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Decision-making: Call of courage

decision-making, courage, tough decisions

Decision-making is an essential process in all walks of life. This process requires to be mastered especially by those who are placed high within an institute or government. This article in particular focuses on the process of decision-making in academic bodies involved in higher education and/or research.

By its very nature decision-making once done, invites criticism from various corners, as no decision can keep all concerned happy. Fear of this criticism is one of the major reasons which makes the process (of deciding over any given matter) slow. Those who are having the authority of taking decisions in academic/research organizations are required mostly to deal with matters involving students, researchers, faculty, or non-teaching staff. As it happens interests of a particular group may well be opposite to those of the institute itself. Interests of one group may conflict with those of others within the institute.

Let us take a simple case. A particular group of graduate students (who are all more inclined towards extracurricular activities rather than serious studies) is not behaving properly in the laboratory. They are found responsible for wasteful use of laboratory resources viz. water, electricity or gas. A lab assistant (or any of the faculty who is true to his duty) stops these students (?) from damaging lab property and reports these things to the director of institute, and requests for a strict disciplinary action against misbehaving candidates. Now this mischievous group of students also files a false complaint against the lab assistant claiming that he behaves with them in haughty and rude manner. What decision the director should take? It seems to be quite a simple matter, action should be taken against the mischievous students. It seems to be an easy decision to make. But let us check the case on the ground of reality. Those who work in institutes of science education/research, they know what actually happen in such cases. Either the head of the institute will try to bury the matter, or just namesake oral warning may be issued to the faulty candidates. This happens because going tough on the faulty candidates may make a blow on the ‘popularity’ of the person who takes a decision to do so.

The hypothetical case mentioned above is of the simplest and least complicated type. Other issues which are much more serious and complicated need to be dealt with in real life situations. Be it about barring those with insufficient attendance from appearing in exams, punishing those who are irregular in submission of assignments or known for their habit of late-coming in lectures/practicals, or dealing with employees who do not perform their duties well- all these situations demand quick and tough decision to be taken and implemented. Taking tough decisions certainly requires some degree of courage. Strong decisions are likely to irritate people whose vested interests are hammered by such decisions. And as we know courage is not a quality found in many. Few possess it, and even fewer can exert it. All those having courage are not having the authority to make decisions. Those who are not having the decision-making authority, but have enough courage, may play the role of whistleblower. However blowing the whistle may bring bitter consequences for the blower himself, despite the fact that he does so not in his personal interest but for the overall good of his institute.

Academics is suffering from a number of malaises viz. plagiarism, non-availability of professors in their cabins/labs during duty hours, employees being not loyal to their job, etc. All these needs to be dealt with strong hands. This certainly demands for placing only those in the seat of power, who have the courage of not only signing tough decisions but also guts for strict implementation of righteous decisions. Of course, people who can remain free from the greed of personal popularity only can do it. At time decisions (which were taken with all right intentions) may prove wrong, acceptance of the blame for their bitter consequences will demand additional courage.

Hence for those academic bodies who desire to achieve ‘academic excellence’, no choice is left except to find people who are not only good at research and teaching, but also efficient administrators with enough courage at their hearts to fight the selfish elements ruining an organization. Finding such people alone will not do, they have to be empowered and given the charge of the decision-making process.
Published: 2009-10-03
Author: vijay kothari

About the author or the publisher
I am a microbiologist, acting as an Assistant Professor in Science with Nirma University. My current research is focused on natural products.

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