Martin Luther Christian University

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The Vision Statement

Christian education and values for the betterment of society, especially its youth and Christian community.

The Vision of the University has encapsulated the mandate and commitment of the founders of the University which have been recorded verbatim in the minutes of the first meeting of the Board of Governors and is extracted as below:

“The role and responsibility of the church is to transform society in a manner that is relevant in today’s context. The process of transformation must come about in such a way that it solves the problems of unemployment among young people, poverty, health, education and development.  The University has come at the right time and should help our people to help themselves.  Our State has a rich potential in nature and the University should help to tap these resources in a proper way.  The University should be rooted in the local culture…The University should help define the role of the Church in this society.  It should serve the people of Meghalaya.  Historically, the Church has provided schools and higher education in Meghalaya but the University will be the crown of our educational efforts in Meghalaya.  The praxis of faith, grace and scripture is education.”

The Mission Statement

“To create an educational culture that is eco-sensitive, humanitarian, respectful of all cultures and will contribute to the sustainable development of Meghalaya; of India’s North East; of the country; and the world. This educational culture envisages a student and teaching community that is acutely aware of issues afflicting societies and communities and attempts to build bridges instead of community enclaves. At the heart of education is the need to build professionalism and skill sets that equip students to deal with immediate and future challenges while also inculcating in them the ethos of equity in gender and all human relationships, and inclusivity through focused activism.”



In accordance with the motto of the University, we dedicate ourselves to always be honest, fair and transparent in all our dealings.


In keeping with the mission statement of the University, we dedicate ourselves to maintain sustainability in all our development efforts.

Tolerance And Respect

In keeping with the mission statement of the university, we dedicate ourselves, as global citizens, to respect and honour the customs, traditions and beliefs of all communities.


We dedicate ourselves to always to always put sincerity and commitment in our work to ensure quality output at all times.


We dedicate ourselves to persevere in everything that we do until we have achieved our goals.


We dedicate ourselves to practice humility in all our dealings.


We dedicate ourselves to promote teamwork and ownership in all our endeavours.


We dedicate ourselves to promote, and support potential leadership qualities.


We dedicate ourselves to take full responsibility for our actions irrespective of possible outcomes.


We dedicate ourselves to giving recognition wherever and whenever it is due, without prejudice.

Christian Values

The university espouses the Christian values of compassion for the marginalised and deprived.

Tribal Values

The university upholds the tribal values of harmony with one another and with nature, and a collective responsibility for the wellbeing of all.

Position Statements

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As approved by the Board of Management in its meeting held on March 29, 2019, the following statement has been resolved to be adopted:


In the social churning, stirred by the strong influences of colonization, Christianisation, Westernisation, merger with India and globalisation, that has caused evolutionary changes in traditional mindsets and gender practices, patriarchy continues to be dominant and women continue to be marginalised.


The marginalisation of women leads to poor health of women, caused by a cycle of poverty, poor access to and use of contraception, high fertility, malnutrition and high maternal mortality. Meghalaya is an example of this vicious cycle, leading to some of the lowest health social indices for women and children in the country. There is a rise in crimes against women, be it rape, domestic abuse or child exploitation.


Social practices favouring men, condoned by our society leads to growing numbers of abandoned women, and the highest percentage of single mother households in the country. Women are unable to negotiate safe sex to protect themselves neither from unwanted pregnancies nor from sexually transmitted diseases because of economical and psychosocial factors.


The marginalisation of women is seen in the deprivation of women from participating in male dominated traditional and modern governance and attempts at equalization of gender opportunity, such as reservation in civic bodies have been met with violent and vicious male opposition.


Apart from women, patriarchal attitudes and practices extend to third genders as well. In many countries, homosexuality is illegal and is punishment may extend to the death penalty. Hardliners in most religions have little to no tolerance towards the LGBTQIA community and not only prescribe ecclesiastical punishments but collaborate with governments in condemning and punishing them.Those who identify themselves as other genders are often deemed to have psychiatric problems and ‘therapies’ like psychological or spiritual counselling to straighten them are advocated.. As much as academic communities would like to consider ourselves enlightened and tolerant, mentions of the LGBTQIA community are made in hushed tones and even academicians are reluctant to address this issue.


Homosexuality has its roots with the evolution of mankind and not just a product of a liberal or millennial mindset. In the ancient world, homosexuality was accepted and practised in virtually all societies. Homosexual and gender-variant individuals were also common among other pre-conquest civilizations in Latin America, such as the Aztecs and Mayans. Pre-colonial societies in Asia, Africa and the Pacific celebrated other gender individuals and relationships in art and literature. These depictions in Japan included Buddhist monastic life and the samurai tradition. Thailand which has never been conquered or colonised has never had social or legal prohibitions against other genders. Ancient Greece and Rome had socially-sanctioned norms of same-gender behaviour.


The indigenous tribes of North America were, in their pristine form, relatively free from patriarchy, mainly because of the indigenous concepts of gender. Respect is ungendered and while there were gender roles, these were not rigid. Women had prominent roles in the economic and political arenas and could take up arms and fight in battles.Transgenders were called for the naming ceremony, were mediators, judges and healers. Children were free to change gender to which they are more comfortable, usually around puberty. Their fluid concept of gender variance enabled the acceptance of multiple genders.


It was only after the Abrahamic religions came into being that the church and the law, backed by the might of patriarchal and imperial domination that homosexuality was socially and legally banned. The Spanish conquerors of South America were horrified to discover sodomy openly practiced among native peoples, and attempted to crush it out by subjecting the berdaches (as the Spanish called them) under their rule to severe penalties, including public execution, burning and being torn to pieces by dogs


Bisexual, asexual and transsexual biology is seen in countless species in nature. Many species change reproductive methods to adapt to environmental changes such as nutrition deprivation. Through evolution, these sexual adaptations have persisted and have helped to enable survival of species.


With the advancement of science, the biological and psychological underpinningsof LGBTIA havebeen explained.Gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder (GID) is a persistent sense of mismatch between one’s experienced gender and assigned gender. This is a multi-factorial phenomenon and several explanations have gained credibility such as: genetic abnormalities, hormonal testosterone or estrogen imbalance in the womb, and social factors like parenting. Other reasons include social, psychological and personal factors in same sex attractions, or the lack, thereof.


These sexual minorities face multiple challenges in society because of social stigmata, which may result in strong feelings of antipathy towards the LGBTIAcommunity. They are called derogatory names, their voices and mannerisms mimicked by friends, shamed and made fun of. Some are being pressurised or forced to marry somebody of the opposite sex, just so that their “gayness” could be hidden from public scorn. They are not only victims of bullying and violence, but denied job andeducational opportunities and even face rejection by family.


Many homosexuals live under the constant fear of being discovered and afraid to ‘come out’.Living with dignity becomes a challenge. Orthodox societies regard them as sinners even just by identifying as gay. They are made to suffer from guilt and shame, have difficulties in initiating and sustaining relationships. Isolation takes a heavy toll, resulting in high prevalence of depression and suicide in the LGBTIA community.


The government and churches have taken insufficient notice of these issues and infact are complicit in worsening the plight of women and the LGBTQIA community through misplaced priorities and teachings, leading to the further marginalization of women and other gender minorities.


To quote a few passages from the judgement of the Supreme Court of India in striking down the draconian portions of Section 377:


The overarching ideals of individual autonomy and liberty, equality for all sans discrimination of any kind, recognition of identity with dignity, and privacy of human beings constitute the cardinal four corners of our monumental Constitution forming the concrete substratum of our fundamental rights that has eluded certain sections of our society who are still living in the bondage of dogmatic social norms, prejudiced notions, rigid stereotypes, parochial mindsets and bigoted perceptions.


We have to bid adieu to the perceptions, stereotypes and prejudices deeply ingrained in the societal mindset so as to usher in inclusivity in all spheres and empower all citizens alike without any kind of alienation and discrimination.The natural identity of an individual should be treated to be absolutely essential to his being. What nature gives is natural………… Non-acceptance of it by any societal norm or notion and punishment by law on some obsolete idea and idealism affects the kernel of the identity of an individual…Identity is destiny.


An Asian level consultation on Church Responses to Human Sexuality and Gender Minorities was held at the Ecumenical Christian Centre, United Theological College, Bengaluruin 2017. This initiative of the National Council of Churches in India brought together delegates from South Asian and South East Asian countries. The delegates included theologians, gay seminary students, queer theologians, church leaders and Christian representatives from the LGBTIA communities. Excerpts from consultation are highlighted below:


A lesbian pastor from Hong Kong spoke of the need to challenge the hetero-patriarchal normative, and the need for a theology that liberates queers from heterosexist domination and stigmatisation. She also stated that “the right of LGBTQIA is a justice issue, not a moral issue.” A doctor from the Queerla movement in Kerala presented a study of 155 Christians who were gay or lesbian. The findings of the study showed that church and faith questions had been a major cause of ‘damage’, and that while some were still in the faith, others had abandoned it.


One group discussion report opined that “we need to re-look at the curriculum in theological colleges; church counsellors don’t have skills to attend to the LGBT so make that part of the curriculum” in Bible studies.Materials on human sexuality is there but it’s expensive. We need to write at several levels: academic, popular writing, Bible studies, short reflections, material for youth, kids (Sunday school materials that raise gender questions and strategic material calling for solidarity.”


Many universities all across the globe have taken radical steps in embracing LGBTQIA and other gender issues, and also are taking steps and measures in making themselves an all-encompassing and prejudice-free university. Princeton University, USA an LGBT+ centre which hosts a wide range of both educational and cultural events including guest speakers, film series, and performance artists. They also offer LGBT Peer Education courses and awareness programs. Tufts University, USA offers campus housing specifically for LGBTQIA students, called Rainbow House.


The University of Birmingham has an LGBT+ Association and a support group called the University of Birmingham Rainbow Network. They observe a pride festival every year. Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, has started Dhanak, a campus queer group that is active in sharing important information, and hosting debates and other events, all to keep the conversation afloat. IIT Bombay’s Saathi is one of the most proactive groups for LGBTIA support.


MLCU, while promoting gender justice through its life skills, sexuality and reproductive health programs and many seminars and workshops need to do more than merely teach or conduct research on gender issues. It also needs to address apathy and ambivalence among its own faculty and staff.



It is recommended that the University intensify its efforts and contributions to emerge as a leader in the state and region in the crusade for gender parity. This may be accomplished through the following:


  1. Expand the teaching and research programs in gender but use these interventions to better embed a gender egalitarian environment and mindset in the students, faculty and staff
  2. Effective classroom teaching on LGBTQIA issues be given, highlighting the scientific, social, and psychological perspectives.
  3. Create books and resource materials for dissemination to the government, churches and civil society.
  4. Engage purposefully with the government, churches and civil society for better awareness and interventions for gender.
  5. Take initiatives in the community to promote women’s health, the succour of single mothers, and sexuality and reproductive rights.
  6. The recruitment policy should be affirmative of women and gender minorities.
  7. Seminars and other events for faculty, staff and students be organised to impart awareness and to reduce prejudice.
  8. Join hands in active collaboration with like-minded organisations and groups to promote tolerance, acceptance and empathy towards the marginalized groups.
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As approved by the Board of Governors in its meeting held on November 27, 2018, the following Expressions of Religious Faith at MLCU Statement of priorities has been resolved to be adopted:


The vision and mission statements of this University, drawn from the intentions of the founders make several objectives amply clear. One line quoted from the minutes of the first Board of Governors meeting stands out: “The process of transformation must come about in such a way that it solves the problems of unemployment among young people, poverty, health, education and development.  The university has come at the right time and should help our people to help themselves“. This mandate assigns a public and social role to the University.


