LUMS will most definitely change you, not necessarily for the better

Published: May 14, 2016
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LUMS Open house Photo: http://www.studentsace.com

“LUMS is the Harvard of Pakistan”, echo the tangled throng of prospective students and parents all across the country. You take the self-proclaimed mission statement of the university to “achieve excellence and national and international leadership” at face value and assume that this is the best place to educate yourself.

Should you be lucky enough to get a one-way ticket to four years at this prestigious institution, you will find yourself amidst a swarm of other sweat-stained, bright lanyard-sporting students in the heat of August during Orientation Week. During this week, you will hear every misrepresentation of this university in the book and more. Within this sea of lies, however, you will hear one fundamental truth: that your four years at LUMS will change you – and if emerging as a, “Jaded, neurotic reconfiguration of a human being with severe trust issues”, as stated by a 21-year-old student in her third year of study, can be categorised as change, then yes, LUMS will most definitely change you.

It is inconvenient to find yourself at the mercy of the monopoly of power held by the Registrar’s Office (RO), where walk-in queries are prohibited during crucial points in the semester (such as enrolment and when final grades are released). Even instructors and other faculty members are powerless before the Leviathan that is the RO. If this was the only problem that LUMS students faced, it would be relatively easy to look past it. The problematic reality of the matter, however, is that LUMS fosters such a dysfunctional community that it is counter-intuitive to the acquisition of education itself.

In LUMS, you are bred like a racehorse for a toxic rat-race that you will find yourself a part of whether you like it or not. Sure, you will learn how to claw your way up the capitalist ladder to a dimension of consumption and opulence, but at some point, you must ask yourself: at what cost?

The school of Humanities and Social Sciences operates by the logic that a dearth of students applying for particular majors (such as English and Sociology) is reason enough to cut funding and remain understaffed. What they fail to understand, is the tautological nature of this very argument: if they do not recruit inspiring and qualified instructors, how do they expect to yield results, and more importantly, invite students to apply for these majors?

Every second teacher in the school of Humanities holds a foreign degree in their area of study. With this in perspective, how does LUMS continue to have a shortage of teachers that are interested in their students and that offer a wide variety of courses? In the words of a student pursuing an undergraduate degree in Political Science,

“When someone from University of Chicago (UChicago) teaching a course on feminist political theory doesn’t even know that Amartya Sen is a man, then their being from UChicago effectively does not matter.”

When asked if she feels like her courses are contributing to her growth not only as an academic, but also as an individual, *Fatima, a student in her second year says,

“You are being taught to regurgitate what the instructor wants you to know, and if you deviate from that, essentially, you will fail.”

LUMS claims to be need-blind and it prides itself in the fact that it wishes to make the financial-aid-seeking process as seamless and stress-free for the students as possible. Unfortunately, it does not succeed. According to a student in her third year of study,

“My family’s income is Rs25,000 a month on paper, but I only get 70 per cent  financial aid and you can’t appeal so you don’t even know why. In universities abroad, which LUMS supposedly seeks to emulate, there is an appeal process; because the logic is that if you’re good enough to get in, you will get the funds you deserve. Except that in LUMS they delay your admission when you apply for financial aid, and once you get in they create problems for you.”

According to the same student, during her financial aid interview she was asked a plethora of invasive and inappropriate questions, including questions like,

“Why do you have braces? If you can afford braces, you should be able to afford LUMS”, insinuating that her family was trying to con its way out of paying for the undergraduate degree.

She was not at all appreciative of them questioning her right to seek orthodontia. However, their cynicism only grew. She continues,

“When they got to know that the house I was living in was someone else’s house, and they had given it to my mother to live in because she is a widow, they turned to my mother and sarcastically said, “Lagta hai duniya ke saare achey logoun ko aap hi jaanti hein” (It seems like all the benevolent people of this world are somehow related to you).

Such treatment during a financial aid interview can be a bit more than slightly problematic.

Aside from opening a discourse on the matter, there needs to be a system of accountability within this university for the inconveniences faced by the majority of its inhabitants. If fundamental rights just as the right to run student-led protests, and to write freely about the problems that students face without the fear of persecution simply do not exist, I want to know: how exactly, LUMS, is it that you hope to achieve “civic engagement to serve the critical needs of society”?

