many will commit suicide now, and many more may turn into criminals." Another one cried, "Now, there is no value for merit in India, we had all better migrate to foreign countries".

In comparison to Harvard, Delhi University is at best a preparatory school. What is its contribution to the world's knowledge system? How many patents has this University registered - barring its claim to haldi powder and neem! And who knows about this University in Europe or America?

Despite all their incompetence, the Varna-intelligentsia shamelessly talks of "merit" and then has the audacity to mock the Dalits' intelligence.

Why are they maintaining this wolf-like silence when the Dalits are looking for the intellectuals' support? What a coincidence: academic democracy at the world's top university and Varnacracy at the world's most unknown institution.

Referred by:Sashi Kanth
Published on: May 1, 2001
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