The Northeast region and Meghalaya in particular suffers from poor social development. Many health, education and economic indices are among the poorest in the country. There are historical and cultural influences, some from the external forces of colonialization, Westernization, proselytization, Indianization and marginalization. These together with problematic internal issues have caused a churning to traditional tribal societies, yielding a burden of a long list of social challenges.


At a retreat of the faculty held on November 15, 2017, a few minutes was devoted to a side activity. Those present were asked to write down the problems currently facing Meghalaya and the Northeast. The consolidated list consisted of 72 items (annexure).


Democracy and secular thinking

“Democracy without its complement of secular thinking falls short of being a democracy. Secular thinking has to induct degrees of rationality and logic” (Thapar, 2015). The natural and physical sciences are generally accepted by all sections, because their principles and applications are unarguably logical, except to the most orthodox.


It is in the social sciences that overlap occurs between secular, ideological and religious theories and the application of these disciplines is open to narrow interpretations and practice. In fact, if one would consider the basis of social sciences to be human rights and social justice, then there are many examples of how ideology or religion has trampled on human rights and engendered discrimination. Education is one example, where its concepts and systems are sometimes adversely dictated by ideology or a particular religion.


A democracy or an institution ceases to be secular if is governed by a majoritarian view of any kind. This is a social concern that ultimately affects the individual adversely. So for democracy to be true, thought must be free. Free thought must be encouraged and protected in the university. Educational institutions, especially universities are the preparatory schools for democracy and therefore have a critical societal role.


However, one does not see the academician speaking out in public or writing in the general media, nor engaging with government or civil society, and least of all being involved hands-on with community work. In fact there is a deliberate aloofness, stemming from an attitude of superiority or indifference.


Moral and social imperatives

Thapar defines public intellectuals as “those who frequently concern themselves with issues related to human rights and to the functioning of society, such that it ensures the primacy of social justice.“ She urges academicians to speak up and to engage, especially in the current era where one has not only to battle against the familiar oppression of embedded social, cultural and religious traditions but even against a democracy which has taken a majoritarian hue. This latest hegemony is alluded to in her book The Past as Present (2014).


Kohlberg’s theory of moral development, well-known to psychologists, has six stages. The ultimate moral formation is the acceptance of universal human values. Implicit in this stage is the questioning and resistance to authority that infringes on human rights or values. Unfortunately, his research findings showed that in adults who have reached the age of 36 years, less than ten percent of individuals reach this final stage of moral formation. The majority of individuals are in arrested development, most of them at the school-age stage of unquestioningly complying with social or moral rules that have been ingrained in childhood.


Our first responsibility, therefore, is to affirm the University’s public and social role as a stakeholder, perhaps a leader in societal development. In this endeavour, it may be necessary to take positions independent of authority be it political, ecclesiastical or cultural, especially when those loci of power “resist ethics and reasoned thinking” (Thapar, p 23). These positions may be based on our disciplinary expertise, but may take us beyond our specializations. According to Jasanoff (2015), this works because


…the very virtues that make democracy work are also those that makes science work: a commitment to reason and transparency, an openness to critical scrutiny, a skepticism to claims that too neatly support reigning values, a willingness to listen to countervailing opinions, readiness to admit uncertainty and ignorance, and a respect for evidence gathered according to the sanctioned best practices of the moment.


According to Sarukkai (2015), a professor at the Indian Institute of Science, “More than in any other activity, a public intellectual has to be seen to embody what she stands for – writing and doing cannot be disjointed acts”. Perhaps the outstanding example of this is the Centre for Science and the Environment (CSE). CSE conducts and compiles cutting-edge science, takes it to the public and government in an understandable format, advocates and initiates community movements and challenges government in the courts. Intellectual capital must yield social dividends.


  1. Public visibility:
    1. Seminars with civil society, not just urban elite
    2. Contributing to the public media
    3. Citizen science
  2. Community immersion: for faculty and student learning
  3. Research priorities of social and cultural issues and methods that are community participative, qualitative and respect indigenous values and worldviews
  4. Curriculum, syllabus and pedagogy:
    1. Curriculum and syllabus: appropriate cultural and social content
    2. Pedagogy: meeting tribal students’ needs
    3. Faculty recognition: acknowledgement of faculty contributions in the social space
  5. Tribal studies: humanistic not anthropological



  1. Thapar, R. The Public Intellectual in India. Aleph, New Delhi, India. 2015.
  2. Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. Encyclopedia Britannica.
  3. The quotes from Jasanoff and Sarukkai are from Romila Thapar.


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As approved by the Board of Governors in its meeting held on November 24, 2022, the following Expressions of Religious Faith at MLCU Statement of priorities has been resolved to be adopted:



Expression of Religious faith and practices of religion is to bring harmony, peace and well-being of all people and the whole creation. Unfortunately, religious practices have an exclusionary nature. By privileging a certain group, create barriers that dehumanize others, reducing them to ‘outsiders.’ Recognising these exclusivist tendencies that excludes the people at the margins and to bring the fact that the Gospel of Christ proclaims the mission of Christ to the marginalised of the society, today’s understanding of Christian church is “Theology from the margins” and theology to emanate from the Public Sphere, developed on the ethical question for which the answer is evident.

As human beings and especially as tribals, we subscribe to our shared existence and experience on this planet. As part of the stream of humanity we travel together through time and to our destiny. David Christian, a distinguished professor of history at Macquarie University in Australia puts it so well:

Like cosmic fireflies, we travel with all other humans, family, friends and enemies. We travel too with other life forms, from bacteria to baboons, with rocks and oceans and auroras, with moons and meteors, planets and stars, quarks and photons and with lots of empty spaces. The cavalcade is rich, colourful, cacophonous and mysterious.

As tribals we have a distinctive worldview which is expressed in the MLCU value expressed as:

The university upholds the tribal values of harmony with one another and with nature, and a collective responsibility for the well-being of all.

In a university, the priorities are academics and research and the collective development of all, not placing ourselves in compartments or sects. Personal faith and spirituality is uplifting, the quiet counsel and support of close friends is comforting in times of difficulty. But organised religion tends to parochial and encourages sectarianism. Exclusivism eventually leads to extremism, as has been seen repeatedly in history, both ancient and contemporary.

Society, Religion and Education

Separation of church and state has been a cardinal tenet of Western democracy as conceptualized and practiced in modern nations. Perhaps the only group of countries that profess to be religious states are Muslim. The only Christian country is the Vatican. The erstwhile Hindu country of Nepal became a secular state in 2007.

Similarly, most institutions of higher education separate academics from religion, a trend seen clearly even among the church-established great universities of the West, many of which had first started out as seminaries. The colleges and universities which remain Christianity centred are the theological colleges or institutions set up by conservative denominations such as the ten Concordia universities in the USA/Canada. These colleges are specific to a particular synod of the Lutheran Church.

Moral formation (Kohlberg) and spiritual enlightenment are perhaps facilitated by certain efforts such as reflection, practicing one’s values and studying the precepts of other faiths (Dalai Lama). In his book, Ethics for the New Millennium, the Dalai Lama makes several noteworthy points:

From the perspective of human society, we must accept the concept of ‘many truths, many religions’. For me Buddhism is best, for another, Christianity is the best way. In a medical analogy, one medicine may suit a particular patient. But that does not mean that there may not be other medicines suitable for other patients.

Simply relying on faith without understanding and without implementation is of limited value. The important point to keep in mind is that ultimately the whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion. Religion has enormous potential to speak with authority on such vital moral questions as peace, social and political justice, the natural environment and many other matters affecting all humanity.

In a recent address to the Alphonsian Academy, Pope Francis stressed the need to “guard against excessive idealization.”  This world is not to be condemned, said the Pope; instead it needs “to be healed and liberated” with mercy, following in the actions of Christ. The “teaching of moral theology must encourage the highest values of the Gospel, such as charity. … The Pope also emphasized the ecological emergency in our world, describing it as, “the cry of the earth, violated and wounded” by selfish exploitation. He appealed to the Alphonsianum to not hesitate to get “its hands dirty” with concrete problems, especially with the fragility and suffering of those who see their future threatened.

History and legacy of MLCU

While MLCU was established by agencies of the Lutheran and Presbyterian churches, neither church indicated that their doctrines should receive importance in the University, and while the founders generally conceived of a Christian university they accepted a secular and inclusive wording in the MLCU Act which provides that, “The University shall be open to all persons irrespective to class, caste, creed, religion, language or gender.”

It is apparent that the founding fathers and the key articulations in the founding documents envisaged an inclusive university that welcomes equally all sections of society to the University family of students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders. It follows that no preference of any kind be provided for any section of staff or students.

With the continuing growth and stability of the University, it is necessary to examine this issue.  Several developments such as amendments to the Mission Statement, decision to apply for minority status, and articulation of values necessitate this exercise. It is also incumbent to review various facets of the University’s ethos, philosophy and mission. Some of these aspects are already articulated in the Name, Act, Emblem, Vision and Mission Statements of the University. These are repeated below:

The Emblem

The University Emblem comprises of the Knup, the Cross and the Hearth… In the centre of the Knup, is the Cross which is the symbol of Christianity and denotes sacrifice and endurance.


Christian education and values for the betterment of society, especially its youth and Christian community.

The above-stated Vision of the University has encapsulated the mandate and commitment of the Founders of the University which have been recorded verbatim in the Minutes of the first meeting of the Board of Governors and is extracted as given below:

  • “The role and responsibility of the church is to transform society in a manner that is relevant in today’s context. The process of transformation must come about in such a way that it solves the problems of unemployment among young people, poverty, health, education and development. The university has come at the right time and should help our people to help themselves.  Our state has a rich potential in nature and the university should help to tap these resources in a proper way.  The university should be rooted in the local culture.”
  • “The university should help to define the role of the church in this society. It should serve the people of Meghalaya. Historically, the church has provided schools and higher education in Meghalaya, and the university will be the crown of our educational efforts in Meghalaya. The praxis of faith, grace and scripture is education.”

The Mission Statement

To contribute to the sustainable development of Meghalaya and Northeast India, by providing knowledge, skills and values that will enable our students to become global citizens, while upholding gender, ethnic and religious equity for all, conserving its bio-cultural heritage and by recognising its Christian legacy and commitment.

The Vision and Mission of the University. These two statements stress the societal development, collective and individual academic and intellectual growth, the formation of civic responsibility and personal values. They emphasize the general good of society and social concern. The statements are an exhortation to the University to define the role of the church in societal transformation. Societal transformation is defined and expressed in terms of the social concerns of “unemployment, poverty, health, education and development”. In other words, it postulates a concern for wholistic development of all, which is presented in John 10:10, as “fullness of life”.

It is thus an inescapable conclusion that it is the duty and responsibility of the University and hence its binding commitment must be to the humane and inclusive development of society. To achieve this mandate, a Christian approach is implicit. We are all aware of the example of Jesus Christ in caring for the poor, sick and hungry (Nazareth Manifesto).

It is also to be recognised that the University is sponsored by a Lutheran organization, but the sponsor has not sought to impose any religious directive on the University. Rather, the sponsor expects that as an Academic Institution, the priorities of the University should be academics and research and the collective development of all. So, we must be inclusive and not placing ourselves in compartments or sects, setting ourselves aloof because we have a Christian faith. Personal faith and spirituality are uplifting, the quiet counsel and support of close friends is comforting in times of difficulty. But organised religion tends to parochialism. Exclusivism eventually leads to extremism, as has been seen repeatedly in history, both ancient and contemporary.

To lay claim to have Christian religious services, especially during office hours, just because we are a Christian university, is the imposition of majoritarianism. We are seeing in our country today the growing hegemony of the majority ideology. We must not be like them.

With its emphasis on hierarchy, doctrine and ritual, the church has often lost sight of its social responsibility. MLCU has been urged to redefine and revive this role. Hence, we have an emphasis on community and cultural pedagogies and development in our academic programs. In its list of values MLCU has also articulated Christian and tribal values which are:

  • Christian Values*: The University espouses the Christian values of compassion for the marginalised and deprived.