Anonymous 13

Anonymous 13

The writer wishes to remain anonymous.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • GoodFella

    Interesting article.
    The last paragraph is sad to say the least. What a disgraceful way to decide whether someone gets aid or not. If you are copying foreign universities in being need-blind then follow them properly.Recommend

  • Anny

    I never knew about dark side of lumsRecommend

  • Two cents

    Not only in LUMS but students studying at prestigious A level schools are part of a never ending rat race to secure admission at selective uni’s abroad and locally.

    One thing for sure,LUMS is an experience you will hardly face at any other Pak UniRecommend

  • IBAian

    This is really sad. I expect, at least from Humanities and Social Sciences teachers to allow students to think freely. That is the whole point of liberal studies, to make students think critically. This trend of “if you deviate from what your teacher taught you, you fail” needs to go away. I am a BBA student but has to face this same ajeeb attitude of teachers.

    As for financial aid incident, I hope that student has launched a formal complaint against the interviewers. I am availing financial aid too and had given a lot of interviews, but thankfully this never happened to me.

    “If fundamental rights just as the right to run student-led protests, and to write freely about the problems that students face without the fear of persecution simply do not exist…”

    I would blame student body for it. Majority of the students do not seem to care at all. Those who do care to pen down their protest, are criticized by their fellows for violating the “sanctity” of university. Same story in IBA. A whole army of students comes crawling out if someone dares to post a complaint in the FB group and mind this that this is only a private group. Public cannot see this. But yet those people are silenced.

    I hope it changes. For better.Recommend

  • Faizan

    its an opinion, not the reality in most cases…. LUMS always says that if you have any doubt you cant fit in or cant handle the “strain”, you shouldn’t join…. Simple as that… If you have made it to second year, you should brave out the rest too….Recommend

  • Farooq

    It’s depressing to hear about the financial aid situation. All students know that LUMS is going through a financial stress and honestly, Fundraising and Financial Aid Heads are highly incapable of doing the necessary to make it any better.

    I won’t take any names, but us students know who these people are.Recommend

  • Arslan

    I do agree with you that administration people at LUMS are not the brightest individuals in the country. But do take a look at the alternatives you have for an undergrad degree in Pakistan. I would personally choose an instructor from UChicago over a PU PhD every single time, but that’s just my opinion. If working hard to learn the very stuff you enrolled to learn seems like a rat race to you, feel free to stop at any time. It’s not a “one way ticket” in any way.Recommend

  • Uzair

    It’s nice and easy to highlight problems, in general. However, a more useful tool is employing collective action to engage with the management of the university. Ranting on ET doesn’t change anything, but it’s a good start to keep the management on their toes and making sure that they steer away from complacency.Recommend

  • Varda

    I am a luminite and this has some very false claims and evidence.
    I am on financial aid and for starters, there is no financial aid interview.
    Secondly getting financial aid is not a tiresome process in my first hand experience of 3 years.
    Secondly as far as the issues of RO are concerned, it is not a monopoly power. Department coordinators and others can appeal to RO for exemptions. The instructors do have some authority, if not completely.
    Thirdly, in my 3 years of experience, LUMS has made me confident and given me countless opportunities including two international experiences. I owe LUMS my success and whatever I have achieved till now.
    For those who read this, I would request you all to dig into facts and not just claims made by one person who had a bad experience at the university.Recommend

  • Irfan Khalil

    Selfish world man!
    Recommend

  • Zain

    Dear Author,

    After reading this article the first time, I found myself with an unpleasant sensation in my stomach, not unlike the feeling one experiences after an ill-advised bout of Buddy’s binging. The truth is that this article would have been a lot easier to stomach if it didn’t reek of such nauseating self-entitlement, intellectual arrogance, and biased arguments that undermine the author’s potential as a writer. Exam in a few hours, but I can’t stop myself from pointing out a few of the things I take issue with. I read your article again.

    It would have been okay if you had accepted that these words are just your opinions. It would have been okay if you had conceded that what should have been an objective article is a rant, and one based on your own personal experiences. It would have been okay if you had acknowledged (as is expected of a HSS student) that a sample space of 3 cherry-picked anecdotes is not justifiable grounds for making such authoritative claims about a campus home to 4000 students and faculty members. It would have been okay if you had chosen to publish this on your own blog, and not a national newspaper read by a nation that you know if going to take your words at face value, just like the students you mock.

