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An ex-teacher’s farewell note August 27, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in contemplation, education, KREC.
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Staying on the NITK (KREC) topic, for several months now I have been hearing of “all kinds of politics going on at KREC Suratkal” and how the “college was going to dogs”. I had no real access to details but just heard isolated messages about some of the characters involved.

 

Just a while ago, I happened to visit this community on Orkut honoring Dr. P. Subanna Bhat, among the most admired, respected and loved faculty members at NITK, who after 24 years of service resigned from college, rather crest-fallen due to political machinations (partly targeting him) that appear to have driven the college from bad to worse. (Note: this has no effect on job placements or the overall ranking). One of the community members has put up his farewell letter online which I am reposting here.

A personal note by Dr. P. Subbanna Bhat, Professor, Dept of E&C Engg, on leaving NITK)

Dear friends,

Today (May 01, 2007), I have submitted my VRS papers to the Director, NITK with a request to be relieved from the service of NITK three months from now, on Aug 01, 2007.

In fact, for quite some time I was thinking of quitting NITK for good. It is a hard
decision, as I have lived 31 years of my life in this campus. It is in this Institute that I studied and it is here that I have spent more than two decades of my professional life (1+23 years). I have worked at all levels of faculty position (Asst. Lecturer, Lecturer, Asst. Professor, Professor, HOD, Senator etc), and I believe that God would be pleased with my devotion to duty and sincerity of purpose. I feel that I have made my contribution – along with others – to the quality of education in the Institute. I am leaving the Dept of E&C with a name and stature higher than what it was two decades ago. I have decided to terminate this association now, as I feel that one should live only as long as necessary and that my time is over. Though there are things to be improved on every front – that is always the case, in any Dept or Institute – now I should leave it to others to carry the torch.

This Institute has been some kind of a Mother to me. I came here as a boy of 16 from my village (Aug 04, 1969) ; and grew up to be some kind of a professional, and spent 24 years as a faculty member. During this period I served her like a son – with all my heart – no matter who sat on the Chair. The ride was by no means smooth – primarily because I was rather naïve at dealing with the ‘authorities’ – and at least three times during this interval I was emotionally shattered 1990, 1998 and 2005). The first two instances were related to my professional aspirations, and he last of them was due to the happenings in the Institute – following the Govt. order sacking irectors of several NITs (March 23,2005) – over which nobody seemed to have had any control.

I confess that I am naïve even now, and am unable to cope with many developments. I visualize two (extreme) models of professionals : one that works for the Institute; and the other works for oneself – but often projects it as working for the ‘boss’. Each of us is a mix of both, in varying degrees. [Personally, I have a difficulty in projecting the first component – which is sacred activity – as the second !]. For a number of years, I remained rooted in the belief that recognition and reward would follow the first model. The consequence of this naiveté was a devastating emotional experience, which I could barely handle (Jan 1990). I interpreted it as a consequence of my ignorance of the etiquettes of dealing (supplication, genuflection etc.) with the ‘higher authorities’ ! Though the experience was intense, it did not change my character; and as a consequence, I had to undergo a second lesson – eight years later (Oct 1998) – planned and executed with great skill and aplomb! It caused me considerable distress; even so, I was able to retain my personal dignity and poise. However, it made me very sensitive to the ‘messages’ emanating from the Chair! The last of my major ordeals started about two years ago – the intensity of which was in direct proportion to my attachment to the Institute. My current decision to quit NITK, is partly an attempt to bring it to a close.

As an alumnus of this Institute, I wish that my Mother’s face shines brighter and becomes visible across the Globe. The NITK vision is to become a ‘world-class Institution’. Over the years, we have been hearing it (from the podium) – that NITK has the potential to achieve just that – which may be true – but I feel sad that I may not live long enough to see it happening. I feel that the achievement of NITK – or that of any other NIT in the country – during the first 46 years of their existence is far less that what other Institutes of repute – Harvard, Stanford, MIT, etc.- have achieved in comparable time frame s. When I seek the reasons for this impasse, I find two of them quite prominent:

The identity of an Institute is seen in the set of norms – declared, understood and observed – that serves as the Frame of reference for all those who work for the Institution. These norms may (or may not) be enshrined in the Vision & Mission statements – if they are, it is certainly helpful – but what is more important is that it should be enshrined in the traditions adhered and upheld by the Institute over a period.