*   Christian values are that characteristics of holding Christ-like humility, as opposed to pridefully putting our own agenda first and selflessly giving our time, sharing our knowledge and wisdom with students, staff and colleagues that will create lasting relationships, demonstrated in the life of Christ, making a long-term commitment to the transformation of society. Christian values that would improve the quality of life and professionalism in our life and approach our work with humility that will result in happiness, joy, peace and fulfilment of justice and right relationship with human and all creations.

  • Tribal Values: The University upholds the tribal values of harmony with one another and with nature, and a collective responsibility for the wellbeing of all.

These approaches and actions indicate that the University is aware of the mandate given to it by the founders. The Board of Trustees of the sponsoring body has recently made available funding for two projects of compassion. One is for the Sein Jaintia Morning School and the other is for single mothers. It is hoped that the University will take up these two projects soon. To give specific expression to its tribal values, the University has recently set up a department of community and cultural initiatives.


The guiding principles of the University in its expression of religious faith may be summarized as:

  1. A Christian humanistic approach to societal concerns: all persons to be treated humanely with attention and provision for their physical and social needs
  2. A Christian approach: following the example of Jesus Christ rather than an institutionalized, denominational and impersonal approach to need.
  3. “…to be healed and liberated” with mercy, following in the actions of Christ — all the activities are to be guided by outreach programmes expressing our Christian and Tribal values such as social justice, compassion, peace and harmony with people and nature.
  4. Recognition of vulnerabilities: those who are poor or sick must not feel constrained to accept religious influence along with help. This applies also to students in relation to the authority figures of teachers or staff.
  5. Inclusiveness and equality of all – practicing religious harmony, holding on to secular values as stated in the University Act – “The University shall be open to all persons irrespective to class, caste, creed, religion, language or gender.”
  6. Social action rather than doctrine or ritual (or) Faith Active in Love and Action rather than doctrinal or ritualistic formulations and practices.


As part of its commitment to equality and diversity and to creating a tolerant and inclusive community, the University recognises the importance of treating everyone with equal dignity and respect, irrespective of their religious affiliation or other beliefs. This must be seen in our academic pursuits as well. Keeping in mind some of the above said concerns and the practices of a few other prominent Christian institutions, it is recommended that:

  1. Academic excellence in higher education and commitment to societal development are the foundational principles on which MLCU is founded. It is mandatory on all the faculty, staff and students to strive towards this goal.
  2. The University recognises its commitment to the Christian community. This is stated in more detail in a separate position statement.
  3. There may be individual ideological and religious approaches to the fulfilment of the mandates of education and development.
  4. Individual beliefs, convictions and conscientious practices will be respected. The right to religious freedom means that staff and students may act in accordance with their convictions in religious matters in private or in public or in association with others, keeping in mind that these activities should be open and should foster religious harmony.
  5. Religious services may be initiated informally by individual employees and will be guided by the following:
  6. Christian services will be ecumenical.
  7. Inclusiveness and equality of all, respect for all and practicing religious harmony.
  8. Listening with concern to the cry of all including the creation and concern for environment.
  9. All religious activities will be held outside of working hours of the University.
  10. Religious activities will not carry the University designation
  11. Special prayers such as condolence meetings may be held
  12. All activities of the University (religious/ secular/ cultural, etc.) should be with administrative concurrence. No individual or group (faculty, staff or students) is permitted to call for or organize such events without prior permission.
  13. Social upliftment will be the uppermost expression of religious faith – loving God and loving our neighbour should go together to work towards social concerns.


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As approved by the Board of Governors in its meeting held on November 24, 2022, the following Position Statement on Culture and Curriculum has been resolved to be adopted:


Key principles of understanding:

  • MLCU respectfully acknowledges the tribal people and their land and landscapes where we work and learn;
  • MLCU values the tribal community with all their unique traditional socio-bio-cultural heritages and value systems including their community institutions with unique positions of Elders – past, present and future.
  • MLCU endeavours to demonstrate ‘partnership in practice’ by engaging with tribal communities in a cohesive, culturally sensitive, gender inclusive and age-appreciative value systems through education, research and challenging conversations to inspire new and innovative ways of thinking and being ‘tribal people’ that contribute to holistic development of the tribal communities that transcends to nation building and global humanity.


Statement of Strategic Intents for Advancement of Tribal People at MLCU:

  • Providing learning platform for pathways to higher education for tribal students to create positive and successful outcomes;
  • Promotion of strong quality of research and leadership for tribal students that builds local communities, national and global expertise on tribal development issues and practices;
  • Building collaborative and partnership linkages between the University and tribal institutions, other regional, national and international institutions promoting tribal/indigenous studies, as well as to organize and facilitate for research and knowledge exchanges;
  • Enabling and facilitating social innovations and sustainability, ensuring integrated relevant education that could encompass economic opportunities for all sections of tribal communities;
  • Endeavour to foster and stimulate local, regional, national and international partnerships and collaborations that will enhance opportunities for tribal people.


Policy and Strategy

  1. Indigenisation of curriculum:
  • Acknowledging and recognizing tribal peoples’ way of learning/knowing, ways of doing and ways of being, the University will endeavor to embedding tribal perspectives into its diverse curriculum to enable the graduates to better appreciate, understand and value tribal systems as well as enable them better prepare to work with tribal peoples, families and communities.
  • University staffs and faculty will be oriented to tribal culture, values and practices as part of their orientation courses and/or faculty development.


  1. Inculturisation of university functions and activities:
  • Promote tribal dresses in university events such as convocation, etc.
  • Promote all such tribal practices and activities that will enhance national integrity and wholesome learning.
  • Promote tribal ambiance in the university campus, office, and classrooms through displays of unique tribal materials such as woven materials as curtains, baskets, tools, paintings, photos, maps which depicts the rich culture of the tribal peoples including unique flowers and plants that grow in the region. (All items can be labled for identification.  By doing this, students, faculty, and visitors will become well informed) Also, wise sayings/quotation from tribal chiefs/leaders can be printed and hang on the walls of each floors of the building.


  1. Indigenisation of education:
  • With very high ratio of students from diverse tribal communities with low socio-economic but mature age, and many rural and first-in-family background, MLCU prides and defines itself by who it embraces, rather than who it excludes, and because of this, MLCU may consider itself a unique university.
  • Building on this uniqueness, MLCU will endeavour to focus on creating and nurturing stronger relationships and wider opportunities that will enable greater prospects of education, research and employment, and mutually meaningful reciprocation of knowledge and learning with tribal communities and their institutions.
  • MLCU’s tribal education statements would mean constant development and implementation of strategies that will enhance access, participation, retention and success of tribal students in the University, as also participation in University’s decision-making processes.


  1. Engaged in tribal events:
  • Organise/host various key/selected tribal socio-cultural events in the University with the objectives of deepening students’ understanding and learning on tribal cultural values that will contribute to their overall learning growth and character building.
  • Promote cross-cultural values that will contribute to national and international integration with deeper appreciation of diversity of culture as integral part of human values.


  1. Engaged in tribal research:
  • Oral traditions
  • Health and healing practices
  • Nutrition and food systems
  • Traditional learning and education systems including “Youth Dormitory Systems” – often girls and boys separately (such as Nokpante of the Garos, Morung of the Nagas, Zawlbuk of the Mizos, IingKhynraw of the Khasis, Sier of the Koirengs of Manipur, etc).
  • Traditional conservation practices of natural resources, biodiversity and wildlife.
  • Traditional governance, adjudication and justice systems.
  • Traditional land and land tenure systems.
  • Traditional sustainable livelihood practices.
  • Tribal Church / Tribal Christian & Inculturisation, Tribal Religion/Traditional Religion, Tribal belief system of ‘Man-Nature-Spirit’, etc.
  • Tribal values and exploring concepts (ex. courage, success, intelligence, happiness, fear, jealousy, etc.) in the worldview of the tribal peoples.


  1. Engaged in documentation and preservation of tribal stories and culture:
  • Promote documentation (using both video and systematic research) of various tribal stories, tales and fables, superstitions and belief systems.
  • Periodic publications and demonstration of documented stories via research and/or screening of videos.


  1. Engaged with Tribal Communities
  • MLCU will endeavour to adopt tribal villages for building linkages between communities and HEIs (higher education institutions) for mutually beneficial knowledge and learning.
  • Each Department of the University will identify and dovetail in its 5-year plan at least one or two action areas for implementation in the adopted villages.
  • All engagements with tribal peoples/communities would be on the principle of “Free Prior Informed Consent” (FPIC) [the University will develop a “How to Do Note” for FPIC to be followed by all departments/faculty].


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As approved by the Board of Governors in its meeting held on November 24, 2022, the following Position Statement on Culture and Curriculum has been resolved to be adopted:


A consultative meeting was held on Sep 27, 2022 on the topic: Tribal Worldviews, Culture and Decolonisation. The purpose of the meeting was to prepare a position statement on tribal worldviews, indigenous culture and decolonization for the University to guide its curriculum, pedagogy and research.


This draft incorporates part of that discussion.


Excerpts from the National Education Policy 2020 

NEP 2020 makes many provisions and recommendations for culture in the curriculum:

Introduction: The curriculum must include basic arts, crafts, humanities, games, sports and fitness, languages, literature, culture, and values


3.6. To encourage local variations on account of culture


4.15. As so many developed countries around the world have amply demonstrated, being well educated in one’s language, culture, and traditions is a huge benefit to educational, social, and technological advancement.


4.29. All curriculum and pedagogy, from the foundational stage onwards, will be redesigned to be strongly rooted in the Indian and local context and ethos in terms of culture, traditions, heritage, customs, language, philosophy, geography, ancient and contemporary knowledge, societal and scientific needs, indigenous and traditional ways of learning.  Stories, arts, games, sports, examples, problems, etc. will be chosen as much as possible to be rooted in the Indian and local context. Ideas, abstractions, and creativity will best flourish when learning is thus rooted.


6.2.3. Tribal communities and children from Scheduled Tribes often find their school education irrelevant and foreign to their lives, both culturally and academically.


17.5. In addition to their value in solutions to societal problems, any country’s identity,

upliftment, spiritual/intellectual satisfaction and creativity is also attained in a major way through its history, art, language, and culture. Research in the arts and humanities, along with innovations in the sciences and social sciences, are important for the progress and enlightened nature of a nation.

22.2. The promotion of Indian arts and culture is important not only for the nation but also for the individual. Cultural awareness and expression are among the major competencies considered important to develop in children, in order to provide them with a sense of identity, belonging, as well as an appreciation of other cultures and identities. It is through the development of a strong sense and knowledge of their own cultural history, arts, languages, and traditions that children can build a positive cultural identity and self-esteem. Thus, cultural awareness and expression are important contributors both to individual as well as societal well-being.


22.3. The arts form a major medium for imparting culture. The arts – besides strengthening cultural identity, awareness, and uplifting societies – enhance cognitive and creative abilities in individuals and increase individual happiness. The happiness/well-being, cognitive development, and cultural identity of individuals are important reasons that Indian arts of all kinds must be offered to students at all levels of education, starting with early childhood care and education.


22.4. Language, of course, is inextricably linked to art and culture. Culture is, thus, encased in our languages. Art, in literature, plays, music, film, etc. cannot be fully appreciated without language. In order to preserve and promote culture, one must preserve and promote a culture’s languages.


22.8. Initiatives to foster languages, arts, and culture in school children include a greater emphasis on music, arts, and crafts throughout all levels of school; teaching in the home/local language wherever possible; conducting more experiential language learning; the hiring of outstanding local artists, writers, crafts persons, and other experts as master instructors in various subjects of local expertise; accurate inclusion of traditional Indian knowledge including tribal and other local knowledge throughout into the curriculum, across humanities, sciences, arts, crafts, and sports, whenever relevant; and a much greater flexibility in the curriculum, especially in secondary schools and in higher education, so that students can choose the ideal balance among courses for themselves to develop their own creative, artistic, cultural, and academic paths.


