Graduation, 2018: “Pride is not the word I’m looking for, there is so much more inside me now…”

If we lay a strong enough foundation, we’ll pass it on to you, we’ll give the world to you and you’ll blow us all away…

~Leslie Odom Jr as Aaron Burr in Hamilton

 

It’s been awhile since I really cared about the graduation/commencement ceremonies at my university. I am not sure why. Most likely with the personal issues regarding my father’s health, and returning back to the lab after a (way too) long stint at the Academic Development Directorate.

But here I am, in 2018, feeling an emotional attachment to the new graduates that I haven’t felt in a long time. I have been searching for the reasons these past few weeks. I believe I have known it for awhile, I just didn’t want to acknowledge it.

This graduating class had experienced something that other classes didn’t. They experienced a loss of fellow class member in a tragedy. Our entire department was thrust into national news in an unflattering way. And I was in the middle of it all, because I was the victim’s academic advisor. It is still painful to talk about, to discuss the surrounding circumstances, to discuss the final days leading to the discovery of his body and the aftermath. I will never forget that experience, mostly because I got caught up in all the hubris in social media. I let myself get baited by people who obviously don’t know my students, don’t know me and don’t know the department. But we got through it. Scarred and bruised, but we got through.

The graduating students this semester (and also, last semester) are his friends. They entered the department in the same year. I hope they remember him even though most didn’t really interact with him. They have moved on, and as more news eclipsed their friend’s case, he was seemingly forgotten. It may be a show of ignorance, but I prefer to see it as resilience of a generation. On how to continue living. To support one another. Be there for each other. Be kind(er) to one another. Show compassion, respect for their friends.

So that’s what I want the graduates to take away with them as they don their cap and gowns. The world can be cruel and harsh, people have no regrets in using words to take you down in hatred. Please, as you move forward with your lives, treat all the people you meet with kindness, compassion and respect. They may not look like you, pray like you, eat what you eat, love differently. But they are human beings, just like you. Also as Biologists, you know better about the living world and  all the inhabitants. From the single celled bacteria to the complex primates, from the microalgae to the large trees in the forest, they all play a role in our existence. We all interact with one another. Treat them well, and they will help us towards better living.

I would also like to mention the parents and those who played a role in supporting the graduates. Thank you for entrusting us with your children’s education. I know  your investment was significant, your sacrifices great. I hope we have made it worthwhile for you also, and made you as proud as we are of these young men and women.

Usually, we the teachers only remember students that stand out in their grades. But I would like to remember others who have their own stories. Don’t worry, I will try not to embarass you much. And apologies to those I do not mention specifically.

Ikin, who I think as a leader, but somehow managed to sleep through mid term Microbiology. Aldo, designated ketua angkatan, but most memorable for guitar playing, and spending time in the Microbiology lab when he didn’t have to. I call him a mascot. The ladies are a bit difficult to mention, because there are more women than men in Biology. But there is Angel the cumlaude candidate who finished in 7 semesters.  Then there are those who went through study problems, personal problems. I am glad some trusted me enough and shared their stories with me. Be proud that you are here, this day, in your cap and gown. You did it.

To the Microbiology lab grads, wow. What a learning process you went through. Qonita, Rifki, Heru, Nimas, Dewi, Rina. Good job!

And finally, I would like specially mention the three students in my lab who were under my supervision: Rama,  Faozi and Aulia. You came in like models for this generation: a bit foolish, happy-go-lucky, jock athletes who prefer the hoops instead of the the lab. I think you had a rude awakening of some kind in the lab. Not easy, yes? But you overcame the nervousness, the contamination, the grueling overnight growth curves, breaking glassware (yes, you need to replace them) to produce good results that you can be proud of. Congratulations, you three. And while I wish you spent more time writing,  thank you for making me firmly believe that patience, combined with hard work, does pay off.

I look forward to see what you all will do in the future.