Traditions are more forceful than the engraved (Vision & Mission) statements in the Book; for live traditions are intuitively understood and internalized by the people in the system. Healthy tradition of clearly defined norms applied uniformly without discrimination is the hard ground upon which Institutions are built; it is only on such ground that individuals feel comfortable that their contributions will be evaluated on merit, and they can hope for recognition and advancement on the basis of their contributions. It is the tradition of norms and values that provides a Frame of Reference upon which the delicate creeper of initiative leans and spirals upwards to finally bears fruits of achievement.

The soul of an Institute is its faculty – and its worth can be measured by the qualification, competence and commitment of its faculty members. The first of these parameters – the qualification – is the easiest to see. The second is more illusive – for judgment based on interviews and recommendations can be erroneous. The last parameter – commitment – may be person-specific to some extent, but to a large extent depends on the environment we create within the Institute. From a broader perspective, commitment of faculty is the most important parameter for an Institute, as a strong commitment can compensate for many other lacunae at various levels. For an Institution to grow and develop, it should create an environment where its own human resource feels comfortable, develops a sense of belonging, and feels motivated to take initiative to improve oneself and the Institute on a continuous basis. Such a policy has to have several components – decentralization (of responsibility as well as authority), a meaningful recognition-reward system etc. – but it can flourish only under a settled environment where norms – declared and understood – are applied uniformly without double standards.

If NITK has to evolve upwards into a ‘world class’ Institute, it has to have a paradigm (Frame of Reference), worthy of such an Institute. Qualitatively, KREC has achieved something noteworthy under its present model; but to achieve something more, it requires a paradigm – which can enthuse and motivate the faculty at a deeper level. I am deeply disenchanted with the present model; I do not wish to continue ploughing the same furrow as earlier, and keep reaping the same harvest as earlier ! I am sure of my ground on this; I have gone through the fire three times. Hence the decision to part.

The Institute is propelled by its own momentum. The joy or distress – even the presence r absence – of an individual like me, may not make much difference to the Institute; but it certainly makes a difference to me. I have spent 24 years of my life holding the Institute as the focus of my activities; now I wish to spend the remaining years on something more meaningful to my life. I am leaving the Institute with a strange mix of feelings – a quiet satisfaction and a stirring frustration – satisfaction on making the best effort at my station, and frustration because my achievement is neither significant nor concrete.

I wish to thank all my friends who made my life easier in the campus. Especially, those who shared my feelings at times of distress; those who lent clarity to my vision and support to my actions; and those who joined me in my prayers and worship.

#Note : The defining moment for the current decision came on March 17, 2007, when the Senate resolved to close’ the ‘bonafide certificate’ issue – without really resolving the basic questions that rise out of it. More than 20 months ago – on June 28, 2005, I had tabled a copy of a ‘bonafide certificate’ issued (to a foreign student, for the purpose of Visa extension) under the name and seal of director, NITK – requesting the Senate to ascertain whether the document was genuine or not. Under normal circumstances it would have taken less than 20 minutes to settle the issue. In this case however, the procession went on for 20 months : Enquiry by a Senate Committee, referral (deflection ) to the BOG (Oct 07, 2006), withdrawal (of the agenda) from the BOG (March 25,2006), re-entry of the agenda to the Senate (Nov 18, 2006), and finally the resolution ‘to close the matter’ (March 17, 2007) – without addressing the original question as to whether the document is genuine or not !

The 20–month long procession was useful: it enabled me to get a full and clear view of the NITK oaradigm – the emperor was on a high chariot, with very few clothes on – from all angles, at all levels! What is the message conveyed, when two top bodies of the Institute – the Board and the Senate – refuse to term a genuine document as ‘genuine’; and a violation as ‘violation’ ? A deliberate and calculated ‘violation’ – prompted by motives that could not be defended in public – further compounded by evasion and defiance (of the Senate (Enquiry) Committee) – was condoned without a word of disapproval; whereas my attempt at exposing such shenanigans was termed as ‘impropriety’ (BOG) ! [Great administrative skill was at play here: The health of the Administration is primarily the responsibility of the BOG – not of the Senate or the faculty. Even so, for all my efforts to expose the rot, the ‘boot’ was deftly placed on my back! That contain s a ‘message’ – my third lesson of the series!!]