22.9. Outstanding local artists and crafts persons will be hired as guest faculty to promote local music, art, languages, and handicraft, and to ensure that students are aware of the culture and local knowledge where they study. Every higher education institution will aim to have Artist(s)-in-Residence to expose students to art, creativity, and the rich treasures of the region/country.


22.11. High-quality programmes and degrees in Translation and Interpretation, Art and Museum Administration, Archaeology, Artefact Conservation, Graphic Design, and Web Design within the higher education system will also be created. In order to preserve and promote its art and culture, develop high-quality materials in various Indian languages, conserve artefacts, develop highly qualified individuals to curate and run museums and heritage or tourist sites.


22.13. Creating such programmes and degrees in higher education, across the arts, languages, and humanities, will also come with expanded high-quality opportunities for employment that can make effective use of these qualifications. There are already hundreds of academies, museums, art galleries, and heritage sites in dire need of qualified individuals for their effective functioning. As positions are filled with suitably qualified candidates, and further artefacts are procured and conserved, additional museums, including virtual museums/e-museums, galleries, and heritage sites may contribute to the conservation of our heritage as well as to India’s tourism industry


22.17. Efforts to preserve and promote all Indian languages including classical, tribal and endangered languages will be taken on with new vigour.


22.19. All languages in India, and their associated arts and culture will be documented through a web-based platform/portal/wiki, in order to preserve endangered and all Indian languages and their associated rich local arts and culture. The platform will contain videos, dictionaries, recordings, and more, of people (especially elders) speaking the language, telling stories, reciting poetry, and performing plays, folk songs and dances, and more. People from across the country will be invited to contribute to these efforts by adding relevant material onto these platforms/portals/wikis. Universities and their research teams will work with each other and with communities across the country towards enriching such platforms. These preservation efforts, and the associated research projects, e.g., in history, archaeology, linguistics, etc., will be funded by the NRF.



The public intellectual has, by definition, to be liberal, that is, to insist, that there be space to present varying perspectives…reason and ethics should have primacy in debates. Today, as always, the public intellectual is expected to take a position independent of those in power”, whether this be orthodoxy, or political or ecclesiastical power. Romila Thapar (The Public Intellectual in India 2015).


The MLCU motto, The Light of Truth, indicates that we must uphold rational thought and reasoned analysis, questioning orthodoxy, authority, and convention.


In the last few years, the world and our nation have experienced cataclysmic events. In the environment we have observed the inexorable changes to climate leading to floods, aridity and extinctions. In politics, the march of fascism in countless countries has led to curtailment of rights and social justice. All sectors, including economics and health have been substantially affected. In education, we have been overrun by Covid, sweeping policy changes, the needs of Generation Z and the demands of the marketplace.


Who are our students? A redefinition is needed.

The word ‘student’ has some negative connotations. First of all, it creates hierarchy and separateness between students and teachers. Secondly, it denotes a scholar, precluding other dimensions of identity and need. They are also customers, clients, even patients (because many may suffer from lack of psychological and social well-being, or have learning disabilities like dyslexia, ADHD or ASD, conditions that may last into adulthood). Thirdly, and most importantly they are human beings, entitled to rights, equality and democratic processes.


There is a huge body of research data on Generation Z. The Wikipedia entry alone has 236 references. Unlike previous generations, Gen Z is universal. Members of Generation Z (those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2010s) have been dubbed “digital natives.” Data shows that the negative effects of screen time are most pronounced in adolescents and young children (Generation Alpha), not in Gen Z.


Compared to previous generations, Generation Z tend to be well-behaved, abstemious, and risk-averse. They tend to live more slowly than their predecessors when they were their age; have lower rates of teenage pregnancies; have less risky sex, and consume less alcohol, and are better at delaying gratification than their counterparts from the 1960s. They have been socially awakened by Covid, more tuned into social justice. They have moved from living in the moment to worrying about the future, and have a heightened sense of a need for self-sufficiency.


They are quieter, and there is greater awareness and diagnosis of mental health conditions. They have been psychologically scarred by Covid, depression has increased from 15% – 64%. They are feeling neglected, their problems are not solved, there is distrust of authority. In the age group 18-29 years, 60% expect vast change in the world and in their lives. Culture, music and arts help them in coping.


Around the world, members of Generation Z are spending more time on electronic devices, even for learning. They have lower attention spans, vocabulary, and academic performance. More online education is acceptable, they are willing to assume more responsibility and self-efficacy in learning. But there is more focus and selectiveness: education must be perceived as useful and relevant. They are frustrated with monotony. They are more concerned than older generations with academic performance and job prospects, and are willing to invest in education.


The CIM Report makes a telling commentary:

Students are the major internal customers of MLCU. Their satisfaction and delight are the key elements of customer focus. Student satisfaction surveys may be conducted periodically, at least once in 6 months and follow up actions may be initiated. What type of education does Gen Z want, in what format and what time frame are to be analyzed and fulfilled. This has to be done for all UG, PG and Ph.D. program students. A thorough understanding of Gen Z is needed for all faculty members. Current awareness seems to be low, and they may have to be educated on Gen Z psychological traits, learning styles, etc.



The distribution of Graduates passing out YoY from MLCU is given in Figure 6.4. The study reveals that the numbers do not synchronize. This may be because the failure rate is high or that the drop out is high. Both are undesirable. The ideal situation will be to have excellent student progression, with all the students passing the final year and getting placed or getting admission for higher studies.


The feedback from the MLCU graduates in 2020 and 2022 have given us fair warning. Though we have barely analysed the data, strong messages are coming through. As educationists and academicians, we have to dispossess ourselves of uninformed suppositions and superficial stereotypes about our students.

An alchemy of culture

The youth of Generation Z, share a universal culture and enjoy an amalgam of cultural experiences, whether it be in music, movies, gaming, or fashion. Much of this is apparently for entertainment and being a citizen of pop culture. But there are deep themes as well: social, environmental, political and cultural. Most youth, while living their lives as universal netizens, are rooted in their own cultural identities as well. In a survey of MLCU students, almost all indicated their tribe as their most important singular identity, above religion, nationality, gender, or occupation.


Like our students, all of us in this room are at least bicultural (Peavy’s categories), if not pluricultural. But the education system has not kept pace. It is only recently that national policies such as NEP 2020 have brought culture as central to curricular thinking. The academic world has been recently apprised of the need to re-orient and reconfigure the higher education curriculum in terms of concepts, content and manner of learning.


Today higher education is challenged to review the old order of global Northern domination in favour of the inclusion of pluralism of worldviews, cultures, and pedagogies. Higher education must reflect the lived experiences of the community and serve its needs and aspirations. That higher education has failed in this purpose is demonstrated in recent events and developments in the scientific and professional arenas.



The question of restoring and solidifying identity on local distinctiveness has assumed greater relevance in the wake of globalization. Khasis are going through an identity crisis…a sense of cultural alienation.  Unfortunately, nothing has been done even after political colonization to decolonize the teaching. We have been borrowers and imitators ready to use made-to-order packages based on settings and experiences entirely different from ours. TK Bamon, 2004


There has been a recent wave of apologies and acknowledgements from the most prominent Western scientific and academic institutions about their historical records of prejudices and injustices. These unexpected admissions have startled the academic world, but have been welcomed by scholars, students and the media. Coming amidst the Covid pandemic, when the attention of the world, academia included, was focused on the pandemic, it was all the more remarkable.


  1. Apology to People of Color for American Psychology Association’s Role in Promoting, Perpetuating, and Failing to Challenge Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Human Hierarchy. October 29, 2021


The APA failed in its role of leading the discipline of psychology, was complicit in contributing to systemic inequities, and hurt many through racism, racial discrimination, and denigration of people of color, thereby falling short on its mission to benefit society and improve lives. APA is profoundly sorry, accepts responsibility for, and owns the actions and inactions of APA itself, the discipline of psychology, and individual psychologists who stood as leaders for the APA and the field. It leaves us, as APA leaders, with profound regret and deep remorse for the long-term impact of our failures as an association, a discipline, and as individual psychologists.


We appreciate the growing acceptance of culturally competent counseling, cross-cultural psychology, and other multicultural modes of practice and scholarship…and the merits of approaches that acknowledge and challenge the imposition of Euro-, cis-male-, Christian-, or hetero-centric norms onto counseling and psychology. This is an important step forward for our profession.


  1. American Psychiatry Association’s Apology to Black, Indigenous and People of Color for Its Support of Structural Racism in Psychiatry January 18, 2021


Today, the APA apologizes to its members, patients, their families, and the public for enabling discriminatory and prejudicial actions within the APA and racist practices in psychiatric treatment for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). The APA is committed to identifying, understanding, and rectifying our past injustices, as well as developing anti-racist policies that promote equity in mental health for all.


  1. Oxford University: letter from the Vice Chancellor to faculty and students June 11, 2020
  • It is true that the University has, as Britain does, a history closely entwined with colonialism and imperialism. We cannot deny that nor minimise it.
  • Decolonising means identifying ways in which the university reproduces colonial hierarchies; and confronting and rejecting the status quo. It also focuses on the concept that curricular design has been historically male and white.
  • Decolonising the curriculum is being taken forward with extensive changes to course structures in all departments including science, technology, engineering and mathematics
  • Social sciences have begun making their curriculum more inclusive: integrating race and gender into topics; embedding teaching on colonialism and empire into courses; ensuring better coverage of issues concerning the global South in syllabuses.


  1. Harvard University: Task Force to Decolonize December 3, 2020
  • The Task Force is expected to build on existing initiatives such as the diversification and decolonization of curricula.
  • “Decolonize Harvard University” seminar series from Feb 12, 2021 with the topics of Settler Colonialism, Modernity/Coloniality, Genocide and Epistemicide, Eurocentrism
  • Workshops for documenting and gathering examples of syllabi, lesson plans, pedagogical tools, classroom activities, citations, authors, and other ways to demonstrate that your teaching is interrupting the dominant structure of knowledge in the Westernized university


Perhaps all education, in all disciplines, is subject to a cultural underlay, whether this is acknowledged or not. The historical weight of Northern influence must always be kept in mind, with the pervasive influence of Western thought, strategy and structure in present day academics, and especially the creation, analysis and significance of new knowledge as produced by research.


Decolonisation is an urgent priority because coloniality has survived colonialism. The modern purveyors of coloniality are native academicians. The search for decolonization needs a grasp of coloniality.


“Coloniality is different from colonialism. Colonialism denotes a political and economic subjugation. Coloniality, instead, refers to long-standing patterns of power that is maintained alive in books, in the criteria for academic performance, in cultural patterns, in common sense, in the self-image of peoples, in aspirations of self, and so many other aspects of our modern experience. In a way, as modern subjects, we breathe coloniality all the time and every day… and the coloniality of knowledge had to do with impact of colonization on the different areas of knowledge production.” (Maldonado-Torres, 2007).


“Decolonization is a process of centering the concerns and worldviews of the colonized Other so that they understand themselves through their own assumptions and perspectives. It involves the restoration, development and inclusion of worldviews, cultural practices, beliefs, and values that enhance the research process at every stage.” (Chilisa, 2012). Decolonization of knowledge is a concept that seeks to construct, legitimize, and valorize other knowledge systems that have alternative epistemologies, ontologies, axiologies and methodologies.


Tribal culture

“There are more than 476 million indigenous people in the world, spread across 90 countries and representing 5,000 different cultures. They make up 6.2 percent of the global population and live in all geographic regions. Indigenous languages are extensive, complex systems of knowledge. They are central to the identity of Indigenous peoples, the preservation of their cultures, worldviews and visions, as well as expressions of self-determination. Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of living. These communities thrive by living in harmony with their surroundings. Research shows that where Indigenous groups have control of the land, forests and biodiversity flourish. Indigenous communities’ contribution to fighting climate change are far greater than previously thought” (UNDP). “Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies” (United Nations).