 

 

 

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After 4 years

Here’s what I learned after 4 years being on the “outer circle” at my department:

People care. However, if the leader doesn’t care, then the people can lose their sense of belonging, lose any kind of caring feeling they have for an institution. They become apathetic and only care about their themselves. The institution can “go down the drain” and people move on.

Being a leader is not easy. Being a good leader? Damn near impossible.

Perang Media Sosial yang Menyeret Nama Universitas

Tahun baru, cerita lama, modus baru?

Tadinya, saya cuma ikut ketawa melihat keributan yang ditimbulkan seorang artis tahun 80-an di beberapa blognya, antara lain di sini sambil bersimpati kepada universitas tetangga di Bogor. Bagaimana tidak, logo universitas diumbar sembarangan, nama seorang dekan diseret-seret nggak karuan. Tapi, itu memang resiko bagi anggota komunitas akademik (baca: dosen) yang memutuskan hadir di jejaring media sosial seperti facebook atau twitter.

Jadi apa sumber keributannya?  Bisa buka salah satu blog si ibu artis (ada beberapa), seperti di atas, atau di blogdetik. Intinya, ibu artis marah karena gelar akademiknya yang terakhir dipertanyakan oleh seorang pengguna twitter. Oleh karena ibu artis ini sudah pernah mengamuk juga sebelumnya, maka pengguna twitter di Indonesia secara kolektif tertawa bersama, kecuali tentu yang namanya ikut dibawa-bawa. Tapi yang kenal si ibu, sudah “maklum” perilaku beliau, dan tidak ingin ikut ribut.

Lalu, kenapa saya yang sekarang ikut ribut? Kalau teman saya bilang “mau ngaku-ngaku titisan dewa, atau Cleopatra, silakan, tapi jangan menyeret almamater.” Ya, bapak/ibu/saudara, ternyata orang memang senang kalau ada afiliasi dengan PTN-PTN besar di Indonesia, (walau saya dengar, akhir-akhir ini, jadi “orang UI” justru mengundang pertanyaan 🙂 Tapi itu untuk posting lain.). Jadi, kalau ada orang iseng membawa-bawa nama almamater, jelas gerah lah.

Kembali lagi ke masalah ibu artis vs seorang tweep, ternyata ada beberapa orang yang iseng-iseng mencoba cari latarbelakang orang yang disebut “kamseupay” oleh si ibu artis. Saya sendiri sudah familiar dengan orang tersebut dan tadinya tidak terlalu peduli karena menganggap beliau tidak penting, dan ingin nebeng “tenar” dengan kelompok dosen-dosen yang tergabung dalam gerakan #SAVEUI dan Perempuan Lintas Fakultas untuk Reformasi UI (PELITA UI).

Dan apa yang terjadi? Muncul sebuah akun twitter @PelitaUI, yang isinya mati-matian bela si tweep lulusan universitas Amsterdam, bahkan secara berseri menuliskan riwayat kuliah ibu lulusan universitas Amsterdam. Kalau isinya cuma itu, plus beberapa orasi ilmiah pengajar UI yang tergabung dalam #SAVE UI dan Pelita UI, ya silakan. Tapi hari ini, saya periksa, dan muncul tweet-tweet seperti ini:

1. “Seluruh Pengajar @SaveUI dan @PelitaUI adalah lulusan UI yg sahih @DeeDeeKartika @tamrintomagola @_Baso_

2.Tapi yg tergabung dalam @SaveUI dan @PelitaUI sahih karena kami lulus sebelum masa Gumilar @tamrintomagola @DeeDeeKartika @_baso_

Dan yang sudah bersifat fitnah, menurut saya adalah tweet ini, yang me-reply pertanyaan seorang alumni yang lulus pada periode 2007-2011:

“Gumilar banyak menerima mahasiswa baru jalur undangan yg tdk berkualitas @bebe_silhouette: Saya lulus era Bpk Gumilar, ada bedanya ya Bu?”

