This is a plea for our good professors of science to step up to the role of professors of conscience.
Our universities are disaster zones. Productive scholars are not tolerated. What do they do? Leave the country? Stay here and be bitter? There is a third way. Carve out your little domain of influence and make a little oasis in the middle of a wasteland.
Prof. VK Samaranayake created the Colombo School of Computing and reigned there until he died. Prof. Gunapala Nanayakkara created his own kingdom in the form of the Post-graduate Institute of Management as far away from University of Sri Jayawardena as possible.
While the above two professors’ skill at political maneuvering is legendary, others have created oasis for themselves with the power of their scholarship. Prof. Eric Karunanayake got an Institute of Biotechnology. Now Prof. Gamini Rajapakse gets an Institute of Nanotechnology.
Meanwhile, there is no end to the turmoil in our universities. An undergraduate who was supposed to report to our office for industrial placement could not do so because she got hit by a rock the day before. Apparently the raggers who lost the election by a wide margin beat up the anti-raggers. The student Samantha died and no justice is in sight. The story is that, raggers are remotely controlled by the JVP but there is no organized group to support the anti-raggers.
I used to believe in creating oases in the middle of wasteland with the hope these oases would grow out the wasteland but I am not so sure anymore. . We can still have our oasis but we need get out from there occasionally use our good name to ‘Speak Truth to Power”.
A delegation made up of Prof. Ravi Silva (expat), Prof. Gihan Amarathunga (expat), Prof. Sirimalee Fernando, Prof. Gamini Rajapaksaand Dr. Nobel Jayasooriya have met with the president to impress upon him the importance of nanotech. We do need an institute of nanotech, but that is a different matter.
What we need is a permanent delegation of professors of conscience who can impress upon or shame our politicians to give the leadership for real changes in our universities.