Increasingly, Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) are being recognized as inherently encompassing most of the aspects and principles of SDGs. The immeasurable diversity in Indigenous knowledge and modernity, are enabling Indigenous scholars break down colonial barriers to build bridges of intersectionality between activism and academia. Additionally, the Indigenous young people are stepping up to the challenges of environment, equality and education, and preparing themselves to lead positive changes (United Nations, 2022).


There are 105 million tribals in India, forming 8.6% of the population. NCERT (2005) and NEP 2020 have pointed out the need for tribal students to be taught according to their knowledge systems and pedagogies. Romila Thapar has deplored the fact that educational institutions in India have played a “miniscule role as agencies of culture” (2014).


Tribals and tribal face an existential threat. The Sentinelese have chosen to remain isolated from the threats of so-called development and have thrived through the millennia, surviving natural disasters such as tsunamis. The Man in a Hole, chose the same isolation, but his fellow humans, poachers and deforesters killed him and his fellow tribals in a modern-day genocide. The rest of us tribals have made a devil’s pact with development. Neither can we seem to get ahead, nor can we go back to being hunter-gatherers. So most of our people remain in a in-between state of misery.


In this existential struggle for survival and self-sustenance, tribal identity and culture provide rootedness and stability. In the preceding centuries of colonialism and then domination by majoritarian groups in independent nations, tribals have lost much of their agency. Even well-meaning governments and non-government organizations have engaged with tribal communities with a paternalistic mindset.


Most tribal groups are evolving societies. In anthropology, the term liminality literally means the ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals. In a larger sense, it could indicate the transition stage of a tribe standing at the threshold between their previous way of structuring their identity, beliefs, and traditions, and the new way of thought, values and behaviours.


A new pluri-cultural framework

It is useful to have a good knowledge of the theories coming from the West – but we must have the courage and confidence derived from our rich linguistic, educational and socio-cultural experience to change, modify and expand the existing models or to come out with a new model which will work in our setting. The task should be not only to prepare students for economic citizenship, but more so for a sound cultural citizenship with social, moral, and cultural values TK Bamon, 2004.


Emerging markets are adapting to a new world order in which globalisation and Western supremacy are in retreat. The Economist Nov 17, 2022


Do universal values really exist? China argues that universal values are in fact Western values. The Economist Nov 17, 2022


Three strategic concepts are suggested here:


  1. Education as social justice

Michel Foucault observed that Western society is concerned with social problems, but he challenges many fundamental assumptions about the supposedly humanitarian features of Western civilization. He shows how relying on Western science and reason to solve problems of humanity, instead evolves into different forms of mute, subtle and masked dominations pervasive in daily life. According to Foucault, what counts as knowledge in a given era is always influenced, in complex and subtle ways, by considerations of power (Duignan, nd, Datta 2012).


Bagele Chilisa, has written in the preface of her book Indigenous Research Methodologies (2012), “we are cognizant of the need of addressing the goals of enhanced human rights and social justice…” She goes on to say that there is a need for diverse research approaches suitable for various groups: tribals, women, LGBT socially and economically oppressed communities, disabilities, who have been excluded from dominant frameworks.


  1. Acceptance of traditional knowledge and science

There have been recent efforts in Australia to involve aboriginal knowledge in natural resource management and environmental impact assessment. But the idea of integration contains the implicit but wrong assumption that the cultural beliefs and practices referred to as” traditional knowledge” should conform to Western conceptions about” knowledge,” and it should not regard traditional knowledge as a new form of data to be plugged into existing knowledge structures and subject to the same kinds of scrutiny (Nadasdy, 1999).


Knowledge in indigenous societies is constructed in different ways from Western science and to subsume indigenous knowledge in a theoretical framework may itself be antithetical (Mazzocchi, 2006). One of the defining ways in which tribal societies create learning is through inductive methods. Indeed, one study has shown that tribal children used more inductive strategies in problem solving (Resing, Touw, Veerbeek & Elliott 2017).


  1. Education to solve problems and create products of value in cultural settings According to Howard Gardner, intelligence is the ability to solve problems and create products of value in a culture, which involves gathering new knowledge (Marenus, M. 2020).


What are these plural cultures?

Culture is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior, institutions, and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in these groups. Humans acquire culture through the learning processes of enculturation and socialization, and in turn culture influences learning goals, processes and outcomes. Culture may found in a particular nation, people, or other social group. Apart from ethnic communities, who are these social groups, who may also have distinctive features.


Culture in its broad definition goes beyond a nationalist or sub-nationalist culture. One’s ethnic culture is only one of an individual’s identities. Apart from a universal youth culture there are political, environmental, feminist, organizational and work cultures.


Importance and benefits of culture in the curriculum

  1. Strengthening any student’s sense of belonging in an education system. They need to see similarity with their own context. Education must not seem alien or foreign. It should be perceived as being a value addition to my culture.
  2. Indigenous cultures from all around the world have a strong connection to the land. Place based learning offers a way to explore this connection and make learning relevant. A community project is a common form of place-based learning. Students work collaboratively with community, organisations, local elders and businesses sharing knowledge, skills and techniques.
  3. Cultural awareness and expression are among the major competencies considered important to develop in children, in order to provide them with a sense of identity, belonging, as well as an appreciation of other cultures and identities. It is through their own cultural history, arts, languages, and traditions that children can build a positive cultural identity and self-esteem. (NEP 2020, 22.2)
  4. More programs in higher education, will use the mother tongue/local language as a medium of instruction, and/or offer programs bilingually (NEP 2020, 22.10).
  5. The arts form a major medium for imparting culture. The arts – besides strengthening cultural identity, awareness, and uplifting societies – are well known to enhance cognitive and creative abilities in individuals and increase individual happiness. (NEP 2020, 22.3).
  6. Inclusion of traditional Indian knowledge including tribal and other local knowledge throughout into the curriculum, across humanities, sciences, arts, crafts, and sports, especially in secondary schools and in higher education (NEP 2020, 22.8).
  7. Indian Knowledge Systems, including tribal knowledge and indigenous and traditional ways of learning, will be covered Specific courses in tribal ethno-medicinal practices, forest management, traditional (organic) crop cultivation, natural farming, etc. will also be made available (NEP 2020, 4.27).



  1. All departments will include foundational or complementary components of culture in the curriculum.
  2. Cultural learning materials will be created and compiled from the scientific literature, and also case studies, reports and statistical data from public and voluntary organizations. Non-textual materials can be obtained from communities.
  3. Integration of mother tongue for experiential learning, assignments and assessment.
  4. Integration of orality with the textual. “The oral is a far more efficient tool and better repository of learning and knowledge and societal wisdom” (Esther Syiem, 2011).
  5. Favoring visual and other sensory experiences. The world is in colour, but academics relies on black and white.
  6. This effort will be led by the deans of faculties. Their approaches and strategies will devolve from policies and practices to be considered and approved by the Academic Council.


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As approved by the Board of Governors in its meeting held on the 17 April 2023 the following Position Statement on Social Activism has been resolved to be adopted:


“We stood with pen and paper on the banks of a river filled with blood,” he said, “and chose not to see the pristine water had turned red.”

-Rehman Rahi, Kashmiri poet, Padma Shri (2000), Jnanpith Award (2007)

It may not be possible to speak, what can we do?

It may not be possible to bear burdens of the heart, what can we do?

The flower may refuse to blossom but does it have the right?

There is a fire burning in its bosom, what can we do?

-Rehman Rahi

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.


  • Introduction and definitions
  • Social Justice, Advocacy and Activism: text of the retreat presentation
  • Should university staff and students be social activists?
  • Courses in social activism
  • Writing in the general media
  • Recommendations


Academicians use a lot of words, day in and day out, academic year after academic year. Words, oral spoken or written in black and white are our currency. Perhaps the only professions that use words, maybe almost as much are politicians and preachers. But politicians supposedly also have to govern, and preachers have to practice what they preach. So, they also ‘do’.

Of course, academicians also ‘do’ certain things like research, and experiential learning. But research is done to publish articles, and experiential learning ends up in assignments and presentations. So, we end up with even more words. More than politicians or preachers.

Can we move   beyond words?

What is social activism? The Activist Handbook provides several definitions, finally ending with its own:

  • Activism is action on behalf of a cause, action that goes beyond what is conventional or routine. Brian Martin, creator of the website Activism
  • My definition of activism is… the practice of addressing an issue, any issue, by challenging those in power. Anjali Appadurai, climate activist
  • For us, activism means collective efforts to create change from the grassroots. Activist Handbook
  • We want to help redefine ‘activist’ to a term that can include anyone who wants to work collectively to create social change. Activist Handbook

Social Justice, Advocacy and Activism

In her presentation at the Retreat on Aug 2, 2022, titled, “Social Justice, Advocacy and Activism”, Patricia Mukhim challenged MLCU with some probing questions. This section provides the text of her talk.

What is advocacy? Advocacy means taking action to create change. Advocates organise themselves to take steps to tackle an issue. They help to give people ways to speak out about things that negatively affect them. Advocacy has been described as “speaking truth to power”.

Advocacy includes many different types of activities. It can mean researching new solutions, creating coalitions of like-minded people, public campaigning to raise awareness and much more. The aim of advocacy is to create change.

Their world uses all aspects of advocacy to:

  • Build evidence on what needs to change and how that change can happen
  • Raise attention about important issues and give voice to those affected
  • Influence those in power to provide leadership, take action and invest resources
  • Create a positive change towards greater social justice and equality

What is activism? Simply put – take action to effect social change.

There are many creative ways and forms of activism but activists should consider the best strategies that will get maximum media coverage and get the government or any other authority to respond.

Activism in short is an attempt or a concern on ‘how to change the world through social, political, economic or environmental changes.’ This can be led by individuals but is often done collectively through social movements.

Social movements begin with university students and professors. Universities don’t just nourish the intellectual curiosity of society’s future generations, or instill a skill-set for various professions. They help inspire a passion for civic engagement and direct action among those who might have not yet had an opportunity to live a rich civic life. Without this robust university culture, democracies around the globe would lack an irreplaceable class of vanguards and leaders.


When we are restricted from free speech everywhere else the university should be the last bastion that supports free speech. A university with a strong moral compass cultivates an atmosphere where you can say the wrong thing, where you can confront authority, where you can challenge orthodoxy, and where you can question what no one has questioned before. The university creates a culture and society where the people can do the same, where the powerful and those who seek to abuse their power are never safe from judgment of the critical eyes of people who graduated college, who attended university, who learned liberal arts.

Universities, like many other institutions in our republic, rest on public support to function effectively. In exchange, we must demand that they serve the public interest. There is a strong relationship between higher education and the creation of a just society.

How informed and how enlightened and engaged are the MLCU students and faculty? 

What are the inequalities that need to be addressed? Before attempting to create a just society we need to build a sense of justice. Stand with the underdog. So many wrong things happen on a daily basis.

Do MLCU faculty express their opinions? If you don’t have an opinion in a democracy, you don’t exist.

A university helps to sharpen the tools of analysis, evaluation and critical thought. Students and faculty should be encouraged to have “a questioning mind and to recognise the power of questioning”. University students become the civil society that a democracy needs.

Nearly every second day a judgment is pronounced by the High Court of Meghalaya on issues affecting citizens Are these judgments discussed in the classroom? Are students even aware of the importance of such judgements in creating a more equal society?

How long will it take for MLCU to become an empowering and an empowered university?

True, initially you struggled to survive and are tentative about standing up for yourselves when people have been critical of you…But now in your 16th year. How long can you be defensive?