Hohohoho, mohon maaf, boleh berpandangan miring terhadap Pak Rektor, silakan lapor kepada BPK, KPK, ICW, dan berbagai institusi lain, tapi mempertanyakan kualitas input UI secara umum pada periode Pak Gumilar menurut saya adalah suatu penghinaan terhadap institusi UI. Kalau mau ngecek daftar mahasiswa yang diterima selama periode Pak Gumilar sampai saat ini (2008-2011), tolong cek ke Direktorat Pendidikan. Jangan main tweet yang seperti itu. BPK juga melakukan pengecekan kok selama audit di UI dengan secara random menelpon orang tua mahasiswa untuk cross check berita tentang uang masuk di UI.

Dosen UI jumlahnya sekitar 1800-an. Tidak dosen semua tergabung dalam kelompok #SAVEUI atau Pelita UI. Tidak semua dosen punya akun Facebook atau Twitter. Tapi itu tidak berarti bahwa dosen-dosen tersebut tidak bekerja keras untuk menghasilkan lulusan yang kompeten. Mungkin malah mereka lebih kerja keras karena tidak sibuk main twitter *wink*. Membuat pernyataan seperti itu di sebuah media sosial seperti twitter, sungguh tidak mencerminkan perilaku akademik.

Jadi #SAVEUI, Pelita UI tolong deh, kendalikan anggotanya. Orang yang peduli UI bukan cuma kelompok anda.

[Crosspost dari blog saya di UI karena penting bagi saya]

My horoscope today: good advice!

Just because you have a strong opinion about how to do something at work, your certainty doesn’t make your idea the best way. Being open to learning from others requires you to let go of your attachment to being right. Forget about proving your superiority; instead, acknowledge that everyone has something special to offer. Respectfully asking your co-workers to share their knowledge and expertise is a sign of your own intelligence.

Why does it feel different this time?

Having been part of university management this past decade has often put me in situations where the “management” is seemingly portrayed as some kinda of “bad guy” trying to disturb the haven of academic society in the university.

In all situations, I have enjoyed support of my direct superiors whenever faced with people who, hmm, don’t quite understand the decisions made in the university.

That is, until this weekend when a direct superior posted a scathing email in the staff mailing list, questioning the motives of a selection committee that I am a member of.

Honestly, the email felt like a punch in the gut. Of course close friends told me to ignore this email, and to move on. Of course we move on, but not before sending out a reply keeping emotions in check through gritted teeth.

You know, it wasn’t the first provocative I’d ever received. But this one caught me off guard, because it came from a direct superior, who I just met the day before and said practically nothing. Instead, the person decided to ruin a weekend by sending out an email basically accusing the committee of trying to ruin the collegial atmosphere, and challenging us to come up with better rules and regulations.

I would’ve accepted this “public” scolding if I hadn’t shown the rules and regulations the previous day. I had presented the draft and received a quiet assent. And yet, the following day, came the ridiculous email. This person had crossed the fine line of governing and politicking.

99% of the time, I can ignore emails like that. This was the 1% that I couldn’t. This time, it felt different because the person who did the provoking was a direct superior.

And that my friends, shows the quality of a leader. You deal the issues when YOU face them, and not by sending a public email to the staff mailing list.

This made me laugh!

Originally posted on my teaching blog, this is too funny to not post here.

As the big midterm for microbiology is nearing, I am currently developing exam questions, and stumbled upon a sample multiple choice exam that had answers like this (question not included as it is a potential exam question):

A. The mixed culture has grown in a manner that is consistent with your estimates based on growth rates for the isolated strains
B. The mixed culture, while clearly showing growth, did not increase as rapidly as you estimated based on growth rates for the isolated strains, suggesting that one or both of the strains, when grown together, have a decreased generation time
C. The mixed culture increased in number more rapidly than you would have predicted based on the individual growth rates, suggesting that the two strains interacted in a manner that increased the generation time of one or both of the strains.
D. This question is entirely too complicated for me to answer
E. I have decided not to become a microbiologist

I wonder how many students answered D & E?