Starting off with a “global” statement, life is full of tradeoffs.
When we listen to stories as kids, we think of “battles between good and evil”. When we watch sport, there is “our side and their side”. From stories, we are usually conditioned to “battles” where one side is superior to the other, and there is a clear “favourite” to root for.
Real life is not so simple. A lot of times, you have battles between two sides that are both bad (a lot of elections, for example). And frequently you come across situations where there are two “good” things of which you can only have one (and so the tradeoffs). One of the more famous of these is the “impossible trinity” of international economics.
In a completely different context (which I’m writing about today), two desirable things that are a tradeoff are diversity and social capital. The general theory is that the more diverse a society gets, the lower is the social capital (google is impossible in providing good links on this, so maybe ask ChatGPT).
The theory here goes that you fundamentally trust people like you and mistrust people who are not like you. The more homogeneous a society is, the more there are “people like you”, and so the more you trust. And if everyone trusts one another much more, there is more social capital.
A recent conversation and observations makes me wonder if social capital is also related to size. More specifically I’m thinking of size as in number of people in an institution.
One observation we had when we went for our reunion last week is that the campus is a lot quieter than in our time, and that a lot more rules are followed in letter rather than just in spirit (no, not that kind, but I’m talking about rules about that also).
For example, the basketball hoop in L^2 has been removed. While we pitched up a net and played tsepak in BEFG Square (where we always played it), current students informed us that they can’t play there because playing there is now banned. Students mostly hung out in their wings rather than in the common areas. After our first evening there we assumed all the students were out on holiday, while it turned out only the first years had a term break then.
I still remember my first night in IIMB (in 2004). I stayed in G Block, on one side of the aforementioned BEFG square. A bunch of people were playing Tsepak until late in the night, which meant I didn’t get good sleep (and for the rest of the week we had our “orientation” which meant I couldn’t sleep well then either). A few days later I just joined these people in playing Tsepak and making noise. “If you can’t stop them, join them”, was a perfect way to go about things back in the day.
What I remember is that, with a batch size of ~200, our social capital was pretty good. While there were some students who occasionally displayed elevated levels of conscience, we largely stuck by one another and tolerated one another (and, of course, massively trolled one another). Disagreements and fights always happened, but were largely resolved among us by dialogue, rather than inviting external parties.
With a much bigger batch size now, though, from what we were told, it appears it is not so simple to resolve things using dialogue and mediation. And people frequently take to inviting external parties. And the expected result (crane-mongoose effect) happens.
That some people want to study when others want to play now means that the former complain against the latter, with playing within the hostel being banned. Some people want to enforce the rules on spirits, and they bring in external parties, and the law is invoked in letter rather than spirit.
When social capital dwindles, in some ways, the minority rule comes into play – when there is a small but vocal minority that wants things a certain way, that becomes the way for everyone else as well. (With high social capital, the majority might be able to convince the minority that they need to be more tolerant)
Yet again, this is not a one way street. You can also argue that when social capital is too high, the minorities can tend to get oppressed (since their views don’t count any more), and so a high social capital society cannot be inclusive.
And so yeah, the Baazigar principle is there everywhere. To get something, you need to give up something. To get a more inclusive class, you need to be less majoritarian, and that means less fun on the average. When you have lots of intolerant minorities (a consequence of diversity), those “intolerant rules” get applied on everyone, and the overall payoff reduces.
A few random thoughts to end:
- It’s not just the class size, it’s also the fees. We paid ~ ?300,000 over 2 years as tuition fees. Many of us (who sat for campus placements) made almost twice that (post taxes) in our first year of graduation.
Students nowadays pay ~ ?2,500,000 , so they are a lot more conscious about getting their money’s worth. And being able to study.
- In general, cultures change over time, so coming back after 15 years and complaining that “things aren’t the way they used to be” isn’t very nice. So yeah, this blogpost can get classified in the “not so nice” category I guess (not like I’ve ever been known for niceness)
- I wonder how much changed during the pandemic, when students were off campus for nearly a year, and had severely curtailed interactions even once they were back. With a 2 year course, it only takes 1 batch to “break culture”, making the culture far more malleable. So again I’m wrong to complain.
- All that said, it’s my duty to pontificate and so I’ll continue to write like this