Universities are often targets of autocrats, followed by the courts, media, competitive political parties, and independent professionalized bureaucracies. They all share the distinction of being bulwarks of liberal democracy. But that universities are first targets of autocrats, however, offers strong circumstantial evidence that these institutions are more engaged in the enterprise of building and fostering liberal democracy than is typically acknowledged.

What is social justice? It is fairness in healthcare, employment, housing, equal access to education…It is the opposite of discrimination. It exists more in a class-divided society than in more equal societies. It is not supposed to exist in tribal societies where everyone started out on the same footing.

But governance or the lack of it, or poor governance or corrupt governance, has brought us where we are today and we don’t seem to know how to tackle it because we are in denial that the society is today divided by class.

Social justice depends on four essential goals: human rights, access, participation, and equity. Social justice can’t be achieved without these four principles.

  1. Human rights

The connection between social justice and human rights has strengthened over the years. It is clear to activists and governments that one cannot exist without the other. When a society is just, it protects and respects everyone’s human rights. This connection is essential since human rights are recognized globally. Various steps help keep governments accountable. One of them is to use the Constitution and its clauses effectively.

  1. Access

Being able to access essentials like shelter, food, and education is crucial for a just society. If access is restricted based on factors like gender, race, or class then it leads to suffering for individuals, communities, and society as a whole. Social justice activists work to increase and restore access, giving everyone equal opportunities for a decent life.

  1. Participation

Social justice not possible if only some voices are heard. Unfortunately, that’s often what happens and the voices of the marginalized and vulnerable are silenced. Even when society tries to address problems, solutions won’t work if those most affected can’t participate in the process. Participation must be encouraged and rewarded so that everyone – especially those who haven’t had a chance before – can speak.

  1. Equity

Many people believe that “equality” is one of the principles of social justice, but it’s actually “equity.” What’s the difference?

Equity takes into account the effects of discrimination and aims for an equal outcome. There’s a graphic that demonstrates this well: three people trying to look over a fence to watch a football match. One of them is already tall and able to see – they represent the most privileged in society. The other can just barely see and the last person – the most vulnerable in society – can’t see at all.

“Equality” gives everyone one box to stand on, even though the tallest person doesn’t need it and it still doesn’t allow the shortest person to see. “Equity” doesn’t give the privileged person any boxes. Instead, the middle person gets one box and the last gets two. Now, everyone is at an equal level.

Pressing inequality issues

  1. Gender equality

Long way away…obstacles like the gender pay gap, weakening reproductive rights, and unequal education opportunities hold women back. Social justice activists consider gender equality, which affects other issues as one of the most important social justice issues of our time.

  1. LGBTQ+ rights

People in the LGBTQ+ community face high levels of violence and discrimination all over the world. Among other challenges, it affects their ability to find employment, shelter, healthcare, and safety. It’s more dangerous in some states than others, but even in the most progressive countries, social justice for the LGBTQ+ community is not well-established.

Social justice means everyone’s human rights are respected and protected. Everyone has equal opportunities. This doesn’t guarantee that society will be perfect and everyone will always be happy. But let us not be accused of apathy when we could do something. At least everyone will have a fighting chance at the life they want. They aren’t held back by things out of their control like systemic obstacles or discrimination.

There isn’t one clear framework for what successful social justice looks like in practice, but that’s why principles like participation are so important. As long as a nation values social justice and remains committed to equality, progress is possible.

Should university staff and students be social activists?

‘We suggest that academics move from publications to public actions and engage in advocacy and activism to affect urgent and transformational change. Such actions would strengthen a rich tradition of academic protest and enhance the contribution of universities to the public good in areas well beyond sustainability, for example, race and social justice, Black Lives Matter, decolonising education, and public health.” (Gardner et al, 2021, universities of Kent, Cardiff and Lausanne).

Universities should ”provide ongoing opportunities to practice activism, and teach students the everyday skills of being a good citizen.” (Kezar, 2010, U of Southern California).

“Students work hard to raise awareness and bring attention to a variety of social justice issues and colleges and universities, as powerful institutions, may suppress or encourage social justice and change. The university serves as a space where students come together to promote and work toward social justice.” (East & Webster, 2014, U of Tennessee).

University promoted social activism experiences are provided in some universities: “We promote diversity, inclusion and equity through educational, social, and service initiatives.” (Office of Social Justice & Activism, Otterbein University, USA, Church of the United Brethren in Christ, 1847,

“For more than a century, Harvard University students have engaged in meaningful community service. Through coursework, volunteerism, community activism and pre-professional experiences, we offer multiple pathways for students to engage in public service. We work closely with a wide range of partners to ensure that our programs address critical community needs. By participating in our programs, Harvard students can make important contributions to social welfare and develop a strong sense of public purpose and commitment to civic good. (Center for Public Service and Engaged Scholarship

Forms and levels of social activism

  1. Inclusion of social activism in the curriculum
  2. Create awareness on campus and in the community through the media and community programs to
    1. Mobilise support
    2. Influence policy
    3. Bring about behaviour change in individuals and society
  1. Participating in social activism causes
    1. Marches, candlelight vigils, street plays, flash mobs, concerts
    2. Picketing, courting arrest

Courses in social activism

Many leading universities provide and promote course in social activism.

  • The school believes in “integrating activism into their academic work and answer questions about how to be an activist from within an academic institution, challenges they’ve faced, and how their identities impact their activism.” Boston University School of Social Work.
  • Social Justice and Activism (3 cr): Inst for Gender, Sex & Feminist Studies, McGill University, Canada. The course “Develops frameworks for understanding the relationships between critical knowledge production, activism, and social justice. Emphasis on activist strategies, social change initiatives, and their underlying theories and methodologies. Explores the emergence of social justice frameworks in response to ongoing histories of colonization, imperialism, and alternative world making.”
  • Harvard University course in “Race, Gender, and Youth Activism in the Struggle for Justice.” This course investigates the role of youth activism in the fight against poverty and other social injustices…and to understand how activist youth can be harnessed in social movements targeted at economic, racial, and gender inequities.

Studies have shown that altruism and engaging in social activism helps to achieve personal growth and satisfaction. It lowers depression and anxiety, increases life expectancy, encourages social connectivity, and evokes feelings of gratitude in the giver. (Ballard & Ozer 2018, Dwyer et al 2019, Pogosyan 2018).

Writing in the media

Writing articles in the public media is not just as an outlet for academic expertise. It is a social responsibility, a higher calling for the intellectual. Those who claim to know more, must share more. So, it is also a moral responsibility. This role of MLCU faculty helps to fulfill the university motto, “The Light of Truth”.

The book The Public Intellectual in India edited by Romila Thapar (2015), sets out the case for the participation of academicians in the public space. In the chapter written by Sundar Sarukkai, “A public intellectual has to present her/himself first as a member of the public and then as an intellectual.” It is not that an academician is outside the public space and speaks for the good of the public from some pedestal.

Sarukkai goes a step further by saying, “doing and writing cannot be disjointed acts”. In the same book, Ronald deSouza says that intellectual capital must yield social dividends, and so public writing is the interface between academics and social activism. One must not hesitate to speak truth to power, while proffering arguments of the highest moral order.

Those in the social sciences have a higher responsibility because non-secular forces can manipulate the social sciences more than the pure or applied sciences.


  1. Create curricula and provide courses for all students in
    1. Altruism and Social Activism
    2. Attitudinal and Behaviour Change
  2. Provide and promote social activism opportunities (student or faculty led) for all students including
    1. Volunteerism
    2. Public participation in street plays, silent marches, candlelight vigils
  3. Encourage and incentivize faculty participation in the public media (print, TV, social media)
  4. Include social activism as desired graduate attributes
  5. Include social activism learning and action in transcripts, personal profiles, and testimonials given to graduates

Set up an office for social activism projects


Gardner CJ, Thierry A, Rowlandson W and Steinberger JK (2021) From Publications to Public Actions: The Role of Universities in Facilitating Academic Advocacy and Activism in the Climate and Ecological Emergency. Front. Sustain. 2:679019. doi: 10.3389/frsus.2021.679019

Adrianna Kezar. Faculty and Staff Partnering with Student Activists: Unexplored Terrains of Interaction and Development (2010). Journal of College Student Development 51(5):451-480 DOI:10.1353/csd.2010.0001

East, E.A., Webster, J. (2014). Student Activism and the University: Resources, Challenges, and Opportunities. In: Shefner, J., Dahms, H.F., Jones, R.E., Jalata, A. (eds) Social Justice and the University. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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As approved by the Board of Governors in its meeting held on the 17th April, 2023 the following Position Statement Investing in the Well-Being of Students, Staff and Faculty



  1. The situation of youth in MLCU and elsewhere
  2. Deaths of despair
  3. Setting out on this journey in MLCU
  4. Mental health is communal
  5. Work-life balance for faculty and staff
  6. How to make the most of university: for students
  7. Factors affecting length and quality of life
  8. Recommendations
  9. Steps so far


This topic has immediacy and urgency. Investment in well-being will reap short-term and long-term dividends in individual, university and societal transformation.


The Situation of Youth in MLCU and Elsewhere

  • During the Covid pandemic lockdown the office of the Dean of Students conducted a survey of 897 online MLCU students from 11 departments in Dec 2020. Of these
  • 87% expressed feelings of stress, 36% of them experienced stress ‘once a week’ or ‘nearly daily’. The main stressors were uncertainty about the future especially higher studies, job prospects and financial security.
  • Academic stress was experienced ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ by 74% of students. More than half (55%) said that academic motivation had decreased.
  • Emotional instability, demonstrated by feelings of ‘nervousness’, ‘anxiety’, ‘easily irritable’, ‘loss of interest or pleasure in things’, ‘sleep problems’, ‘difficulty in concentration’, ‘feeling of failure’, ‘letting the family down’, was felt by 43 – 58% of students.
  • Thoughts of self-harm occurred ‘sometimes’ to 14.5% (130 students) and ‘often’ to 2.5% (22 students).
  • When asked if they were able to adjust and cope with the stress of the previous three months only 22% agreed.
  • This small group used the following self-coping activities: try to work it out myself (63%), help from friends and family (61%), university teachers and counsellor (41%), distract with other things (43%), video games/movies (40%), more sleep (37%), gardening/cooking/baking (34%), arts/crafts (25%), prayer (22%), learning a musical instrument (18%)
  • Willingness to speak to a counselor: 77% said no
  • Quotes and comments
  • “My life has no meaning because nothing in life is good”
  • “I hate my family”
  • “I feel like cutting myself. Gives me some kind of unknown pleasure”
  • “I am always sad.”
  • “I cannot focus on anything and I think I have anxiety disorder”
  • “I get very angry whenever I’m not able to do my own work.”
  • “This whole lockdown thing has been demotivating for me, I have no interest in doing anything”




Dec 2020

(n=897) F564 M315

Feb 2023

(n=687) F492 M195


Feeling stressed




Frequency of stress: daily/ almost daily




Stress affecting studies: sometimes/often




Future studies




Future job












Negative feelings: ‘anxiety’, ‘easily irritable’, ‘loss of interest or pleasure in things’, ‘sleep problems’, ‘difficulty in concentration’, ‘feeling of failure’








Inability to cope




Friends and family




Work on it myself








Get upset, vent out




Distract myself with other activities




Prayer, trust in God




Alcohol, drugs




Sleep more




Get away from mothers, be by myself




TV, video games, movies








Playing/learning a musical instrument




Gardening, cooking, baking




Post Covid sense of loss: from a BSc psychology student

“I enrolled for a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Martin Luther Christian University in 2019. For that first year, everything was, dare I say, perfect; I was studying a subject that my heart was invested in, the university was the perfect ‘second home’ and I was faring very well in my classes. Then life threw me a curve ball – the Covid-19 pandemic. Two years of constant mask-wearing, social distancing and quarantine did a number on us all and I found myself in the unfamiliar territory of online zoom classes and virtual everything. This disrupted the flow of my learning greatly, as there is a world of difference between actually attending a class in person and attending one from the comfort of one’s sofa or bed. In my case, it proved to be quite the demotivator as I struggled with understanding the different concepts and branches of psychology in these two years. Having only attended a few months of offline classes before graduating, the victory of actually achieving the degree was laced with the feeling of dissatisfaction and confusion. What now?”