If some friends are still hoping to build a ‘world -class’ Institution around this Model, I wish them well – but do not share their hope !

I was in the Electrical Department and as such was not Dr. Bhat’s student baring my participation in a 3-day course on Digital Signal Processing that he conducted at college. Yet, I feel for Dr. Bhat – in my 4 years in college and after, I am yet to hear a student make uncharitable statements about him (except that he was a bit too soft-spoken and his Vajpayee-sque pause in the middle of sentences (to teasingly stimulate thought perhaps) put some uninterested students to sleep during class hours)

 

 

 

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Comments»

1. Vishnu - August 28, 2007

Good thing you posted this online Sharath…
but what do you think we as alumni can do about it?
our complains about water and other amenities hardly reached their ears during our stay there. What else can be done now to save our alma mater from the hands of the “authorities”??

2. sharath - August 29, 2007

I dont think anything can be done about it. I don’t even have any illusions that anything can be done to save the alma mater. I guess it has weathered such storms for over 40 years, I guess it will just get over these people.

3. Deepak S Krishnan - August 30, 2007

@vishnu: what about the times the amenities were wasted when they were provided? if not you, atleast there would have been characters who would have wasted water whenever the pipes were bursting with water; never switched off the fans/lights; misused the CCC comps etc

@sharath: pray to god that TOI(let) newspaper employees do not chance upon this entry; they might use it as an example of “How throwing up one’s hand in exasperation does not make u a great leader” in their currently runnin Lead India Initiative

4. Sharath Rao - August 31, 2007

Agree, DK. I offer no defence. 🙂 . As I am today, I may never get on to the street over anything – what will do though is practice what I want to see in my personal life ( as gandhi said) – be it equality of genders, philanthropy, non-discrimination on the basis of caste, remain lawful, anti-dowry, pursuit of happiness etc. But no you may never catch me on the street with a flag/banner etc.

5. Vishnu - September 7, 2007

@DK
I agree whenever an accusation is made and a finger pointed I do realize that more fingers can be pointed back to accuser. The main point I wanted to bring out was the simple lack of clarity among the administrators. For example the only way administrators could think of ensuring good supply of water was to pump more water at the supply level. When old engineers could vouch that 80% of the water was lost due to old burst pipes. The most horrible part of the whole affair was none had the blue prints of where the pipes were underground. And staff from the applied mechanics dept were tired of filling applications to lay their hands on them.
Finally I don’t support those boisterous guys at hostels who wasted resources its just that the administrator’s red tape did more damage to the institution than the students.

6. kalyan - November 13, 2007

great tat u ppl posted it here it actually comes first when i google p subanna bhat so let the world know wats the real deal here

7. Sharath Rao - November 14, 2007

Thanks for your comment Kalyan. I did not notice this, no wonder I can getting lot of views for that post in the recent weeks.

8. karan - May 22, 2013

Be it govt or private organizations or companies, politics is everywhere. At NITK faculty, a majority of them, are grouped on different lines. A student may not come to know of it easily but if you are a faculty for a year or two you will easily notice this. There is brahmin and non brahmin divide, and brahmins are again divided on shiva worshippers and vishnu worshippers. Lingayats are another group. Another division is local and non local. Andrites are another group. Each of them is trying to strengthen their group by promoting their members or by bringing new faces to their group. Institute has a name only due to the few BE students who are truly good, may be some 25% of BE students, rest are just average. Facilities are okay but food is bad and complaints never work. There is lot of resistance and jealousy among the faculty when another faculty tries to earn some extra money. A few professors have a feeling that they are worshipworthy and hence all below they should bow their head at all times before them. A small percentage of faculty is indifferent and just doing a government job.


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