    But you did none of these things.

    “The problematic reality of the matter, however, is that LUMS fosters such a dysfunctional community that it is counter-intuitive to the acquisition of education itself.”

    Instead, you have taken your opinions (to which you are perfectly entitled), and recklessly slathered them over the reputations of countless students, many of whom will go on to change this country and the world. It is interesting that you feel “LUMS fosters a dysfunctional community”, when this very dysfunctional community is made up of four thousand individuals, most of whom you have never met.

    “In LUMS, you are bred like a racehorse for a toxic rat-race that you will find yourself a part of whether you like it or not. Sure, you will learn how to claw your way up the capitalist ladder to a dimension of consumption and opulence, but at some point, you must ask yourself: at what cost?”

    Your article isn’t just biased, it is also incoherent. I tried really hard to make sense of this paragraph, but I couldn’t. Is it another attempt to criticise the institution’s policies? Or just a confession that you are unable to deal with the pressure of being in a competitive environment? Believe it or not, taking part in any race is a matter of choice. Unless perhaps you’re a camel in the UAE ☺

    “Every second teacher in the school of Humanities holds a foreign degree in their area of study. With this in perspective, how does LUMS continue to have a shortage of teachers…”

    Kind of you to equate the Humanities school’s shortcomings with those of LUMS as a whole. You cannot claim to be a spokesperson for all the HSS students, let alone all the SSE, SDSB, and Law ones as well!

    “When someone from University of Chicago (UChicago) teaching a course on feminist political theory doesn’t even know that Amartya Sen is a man, then their being from UChicago effectively does not matter.”

    Intellectual arrogance plagues this university’s academic environment, and in my opinion- for what little it might be worth – pervades the HSS more strongly than any other school. This is ironic and somewhat disheartening, given that it this department that is especially meant to foster a spirit of tolerance and discourse among academics. To the lady/gentleman who made these remarks, I would like to say one thing. As a student in an educational institution it is your inalienable right to point out a factual inaccuracy, especially if a teacher is responsible for it. It is not your right, however, to make value judgements about another individual’s degree or their education or their worth as a human being. It will never be your right, whether your life’s roadmap leads you to Harvard or back at LUMS.

    “LUMS claims to be need-blind and it prides itself in the fact that it wishes to make the financial-aid-seeking process as seamless and stress-free for the students as possible. Unfortunately, it does not succeed. According to a student…”

    Apparently, your divine right to make blanket statements based on insufficient evidence extends to a scathing criticism of a beautiful financial aid scheme, the likes of which this country has never seen before. I have not had the opportunity to be involved with the FA process at LUMS, and am therefore wary of saying much. I ask only that the students (of which I am sure there are many) whose dreams have become a reality thanks to the financial aid opportunities here speak up about their experience with the program. Like other HSS students, you like the word “problematic”. What I find “problematic” is that your opinion that the “financial aid process does not succeed” seems to be based only on the anecdotal evidence of this one student.

    I am sure that you feel strongly about the issues you have highlighted. Indeed if there are other students who have had similar experiences to the ones quoted, LUMS needs to take serious action. I agree completely with your suggestion that discourse and introspection is important for everyone who is a part of this university. What I do not agree with, however, is the way you have approached the issue. You have done a disservice to this university by making generalizations based on single-digit incidents, and then published it in on a forum where it is going to be read by thousands of individuals who have never been a part of LUMS and never will be, but will nonetheless form negative judgements about everyone who is. That’s all of us.Recommend

  • Fed Up

    As a current student of LUMS, every problem identified here is spot on. There are far more horror stories to be heard and seen around us. It doesn’t even scratch the surface of the epidemic of mental illness and substance abuse that has become normalized in the student community. However, both the faculty and to a lesser extent, the students are keen on promoting an image of an institution that is above and beyond its socio-economic background, whereas it is very much the product of its worst excesses and failings.Recommend