Wish to leave Meghalaya

Many students studying at colleges and universities in Bangalore, especially women, state very clearly that they do not want to return. The most common reason is that there are no career or financial prospects in Meghalaya. Most of them would prefer to go abroad, east and southeast Asia are beckoning destinations. Women students cite stifling family and societal expectations and the burdens that matriliny places on daughters.


The departure of youth from the Northeast has become a subject of literature, sociology and economics. In her collection of short stories Boats on Land, Janice Pariat, relates the troubled life of Barisha, a young Khasi woman who finds work in Delhi. In Leaving the Land, Dolly Kikon and Bengt Karlsson, describe the migration of women from the Northeast for affective labour in the Mainland and their emotional and economic experiences.


Stress among Gen Z

That stress, anxiety and depression has increased among Generation Z during the pandemic and after is well-documented. Merely returning to campus and some degree of normalcy has not assuaged the damage to well-being. Not only are there residual issues from Covid such as a dip in family finances, loss of social connections and the deprivation of studies, but the post-Covid world is fraught with uncertainty not only to their future wellbeing, but of threats to the planet, social justice and a stable world order. Even for the hopeful and idealistic, these are devastating perils. The death by suicide of one of our students on Mar 26, 2023 is despairingly illustrative of the current psychological and emotional state of the youth.


A WHO survey found that one-fifth (20.3%) of college students had 12-month DSM-IV classified mental disorders; 83.1% of these cases had onsets prior to beginning their higher education. Among men, substance disorders, and, among women, major depression were the most important. Only 16.4% of students with 12-month disorders received any healthcare treatment for their mental disorders, and many dropped out. Detection and effective treatment of these disorders early in the college career might reduce attrition and improve educational and psychosocial functioning.


Deaths of Despair

Is a term that has recently entered the lexicon of health professionals. Despair is defined as “a state of mind in which there is an entire want of hope. From a psychological perspective, this definition focuses on a cognitive state that includes defeat, guilt, worthlessness, learned helplessness, pessimism, and limited positive expectations for the future”. Deaths from despair are those that occur from suicide, drug overdose and alcoholism (specifically from liver failure)”. These deaths can occur in every demographic, but are related more to lower levels of education, poverty, rural areas, illicit drug use and negative thoughts and self-harm behaviours. The ‘precursors’ may not have high predictive value.


Neuroscience and behavioral sciences tell us that “It has been observed that human beings are constrained by evolutionary strategy (ie, huge brain, prolonged physical and emotional dependence, education beyond adolescence for professional skills, and extended adult learning) to require communal support at all stages of the life cycle. Without support, difficulties accumulate until there seems to be no way forward.”


Deaths of despair are anecdotally common among tribal communities and certainly in our society. Perhaps there is no family in this room that has experienced a ‘death of despair’, or have relatives, neighbours or friends that are vulnerable. Our University is a community of young adults, at high risk for these tragedies. All campuses the world over share this vulnerability. On Mar 2, 2023, IIT Bombay published an investigative report on the suicide of a dalit student. An article in The Hindu by two former IITians commented that “The buoyancy of youth is not equal for everyone.”


Setting Out on this Journey in MLCU

Our deliberations and initiatives began with the MLCU Retreat on Aug 1-2, 2022. Dr Gideon Arulmani introduced the topic to us with a presentation entitled, “Wellness and its (Dis)contents!”. Some insightful nuggets were:

  1. Wellness lies at the heart of mental health and emotional well-being. It’s become a trendy buzzword today, but what is it actually about, satisfaction, happiness, contentment and enjoyment? Equanimity is another word, satisfaction with the status quo. Some philosophical and spiritual non-linear views are expressed in different cultures as, sotopanna (Buddhist), eudaimonia (Aristotle), dharma (Indian), and Ikigai (Japanese) which emphasizes “human flourishing”, and “living correctly” and on finding meaning through the realisation of the self as it manifests within one’s context.
  2. There may be two views about happiness. One focuses on the self and the other focuses on the self in the community. It’s very much associated with finding relationships, building these connections of love.
  3. This is what the psychologist would tell you about well-being. In terms of definitions, it’s the person’s cognitive component, ie., thoughts and opinions about one’s life and the affective component ie., feelings and emotions about one’s life.
  4. Perceptions of wellness and work have been altered by Covid. And during this great rethink there have been pandemic epiphanies where people have been able to sit down and rethink.
  5. The pace and velocity at which change is happening is very, very rapid. One way to keep pace with change, is to say this is the kind of person that I am. This could be based on values, religion, lifestyle preferences. Social networks are important, perhaps among more tribals these networks are already in place.



  1. Gideon laid out 5 principles:

Principle 1 Development as a Spiral

  • Development is not merely achievement of mastery over age-specific developmental tasks. It is a collection of overlapping movements; a continuous elaboration and construction, characterised by adaptation, discovery and renewal.
  • May not necessarily always point in the ‘forward’ direction.
  • May require the individual to return to earlier learnings, it may also require the individual to let go of earlier positions and begin anew.


Principle 2 Assess Before You Accept

  • Practice restraint, flexibility and self-mediation.
  • Does this mean the individual must live like an ascetic? Are malls places of evil temptations?
  • It means building the ability to discern, to weigh up advantages and disadvantages and then accept, or let go.
  • Support the individual to shape the future through actions executed thoughtfully and willfully in the present.
  • Wellbeing does not emerge unbidden. Wellbeing is constructed in the crucible of actions executed thoughtfully, willfully and with control.
  • Assessment and acceptance require: decision making skills, trajectory projection skills, and inoculation against failure


Principle 3 The Changing and the Unchanged

Wellness requires the individual to embrace change and transformation.  It also requires the individual to consider this necessity from the essentially unchanging core of one’s self. It can be facilitated by:

  • Diary/journal writing skills
  • Exercises to identify what is relatively unchanging withing oneself
  • Livelihood planning


Principle 4 Sensitivity to the Other

  • Is there such a state as “personal” wellbeing? Can wellbeing exist independent of the others around us?
  • Sensitivity to the “other” seems to be a value that characterises most tribal and indigenous cultures.
  • Wellness calls for an engagement with life that is reciprocally caring, nourishing rather than manipulative; contributing and at the same time receiving.
  • It can be worked out with exercises: to identify the networks one is a part of, to discuss the “why” of community projects, and to work out a giving and receiving balance sheet.


Mental health is Communal

In a treatise on Confucius and other Chinese philosophers, Alexus McLeodis in Psyche (2023) says that Asians have always known that mental illness is a communal phenomenon.


“Mental illness is often thought to be a matter of individual disorder. Modern psychiatry looks to features of individual experience, behaviour and thoughts to diagnose mental illness, and focuses on individual remedies to treat it. If you are depressed, this is understood as your response to circumstances, based on features of your genetics, disordered patterns of thinking, or personal problems and emotional states. Western treatment of mental illness follows these same individualistic lines. The individual is provided with medicine and therapy, which are sometimes helpful.


But such an emphasis on the individual can lead us to neglect communal approaches to treatment. Often overlooked are the ways in which social norms, cultural beliefs and communal attitudes contribute to mental illness. Chinese philosophy has long known that mental health is communal.


Features of the communities and cultures of which one is a member have great influence on the formation and expression of our emotions. It would be wrong to see anger, for example, as a universally natural response to certain events, independent of culture. Members of certain communities will be more likely to display or feel anger in given situations than members of other communities with different cultural norms governing emotion.


Mental illness is often due to a combination of genetic predisposition and situational features. What calls for anxiety, anger, joy or other responses will almost always be in large part dependent on communal norms, of the kind integrated into the expectations and behavioural tendencies of individuals from a young age, through interaction with the community. This is why, for example, disrespect of a parent or elder will cause enormous shame in certain Asian cultures, but not in many Western cultures. Cultural factors also make certain groups, such as Asians, less likely to seek psychiatric healthcare than other ethnic groups in the US.


There is evidence that mental illness is increasing in younger members of society, along with increases in suicide and attempted suicide. Such increases in mental illness might say less about individual traits than they do about certain alienating and corrosive features of our society. As Confucius himself said: ‘The faults of an individual are in each case attributable to their group.’ While many efforts, including providing greater access to professional mental health treatment, should be part of our response to the problem of mental illness, we should also carefully and seriously consider which aspects of our shared cultures might be contributing to the rise of mental illness.”


Work-Life Balance for Faculty and Staff

One study has shown that 84% of teachers stated that teaching is more stressful than before the pandemic, citing tougher work, struggles to engage students, and fears about self and family health.

More than half do not speak to anyone at work about their mental health. Job-related stress is twice as high among teachers and depression, three times as high as the general adult population.


The pandemic has altered perceptions of work-life balance, with the quality of personal, family and social life being considered more important than before. But to simply say that we’d be happier if we didn’t need to work or work for fewer hours is to miss the point. Why we work is a key question, apart from how much we work. “Work is consistently and positively related to our wellbeing and constitutes a large part of our identity. Ask yourself who you are, and very soon you’ll resort to describing what you do for work. Being busy contributes to happiness even when you think you’d prefer to be idle. Animals seem to get this instinctively: in experiments, most would rather work for food than get it for free.”


Gideon spoke of eudaimonic happiness: “The idea that work, or putting effort into tasks, contributes to our general wellbeing is closely related to the psychological concept of eudaimonic happiness. This is the sort of happiness that we derive from optimal functioning and realising our potential. Research has shown that work and effort is central to eudaimonic happiness, explaining the satisfaction and pride you feel on completing a grueling task.” This answers to some extent the question of whether working well results in better well-being, or whether those who already have a sense of well-being bring better performance to the workplace. A large-scale study found that well-being predicts outstanding job performance (MIT Sloan Management Review, 2022)


But there are different approaches in life. An international study found that about half of individuals in all surveyed countries preferred hedonic happiness. About 13% choose to pursue a combination of enjoyment and fulfillment, preferring a rich and diverse experiential life. The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that artists and other professionals feel happiest when their “body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”


A good work culture is characterized by clarity of organizational goals, to which employee expectations are clearly aligned. With expectations, guidance and support need to be provided as part of systems and processes. Staff need clarity on which behaviours result in promotion and job security. Officers must be held accountable to outcomes (HBR, 2018).


How to Make the Most of University: for students

In an article by this title a young psychology lecturer, Nic Hooper, sets out a sensible and practical approach for students to learn “psychological flexibility as the key to coping with difficult times and to pursuing what really matters to you”.


He recommends the six ways to wellbeing (New Economics Foundation and Institute for Positive Psychology and Education)

  2. Challenge yourself.
  3. Connect with others.
  4. Give to others.
  5. Self-care.
  6. Embrace the moment.


In his work with students, he uses “an approach called acceptance and commitment therapy (commonly called ACT) that’s an offshoot of the better-known cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). A principal aim of ACT is to develop psychological flexibility – which will help you thrive at university (and in life in general).” These contain two elements:

  1. Figure out what’s important to you.
  2. Identify your values
  3. Set some specific goals, preferably SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals
  4. Recognise the barriers in your way and use mental techniques to overcome your barriers
  5. Figure out how to interact with your thoughts and feelings so that they don’t stop you from moving towards what’s important to you.
  6. Difficult feelings are normal – it’s how you respond to them that matters
  7. Develop your ‘willingness’


Factors Affecting Length and Quality of Life

The length of life and the quality of life are the basic yardsticks of well-being. Length of life is dependent on somewhat measurable factors. Quality of life is not so easily measured. Taking both together, a US study estimated the weightage of various factors. Social and economic factors account for 40% and health behaviours account for 30%. This is where our efforts and interventions should lie, then 70% of the factors of well-being will be covered. Clinical care, physical and mental, only accounts for 20%, though huge investments of money, academic and human resources are invested here.


