What LAWSCHOOL thinks of the LAWSCHOOL community- A chain-novel group narrative
LAWSCHOOL is a small campus. With 80 students (now 120) in each batch, living together in a campus quite isolated from the city makes for a unique living experience. We all live on this campus with each other for five long years and it undoubtedly becomes something that inexplicably defines us. Through the almost four and half years we have lived here in college, we all have heard numerous sentiments being expressed towards ‘this place’. While many discussions centre around the academic standards, co-curricular activities such as mooting and other cultural activities whenever people express sentiments such as ‘I hate this place’ or ‘I love this place’ (since most people seem to view this place with extreme emotions) they are talking at least in some part about the community at LAWSCHOOL.
But, as Kareena says, life at LawSchool is not quite love or community or drudgery. Quoting an article by Marina Keegan called ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’ Kareena expressed how life at LAWSCHOOL is just a feeling of knowing that there are an abundance of people around you. People who are in this together with you, who despite their varying personalities and life goals are living this life at LAWSCHOOL -which is the common thread that binds everyone. They are there with you at the mess table, outside the library to complain about projects, in the hostel at god-awful 4:00 am in the morning and even over the holidays at internships in different cities.
Adding on to Kareena’s statement, Cher expressed sadness at the prospect of leaving LAWSCHOOL. For Cher, community life at LawSchool is the possibility of knocking on anyone’s door at any point of the day to have a short ten minute conversation. It is the small conversation that people have in the library with the librarian shooting daggers at you. It is the random conversations with people from your batch or other batches at the dinner table.
For Prince, she cannot remember her life before LAWSCHOOL. She cannot remember the sort of person she was before college, so deep has LAWSCHOOL crept under her bones. She fears leaving this place, afraid that she does not have an identity apart from this place.She thinks everything significant about her has been shaped by this place. Living with people from across the country has shaped a particular world-view that can be traced back only to LawSchool. Her opinions on issues such as LGBT rights have significantly been crystallized by this place as well.
However, for Bono this place has nothing significant to offer. Apart from the academic and co-curricular activities, for Bono this place is quite dead in terms of community activities. Bono believes that we could be doing a lot more to build a more robust community life at LAWSCHOOL by having more cultural activities such as music, dance and theatre to give people a chance to interact in ways that move beyond the mundane class routine. LAWSCHOOL is quite eager to leave this place as LAWSCHOOL believes that this place has restricted his growth as a person in many ways.
Perceptions of LAWSCHOOL are diverse, depending on who is asked and when they are asked. Most conversations reflect a common thread – people have a love hate relationship with the college, and several layers are added to their sentiments over half a decade in the place. Living at close quarters with people at all times comes as a bit of a shock in the beginning and takes us far out of our comfort zones – and through this unnerving experience, we all take away some wisdom that will influence us in the future.
The question of what they have learned over their stay at LAWSCHOOL elicited some interesting responses. A common thread running through most responses is a sentiment that is learned because of the time that we are forced to spend with each other. Students felt that their experienceshave helped them realize that every person is cloaked in shades of grey. Face value judgments are most often wrong, and even judgments that are arrived at based on isolated incidents are only minimally indicative of a person’s charater.This understanding is reflected in Kanye’s changed worldview – she understands that she can never comprehend another person entirely. Batchmates she thought of as being incompatible with her have turned out, over a period of time, to be like minded. At the same time, the opposite experience also has been true. Understanding of another, she says, requires singificant investment in terms of time and effort.
Obama’s response was a diverging version of a similar thought. He expressed his strong opposition to the rumour mill at LAWSCHOOL, given its damaging and long-lasting consequences. The community as a whole, he feels, jumps to conclusions and judges harshly without even making an attempt to explore the other side of the story. This essentially boils down to a popularity contest, as the community sides with voices that are more vocal. In his experience, he has been at the receiving end of harsh communal judgment due to actions that were entirely misunderstood. Obama’s friends agreed with this sentiment, and added the perspective of people in power – the SBC. Sunnie, a friend of Obama, stated that the communal backlash disincentivized political participation, as people in power are most harshly criticized.
The response from the juniormost batches were starkly different. In general, they displayed a more optimistic outlook. They did not ponder over the judgments being passed and the possibility of these being damaging and incorrect. Instead, they expressed their desire for a better integrated community. Subbalakshmi expressed his particular confusion with the batch-based seating arrangement at the mess. He was understandably perplexed with the fact that he couldn’t choose any table during mealtimes, restricting his field of interaction to his batchmates. Given that interaction with first years in the hostel is banned owing to ragging scares and their hostel is sealed after 9 p.m., there is little to no social interaction and mingling among the batches.He feels the younger batches stand to gain a lot from conversations with seniors, and adds that he would rather be ragged (mildly) than not be interacted with at all. Evidently, the amount of time spent on campus made a world of difference to perceptions about the community life.
