30 September, 2020

Blog

On Campus Ragging

By H.L. Seneviratne

Prof. H.L. Seneviratne

This short piece is merely a footnote to the principled stand on campus ragging taken by Professor Asoka N.I.Ekanayaka in the Colombo Telegraph of March 3, 2017, and his more recent piece in the press. While fully agreeing with Professor Ekanayaka, my attempt here is to draw attention to ragging as part of a broader social problem.

Few would disagree with Professor Ekanayaka’s statement that there is no “decent” of “mild” ragging, and all ragging should be eliminated root and branch. Ragging is no different from any other form of oppression of the weak by the strong, and thus, a rag-free educational environment is a human right.  We already have a law against ragging in our law books, but it’s not news to anybody that there is no rule of law in our resplendent land.

While we are a society with the trappings of modernity, in many spheres of thought and action, we are a feudal society. It is in feudal societies that the severity of punishment for a crime varies inversely with the perpetrator’s social status – the higher the criminal’s social status, the lighter the punishment and vice versa. We see this almost daily in alleged criminals who are power figures checking in to hospitals no sooner than they are remanded. Although individual students may not be power figures, the rag mafia within campuses is a power of considerable clout — it is the handmaiden of political parties — so it is in keeping with their direct or indirect power that they can rag innocent freshmen to death, sometimes literally, and still get away with it.

The culture of ragging is an extension of the political culture, which since about independence has been on a steep downward path to moral bankruptcy, dragging the society along with it towards other forms of bankruptcy. This has now become pervasive, afflicting every institution, structure and process in our society. Thus, we do find a difference in the degree of depravity between the ragging culture of about the 1950s and today. The change towards increasingly uglier ragging was gradual, but runs parallel to the enthronement of “our culture” in 1956, and more directly, to the abandonment of English as the medium of instruction, which has functioned to narrow both the world view and employment prospects of graduates.

We see other parallels that illustrate the general malaise afflicting the society, of which the ragging culture of today is a symptom. The big talk about eradication of ragging parallels the big talk about the eradication of dengue fever. Both reflect a societal illness as do many other phenomena, like the culture of the country’s highest institution, the parliament. Supposedly a forum of dignified discussion and exchange of ideas, it has descended to the status of a marketplace of fishmongers shouting obscenities at each other. As reported in the press, in addition to their salary, benefits, car permits (which they permit themselves to sell) and other perks, they also get an “attendance allowance” of some Rs. 4500 or so for each attendance in parliament, the very duty for which they are compensated with all the perks listed above in the first place. Not that parliamentarians necessarily need academic qualifications, but it is shocking that, according to press reports, some 94 or so MPs in a parliament of 225 members do not even have their O Levels. Clearly, something is rotten in the state of Sri Lanka.

The ragging culture cannot be eliminated until the society is cured of its general and systemic malaise. There was some sense that this problem was at least understood when a “good governance” regime was elected in January 2015. But increasingly it has been looking more and more like what it replaced, thereby guaranteeing itself a kick on the butt at the next election. The likely replacement can only be described as “The Horror, the Horror”.

To act, the academics and university administrators do not need to wait till the society is transformed. On the contrary, as intellectuals and leaders of thought who presumably understand that the ragging culture is the symptom and not the disease, it is up to them to act as the engine that ignites the transformative process. They can take action both to treat the symptoms, and to persuade the powers to treat the disease. The former involves carrying out the existing legal provisions to deal with the ragging mafia on each campus, and the latter the use of their collective knowledge and strength to enlighten and influence the powers.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    0

    Campus ragging is there, partly sadistic behaviour, jealousy and acquired traits. .

    Introduce Term papers like systems for each subjects to make students busy and no time for other things.

    Tighten the punishments in order to eliminate ragging.

    Some degree programs can be cut down to two years courses plus, on the job training etc., or to research programs.

    • 3
      0

      Going back to my past at Pera, I feel ragging came into being just because students entering to the state universities are heterogenous. Most of them come from rural background. And themost that enjoy ragging are also ones coming from those areas. However, just not being able to deny the ragging, some continue it while other enjoy the season. Brutal ragging like being thrown on to the stream next to Saraswi uyana cuvert is still one of my bad acts- since with all the belonging keeping on my head, I was commanded not to use the usual path, but the stream while was going to cross it. We were fallen into the stream with heavy baggage on our heads. Had we denied their commands, we would have been attacked by various unbearable practices.