Balance of life for students in MLCU

  1. Academics
  2. A friendly, stress-free and supportive learning environment
  3. Community and experiential learning
  4. Emphasis on careers and livelihood
  5. Focus on individuals, rather than cohort
  6. Courses on altruism, social activism, happiness and well-being


  1. Personal development and care
  2. Physical-psycho-social profile at the time of admission
  3. Career counselling
  4. Opportunities for a wide array of extra-curricular activities including on the weekends
  5. Life skills, decision-making and self-care coaching
  6. Health and campus safety


Balance of life for faculty and staff in MLCU

  1. Professional
  2. Academic development opportunities
  3. Individual career management support
  4. Consideration of preferred academic tracks for performance evaluation based on individual personal statements
  5. Personal and family
  6. Gender-sensitive policies
  7. Family support such as creche, extra consideration for single parents
  8. Assistance with personal and long-term finance planning
  9. Health and life insurance


Steps so far

  1. Presentation and initiation of discussion on well-being by Dr Gideon Arulmani at the University Retreat on Aug 2, 2022.
  2. Conceptualization of the pyramid scheme for student well-being by Dr Gideon and the offices of Dean, Academics and Dean, Students
  3. Career Development Workshops for MLCU faculty and staff conducted on Nov 24-25, 2022 and Mar 28-29, 2023

  1. Advanced Skills for Counselling conducted by Dr Gideon on Mar 29-31, 2023
  2. Workshop on Faculty Well-being on May 2-3, 2023 by Dr Suhas Chandra and Dr Denis Xavier, from St Johns Medical College, Bangalore



R P Auerbach et al. Mental disorders among college students in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. Psychol Med. 2016;46(14):2955-2970. doi: 10.1017/S0033291716001665.


Work-life balance: what really makes us happy might surprise you. Lis Ku, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, De Montfort University (2021). The Conversation.

A Psychologically Rich Life: Beyond Happiness and Meaning. Shigehiro Oishi and Erin C. Westgate. Psychological Review (2021): 129(4), 790–811.


Catherine Gewertz (2021). Teachers’ Mental Health Has Suffered in the Pandemic. Education Week.


Madeline Will (2021). Teachers Are More Likely to Experience Depression Symptoms Than Other Adults. Education Week.


Michelle B. Riba, and Preeti N. Malani (2022). Mental Health on College Campuses: Supporting Faculty and Staff. Psychiatric Times.


Nic Hooper (2023). How to make the most of university. Psyche.


Alexus McLeodis (2023). Chinese philosophy has long known that mental health is communal.


William E. Copeland et al (2020). Associations of Despair With Suicidality and Substance Misuse

Among Young Adults. JAMA Network Open. 2020;3(6):e208627. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.8627


Carol Graham (2021). America’s crisis of despair: A federal task force for economic recovery and societal well-being. The Brookings Institute.


Sterling P, Platt ML. Why Deaths of Despair Are Increasing in the US and Not Other Industrial Nations-Insights From Neuroscience and Anthropology. JAMA Psychiatry. 2022 Apr 1;79(4):368-374. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.4209. PMID: 35107578.


Melissa Daimler (2018). Why Great Employees Leave “Great Cultures”. Harvard Business Review. May 11, 2018


Paul B. Lester, Ed Diener, and Martin Seligman (2022). Top Performers Have a Superpower: Happiness

MITSloan Management Review, February 16, 2022.


R Golani and R Narayanan (2023). Discrimination in the IITs is something to write about. The Hindu Mar 22, 2023.


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As approved by the Board of Governors in its meeting held on the 17th April, 2023 the following Position Statement on Generation Z has been resolved to be adopted:



Gen Z is generally defined as those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2010s. Many researchers use the cutoff years of 1997 and 2012 to demarcate this social demographic, with an age range of 11-26 years of age. The internet was born before them, so they are also called “digital natives”. They live in two worlds, the real-life world and the online world, moving easily, moment to moment, from one sphere to the other. These two worlds crisscross and connect seamlessly during the course of the day.


There is a huge body of research data on Generation Z. They have been researched more than any other generation, before and after Covid. The Wikipedia entry on Gen Z has 236 references. Unlike the previous localized generations of Gen X and Gen Y, Gen Z is an international phenomenon because of social media. Across the globe, youth are instantly in touch: sharing music, fashion, ideas, mindsets and lifestyles.



Compared to previous generations, Generation Z tend to be more well-behaved, abstemious, and risk-averse. They seem to live more slowly than their predecessors when they were their age; have lower rates of teenage pregnancies; have less risky sex, and consume less alcohol. They are better at delaying gratification than their counterparts from the 1960s. They have been socially awakened by Covid, more tuned into social justice. They have moved from living in the moment to worrying about the future, and have a heightened sense of need for self-sufficiency.


They are quieter, and there is greater awareness of mental health conditions. They have been psychologically scarred by Covid, depression has increased, almost doubled from pre-Covid levels. They are feeling neglected, their problems are not solved, there is distrust of authority. In the age group 18-29 years, 60% expect vast change in the world and in their lives. Three-fourths of Indian youth feel that climate change has doomed the world. Culture, music and arts help them in coping.

Covid has brought an outpouring of frustration over disrupted education, job losses, diminished financial security, the ineptitude and inefficiency of political administrations, and the susceptibility of the older generation to conspiracy theories and science denial. They are impatient for social change, there is despondency and anger. The problems of their generation seemed to have been pushed aside.


Around the world, members of Generation Z are spending more time on electronic devices, even for learning. They have lower attention spans, vocabulary, and academic performance. More online education is acceptable, they are willing to assume more responsibility and self-efficacy in learning. But there is more focus and selectiveness: education must be perceived as useful and relevant. They are frustrated with monotony. They are more concerned than older generations with academic performance and job prospects, and are willing to invest in education. Data shows that the negative effects of screen time are most pronounced in adolescents and young children (Gen Alpha), not among Gen Z.


Gen Z: a redefinition of their role as students

The word ‘student’ has some negative connotations. First of all, it creates hierarchy and separateness between students and teachers. Secondly, it denotes a scholar, precluding other dimensions of identity and need. They are also customers, clients, even patients (because many may suffer from lack of psychological and social well-being, or have learning disabilities like dyslexia or autism spectrum disorder, conditions that may last into adulthood). Thirdly, and most importantly they are human beings, entitled to rights, equality and democratic processes.


In one sense, students who pay fees are the customers of education. Their satisfaction and delight should be the key elements of customer focus. Student surveys show that many are not satisfied with the present system of education. The feedback from MLCU students and recent graduates have given us fair warning. Strong messages are coming through. As educationists and academicians, we have to dispossess ourselves of uninformed suppositions and superficial stereotypes about our students.

A thorough understanding of Gen Z is needed for all teachers so that we can ascertain the optimal curriculum, pedagogy and goals of learning that will enable them to survive and thrive in the new world. Current awareness of Gen Z seems to be low among teachers. We have to be educated on Gen Z career aspirations, psychological traits, learning styles, and responsibility for self-learning.


Perhaps we should regard them as learners or better still, as co-learners.


Uncertain, worried, but idealistic

Economists, sociologists, futurists, and other world-watchers warn us that constant change, instability and uncertainty are the only sure variables of the future. There will be no return to ‘normal’. Pandemics, wars, famines, floods, environmental degradation and wayward politics is the fate of the planet. The older generation has bequeathed this legacy.


No wonder that the youth of today are bewildered at the state of the planet. As they try to meander meaningfully through their travails, they see little reason for hope. Unemployment, financial struggle, and dysfunctional relationships are all around them. They distract and entertain themselves with music, food and fashion. At times, they shut off the real-world, closeting themselves in social media, and are vilified for isolating themselves. It’s a no-win situation.


Drowned in Delusions

I see you floating down the river, Your dress billowing along with your hair.

But instead of chasing you down, I just stop and stare.

“Why?” I ask myself. I know why; I’ve always known why.

And at that moment, I was afraid.

Afraid for you, afraid for me. Afraid of the myriad words left unsaid

…When I see you being taken by the water. Swept out of my reach,

Out of breath. Right into the doorsteps of Death.

I reach out, and faintly I hear My lover’s cries for help.

“He’s drowning, my Theo is drowning!”

But your voice grows distant, When I’m transfixed by Death’s loving gaze;

I utter my prayers for one last time,

-Theo, Shillong Times, Jan 15, 2023

Ethics and morals

Yet, they seem to have a code of values and a creed of ideals, that provide a compass for navigating this confusing world. Disrespect for authority may not be considered as a serious moral violation, especially when seen in social and cultural contexts, and if no harm is caused. Moral foundations are based on factors like “physical and emotional harm, justice, fairness, reciprocity, respect for authority, personal autonomy, ingroup loyalty, purity, and sanctity, for example, reverence for divinity and the supernatural” (Bretlis, 2023).


Moral formation has evolutionary and developmental roots. Psychology students study Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. According to Kohlberg, by their age, Gen Z youth would have a sense of conscience, humanitarian concerns and moral values. At the same time Gen Z is the least religious generation in the USA. In one study, one-third of American youth said they have no religion. In the UK, according to census data, almost two-thirds of those under-40 have declared “no religion”.

Given these various dimensions of Gen Z, they need and deserve understanding and affirmation. The university is not only a place for learning, growth and development, but also a harbour from a tempestuous environment. If we can provide them with optimal ideal skills, attitudes and lifestyles, they will become the ideal leaders for the next generation.

The CIM Report makes a telling commentary and some recommendations:

Students are the major internal customers of MLCU. Their satisfaction and delight are the key elements of customer focus. Student satisfaction surveys may be conducted periodically, at least once in 6 months and follow up actions may be initiated. What type of education does Gen Z want, in what format and what time frame are to be analyzed and fulfilled. This has to be done for all UG, PG and Ph.D. program students. A thorough understanding of Gen Z is needed for all faculty members. Current awareness seems to be low, and they may have to be educated on Gen Z psychological traits, learning styles, etc.



  1. Conduct CPD programs among the faculty and staff about Gen Z
  2. Include Gen Z in planning and implementing the content and pedagogy of the curriculum
  3. Include Gen Z course work in the curricula of the education, social work, psychology, gender and other social science departments
  4. Provide course work in social justice, social activism, culture and identity, altruism, leadership, well-being and attitude and behaviour transformation
  5. Provide experiences in the fine arts, crafts and music on campus
  6. Provide psycho-social support for personal and professional well-being
  7. Reduce hierarchy and power distance in the learning environment and respectfully assume integrity, commitment and motivation in our learners


Maddie Thomas (2022). I’m a Gen Z but I want all that millennials want too – so don’t pigeonhole me. The Guardian, 2 Jul 2022.

Brandon Bretlis (2023). Adolescence is a ‘use it or lose it’ time for moral development. Cognitive Development.

PsyLog (2022). Moral development according to Kohlberg six stages theory.

Katherine Butler and Caroline Bannock (2021). A sacrificed generation: psychological scars of Covid on young may have lasting impact. The Guardian, 2 Jun 2021.

Christel J. Manning (2019). Gen Z is the Least Religious Generation. Here’s Why That Could Be a Good Thing. Pacific Standard, Stanford University Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.


Robert Booth and Michael Goodier (2023). Census data suggests UK faces ‘non-religious future’, say campaigners. Under-40s in England and Wales more likely to declare ‘no religion’ than Christianity for first time. There are now 9.8 million Christians aged under 40, but 13.6 million people with no religion. The Guardian, 30 Jan 2023.



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