  • Batwoman

    Coming from a Liberal Arts College, I was always looked down upon by my friends in Lums because i didn’t fall in their criteria of being an intellect. I was repeatedly told that Arts is just a hobby and that i’m WASTING my four years and my parents’ wealth on it. It broke my heart to see that despite belonging to a so-called prestigious university of Pakistan, these people had such an enclosed perception. And this perception wasn’t just confined to my group of friends.
    Also, once i was told by a fellow Luminite that the company he’s going to be a CEO of, he’s going to hire me as a janitor because Bachelors in Fine Arts (this includes graphic design, fine arts, textile and various fields of art) is nothing but a joke.
    The jokes on him, he works under me now. :).
    The point is the system fuels up the ego, making every student think that he is a God’s gift to mankind.Recommend

  • MFA

    Thank you! You saved me a lot of time and put it more eloquently than I would have :).Recommend

  • M R

    I am a LUMS alumnus and I had full financial-aid during my four year stay there. All I can say is that a few years ago when i graduated from this university it was not a single bit same as described by this article. Things might have changed. Yes there were problems and they needed to be resolved. But a number of these problems are common in the foreign universities which this article refers to; I am studying in one of those foreign universities now. I am sorry to hear about the financial-aid interview experience of the student. Financial-aid works on the availability of funds; need-blind admissions are not as common as they used to be. Towards the end of my studies at LUMS, there were changes in key positions involving NOP and financial-aid office. The behavior and attitude of the new people wasn’t professional or nice. As with our government and other educational institutes, LUMS also works based on certain individual’s policies rather than as an institution. As the individuals in key positions change so does the fate of the university.Recommend

  • @twa

    I am a luminte. Most of the problems highlighted here are actually there but you cannot fully blame lums on it. This article give the image of lums to a person who doesn’t know much about lums as a horribly runned institution that is managed just like other govt institutions like railway and wapda. This fact has to b acknowledged before writing this article that nothing in this world can b perfect and some imperfections are their even in some best places. You haven’t acknowledged the positives that exist there that are better than from most of the places in Pakistan. To conclude, its a Pakistani institute managed by locals so this is the best you can get even while having these imperfections…
    Recommend

  • Sadaf

    Shows the level of understanding of the student who thinks that Amartya Sen refers to himself as ‘him’ because he doesn’t Amartya Sen likes to be addressed as ‘her’ and as a woman. This definitely reflects that the instructor knew her subject well. The article is factually incorrect and thrashing someone’s academic knowledge based upon a self proclaimed misunderstanding and lack of knowledge is absolutely Wrong. Secondly the financial aid office didn’t ask me to appear for an interview and I have funding since two years. Recommend

  • Sadaf

    Shows the level of understanding of the student who thinks that Amartya Sen refers to himself as ‘him’ because he doesn’t Amartya Sen likes to be addressed as ‘her’ and as a woman. This definitely reflects that the instructor knew her subject well. The article is factually incorrect and thrashing someone’s academic knowledge based upon a self proclaimed misunderstanding and lack of knowledge is absolutely Wrong. Secondly the financial aid office didn’t ask me to appear for an interview and I have funding sincRecommend

  • hamza mutahir

    IBA is better! heheRecommend

  • Zain

    Haha kind words! :)Recommend

  • Hasan

    DRUGS and a life of excess is the problem at LUMS. Life of access is your own business per se; but the administration turning a blind eye to narcotics freely sold to students is negligent. The Chief Minister should intervene to rid LUMS or any other college of the menace of drugs from college campus.Recommend

  • Hunter

    LUMS So KewlRecommend

  • Ambreen

    The dilemma faced by our society is quite very similar faced by the students or to be students of LUMS. What a general Pakistani seeks is just a big show of outward opulence, superficiality to the core and a lasting impression on others who do not even care and this is what LUMS caters to. I am not surprised by the inside story shared by the writer here at all. The so-called prestigious institution is just a place for creating narcissists as if there are any less in the society.Recommend

  • Self Respect

    My brother applied for a half financial aid with his admission application at LUMS. He received his admission confirmation and an interview call for the financial aid. The questions asked from him by the LUMS official on the phone prior to the interview were so degrading that he did not have the heart to go the interview. The interviewer even said ‘From your facebook DP, it does even appear you need an aid’. How creepy is that. He is now studying in Boston on a full scholarship and this was given without a single interview or call or check, solely on his application. His experience has left a very negative impression of LUMS on our entire family and i dont want the younger siblings to consider applying to LUMS or worse with an FA. Its better to attend NUST and keep your self respect.Recommend