      In a country where buddhas teachings have been louded as the culture, but to treat own junior brothers and sisters to a manner, the met people would not ever realize is beyond all bearing.
      I simply believe it is the lack of overall knowledge about the world and the studies encouarge them to go for ragging. In ragging you would attack your juniorbatch mates by both verbally and physically as if they have been inherited the rights to to so.
      On the west, if the kind of physical or any kind of harrassements would have been the case, there is no backwards thoughts the culprits have to face it in compliant with law and order of each country. No students would be exempted, when law and order would be applied.

      • 2
        0

        Ragging is another curse due to free education.

        Get all Uni graduates to pay back costs when they are employed over a period of say 10-15 years without interest .

        There is no ragging at SAITM or any other private university or at any professional body such as CIMA

        • 3
          0

          Prof. Seneviratne you are right about SL being a feudal society. But there are organized political groups behind the ragging and raggers. Ragging is part of the JVP’s culture of revenge against people who speak English and reflects their class envy. Those days it was also against Tamils.

          The fact is that it is the JVP is the most feudal and barbaric political party in SL again, and encourages ragging via its student unions.

          The JVP and Anura Kumara has behaved in the most abominable way using the students to protest against SAITM. rather than MEGA CORRUPTION of the POLITICIANS.

          JVP and AKD is are now benefiting now from the same CORRUPT POLITICAL CULTURE in the Diaywenna parliament of corrupt morons.

          The ragging and SAITEM protests where university students are used by the JVP is a case of DISTRACTING and DIvding the students from protesting against the biggest problem in the country today – i.e. POLITICAL CORRUPTION OF ALL POLITICAL PARTIES.

          JVP is part of the culture of political corruption, now happily getting DUTY FREE SUVs, and University Students should be protesting against JVP and other party politicain’s corruption .

          JVP is playing the same old rotten politics of distracting students with side issues rather than taking a principled stand against corruption.

    • 1
      0

      RAGGING IS ORIGINATED IN SINHALA UNIVERSITIES IN Sri Lanka. How the sadist behavior is compatible with Buddhism?

  • 5
    0

    The learned professors, Ekanayake and Seneviratne, have put their heads above the parapet. What to with this national curse? This curse has seen many an academic reduced to a quivering wreck, made the lives of umpteen students unbearable, and sadly led to too many suicides.

    The truth is that ‘ragging’ in our universities has become a tool of subjugation, driven by mischief makers. Like child abuse, the problem gets passed on from one batch to the next.

    The highest places of learning in our land, where discipline and good order should reign, are infested with vermin scum who believe they are above the law. Near anarchy trumps law and order.

    Even our national leaders draw back from taking a stand, lest they be targeted.

    Every parent with a child in higher education is in anguish. They are now beginning to see the academic establishment as all brains and no backbone.

    Better late than never for our Vice Chancellors to get the cane out and stripe a few backsides. Maybe a case of ‘cane or depart’

    • 1
      4

      “Better late than never for our Vice Chancellors to get the cane out and stripe a few backsides. Maybe a case of ‘cane or depart’ “

      This advice from spring kakka takes cake for stupidest ever comment on CT on any article.

      He thinks the vice chancellors can reach the raggers to cane them. And then he stupidly distorts a famous motto to ‘cane or depart’.

      How idiotic can one be, and still think that they are erudite?

      • 0
        0

        Go to Wikipedia and look up the meaning of “metaphore”, my boy!

        • 0
          0

          …and how to spell it!

          • 0
            0

            ouch!

  • 0
    0

    The Campus ragging practiced in Peradeniya where a house was rented for use as a torture chamber can be described as torture. It is a Human Right of every student to have the required facilities to study and sit for degree programs without torture. This makes private universities such as SAITM a necessity.

    Private university students should be allowed to sit for a common Final Exam conducted by the Examinations Department, in collaboration with the UGC, to maintain academic standards.

    Perhaps the hospital run by SAITM should be amalgamated with the Lanka Hospital and used to provide affordable health insurance to all.

    • 2
      0

      There is no culture of ragging in SAITM. So the rest hate them all the more. Ragging must be eliminated from uni totally and absolutely, doing whatever it takes to produce a free and healthy society. Extreme and lunatic ragging is done by GMOA now on SAITM. GMOA raggers get sadistic pleasure in ruining others lives. How can they gain by this weird and mafia thuggo ragging trying to destroy SAITM doctors, 3 batches of them now in the torture house. Lying to parliament, people, street beggars, judiciary and to those who do not even know what SAITM is. Ever wondered whether GMOA raggers belong to the human race. Doubt it.