The question of community boiled down usually to a question of space. Crusoe thought that the entirety of LAWSCHOOL was community and open space. Ideas such as having a no-smoking campus for him were indicative of the fact that it is in fact an entire campus open to us as free space, that maybe we fail to optimally utilize. Carlos believes that the campus space belongs to students, but we have let ourselves be restriced in certain ways to smoothly function as a mini-society, just as rules develop in the greater society as part of a social contract. But despite these constraints, LAWSCHOOL was an open space, free for all of us to claim, which many of us keep claiming in several ways, and that according to him was the best part of the LAWSCHOOL community. He liked the fact that LAWSCHOOL was a system in itself, significantly cut-off from the larger society- a remote tropical island where we could build our own world. Such a situation had let us think freely and explore areas that are considered no-go-zones in the ‘real world’.
Tiger and Yakub agreed that LAWSCHOOL was a liberating free space, not only physically, but mentally and virtually too. The free and open email groups, the connectedness one feels through the use of social media has, according to them let such a small student body be interested in such a diverse veriety of things consistently. Yes LAWSCHOOL doesn’t have the tradtitional drama clubs and poetry groups that fucntion too well, but it is in fact testament of the diversity in LAWSCHOOL and its receptiveness to diversity that things like Ultimate Frisbee and Racquet Ball have had life here instead.
Beyonce, JLo and Rihanna however quickly brought the high-flying LAWSCHOOL community space discussion back on earth. According to them, while the LAWSCHOOL space might be unique and the community free of certain judgements, it was still extremely imposing with respect to most other ideas. Taking the social contract analogy forward, they asked the community what it has done to protect people with different ideas in general, not people with certain ideas that are considered different in the larger society. They argued that while the LAWSCHOOL community might call itself liberal, it places heavy burdens on people who do not conform with its idea of normalcy. Yes, different people have existed in LAWSCHOOL and continue to do so, but are they having to fight the society because of these differences? Are they having to find love in a hopeless place?
Mao spoke of ideology in the same context. He said the there is a dominant discourse in LAWSCHOOL that propogates violence against certain ideas. But Mao was more optimistic of change, saying first that we are definitly, in at least our uniqueness, a more open community than most, and second that we are constantly moving towards better community spaces- evolving more nuanced dialogs on complicated issues that usually have no one answer.
A protected space for Frost was not one that protects all difference. LAWSCHOOL couldn’t and shouldn’t be seen as this separate society as we have sometimes. The larger societal power relations remain, and if we are able to offset them a bit, then we are a fairer community than society according to him. He thinks we are, but also says there’s still miles to go before we sleep.
Being this cut-off from the city, life at LAWSCHOOL does have its drawbacks. A common complaint of many students on campus is the lack of activities that takes place on campus. Mr. Robin Kanwar has said that maintaining a habit in LAWSCHOOL, be it anything, from reading, writing to dancing or exercising is a difficult prospect in this university. In his view, picking up a worthwhile hobby and developing it over the course of these 5 years is a near impossible task given the lack of time, incentive or facilities in this college.
A few students are inclined to point towards the distance of the college from the city as a major reason as to why it is difficult to get people to come down to college to teach certain skills such as dancing, singing etc. To a certain extent this is true, many people have refused to come down to our college citing the distance from the city as a reason for being unable to come down to the university. With this being said, there are many more who cherish being isolated and disconnected from the city. Many are of the opinion that being this disconnected from the city makes the living experience at LAWSCHOOL a unique one. Ms. Shelly Singh has said because going to the city is such a hassle, people are incentivised to interact with each other with the result being many people forge unlikely relationships that transcend geographical and cultural boundaries.
Some are of the opinion such as Mr. Jaswinder Kaur that having the campus located in a village has exposed him to a whole different pace of life, one that he wasn’t exposed to before. Although he admits that in this environment it is easy to lose track of and maintain a hobby, he also says that it depends from person to person and if a person really wanted to pick a skill up then this place would not prevent him from doing so. He says this while citing examples of people who he knew who had picked up new skills such as playing the guitar, painting or running marathons.
So it is true that a lot of us at some point of time have complained about the location of our college and how that affects community life within the campus, it is also true that a lot of us are glad about the fact that college is a place that is disconnected from the city. A fact that has in some or the other acted as a catalyst for various people interacting with each other thus thereby giving our education in this university an added intangible value.
Note to students: I had requested you to not put the name of the institution, so I had to make the change myself! The first thing about research is anonymity. Why did none of you pay heed to that? (Prateeksha Sharma)