  • 1
    0

    ‘Ragging’ was a tradition of public schools in UK in the past & is not tolerated any more. In fact, it is against the law in UK. I think the ragging tradition in SL Universities is a form of reveling in the power that is being wielded over the weak, & possibly, an indication of anger & hatred towards society in general (perhaps due to less fortunate circumstances of their own), as well as, a streak of sadism. These perpetrators of ragging who goes on to graduate & end up in high positions in the Govt., lack integrity by the very nature of their actions, which is abundantly clear when confronted with the lethargy, corruption & selfishness in most Govt. institutions.

    In UK universities, seniors are paid a small allowance by the Universities to volunteer as mentors for freshers on the opening week of a new academic year. The students union, with no political affiliations, support all students & organize ‘Freshers’ week’ & other activities to enable new students to settle down to University life. In fact, the University life is considered to be the most enjoyable time of life by many, unlike in SL, where freshers have even known to have committed suicide due to the humiliation & degrading experience they have endured in the hands of sadistic ‘raggers’.

    This is a practice that has to be stopped because it also promotes a selfish & even a violent & criminal behavior among graduates & is not the ‘just a laugh & harmless fun’ idea it is taken as by the authorities.

    • 1
      1

      How the hell would our Kalagolayas know about public schools and universities in the UK?

      They are busy on the Internet, with laptops and PCs given by Rajapakse.

  • 2
    1

    A batch of freshers who get in to the university has not received any favors or, do not have to get any kind of permission from the seniors to gain entrance to a university. They have sat the similar ALs and got subjected to the same Z score criteria as the seniors did when they got in to the university. Therefore, nobody is superior or inferior here and, all are of equal status. The primary reason why this lowly act has continued in our university system is the lack of fitting punishment as a deterrent. What I meant by “fitting” is a prison term and life time suspension of university education regardless of their seniority. The purpose of this punishment is to instill fear in minds of culprits who commit the crime and to convey a message to others who are waiting to commit the crime. Those who rag others usually don’t do it alone, but only with a gang because they are cowards. Putting a stop to ragging is not difficult as some people think. All you need is a minister with a will to eradicate the problem and the involvement of police. Note that we cannot rely on the university staff to stop this menace because, fact of the matter is that they themselves have gone through this mill and some of them even condone this activity. Hope the recent incidents at Peredeniya awake the government with an urgency to put to an end to this menace. If our leaders were able to eradicate a ruthless terrorist outfit like LTTE, then eradicating a bunch of hooligans from couple of universities is peanuts.

    • 1
      1

      ‘All you need is a minister with a will to eradicate the problem’

      Actually, that is all you need for most of Lanka’s ills. But neither Minister, PM nor President will be available for comment.

  • 1
    1

    ………….The change towards increasingly uglier ragging was gradual,but runs parallel to the enthronement of OUR CULTURE in 1956,and more directly,to the abandonment of English as the medium of instruction,which has functioned to narrow both the world view and employment prospect of graduates…….
    Prof: HLS has hit the nail on its head.

    Well then ragging has its roots and it could take worse forms in the future.The Dengue menace is nothing compared to the Ragging that takes place in the Universities!

  • 1
    1

    Ragging is done out of jealousy. I remember whilst i was undergoing ragging in Peradeniya in early 70s, Arts students say that you engineering students get jobs immediately after passing out but we have to wait years without a job. Further, rural students ragging was inhumane compared to students who gave come from city and urban schools.

  • 1
    1

    A RATHER ANCIENT FROG STORY (from a forgotten source of some 50 years ago)

    A scientist through much effort trained a frog to jump when he said “Jump”.
    Impressed, but still scientifically curious, he cut off one of its fore legs and said “Jump”; and the frog jumped.
    Scientific curiosity persuaded him to cut off the other fore leg and repeat the experiment. He said “Jump” and the frog jumped.
    Then he proceeded to cut off a hind leg and ordered the frog to jump. To his delight the frog made an effort and jumped.
    Finally he cut off the remaining leg and said “Jump”. The frog did not jump.
    He wrote down his conclusion: When you cut off all four legs of a frog, the frog does deaf.

    Conclusions based on single parameter studies can be interesting, but can also be dangerously unscientific.

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