The Pancasila (Spirited) University

Universities that do not open up for differences are not universities. In the context of Indonesia, universities that value differences in opinions, identities, and values ​​should be referred to as Pancasila (Spirited) Universities.

However, considering the tendency in Perguruan Tinggi / universities (PT) – especially state-owned universities – today, Sulistyowati Irianto is concerned about the “death of the university” (Kompas, 23/5) for losing its identity as a university of struggle and failing to nurture diversity.

The above statements and concerns are indicative of two things. First, the low commitment of a PT/University towards its identity as an institution of higher education that inherits and produces science, knowledge, technology, and art which aims to improve human dignity and prestige. Second, the low institutional awareness concerning the social-societal and nationality context.

As PT we tend to parrot and jump on the bandwagon. For example, some time ago, there came three classifications about PT, namely the teaching university, research university, and entrepreneurial university . Almost all universities are competing to declare themselves to be a research university or entrepreneur university , then declaring teaching university as out of date or obsolete.

Another example, a world-class university has also become a jargon that is claimed to be achieved and is dreamt of becoming a stablemate with Oxford, Stanford, Cambridge, MIT, Harvard, or NUS, Peking, Melbourne, and Tokyo universities. Meanwhile, the data of Kemenristek and Dikti /Ministry of Research and Technology, Higher Education (2015) shows that the gross enrollment rate (APK) of higher education in Indonesia is only 33.7 percent (2015), and of all lecturers (228,443) only 13 percent have doctoral education, including about approximately 5000 Professors.

Are historical and civic contexts  drivers of PT development? In slightly more ideological terms, can Pancasila be an accelerator of quality improvement and at the same time be a differentiator of PT in Indonesia?


Scientific Sociological Foundation Differences

We are often caught up in true or false dualism. In fact it is an over-simplification in thinking and behaving.

Too often we stop at only two dichotomistic choices: whether something is right or wrong, good or bad. We forget about other comparative measures like “better / correct” or “very good”.

Even if there is right or wrong, it should be seen as two extremes of sustainability. Neither can be separated because of which there are horizon of points of assessment that may be absolute, ultimate, superlative, and comparative. While both ends may change (grow or shrink) and between the two ends there are a number of points of rest and judgment, we are reminded to think in pluralistic, comparative, and more open ways.

Dualistic and diotomistic thinking tends to negate the others and is bound to dwarf life. Conversely, pluralistic thinking invites us to see and accept the truths and virtues scattered along the horizon of life. There is no tendency to abolish or deny other truths and virtues.

Rather what happens is to recognize and honor the existence of truth and virtue that is comparatively dispersed. This is the essence of intellectual struggle that exists in the university and should also be present in our social relations.

Recognition of the comparative plurality of truth and virtue does not necessarily lead us to relativism. Conversely, a pluralistic-comparative attitude emphasizes the importance of “delay” in judgment.

In the philosophy of science this is called “commitment within relativism” or contextual relativism“. This means that there is still doubt or uncertainty about the absolute truth and virtue of something (Francis-Vincent Anthony, 2015). For that, one needs to be patient.

Commitment within relativism is an affirmation of two things. First, there isthe existence of awareness in the form of genuine doubt, true doubt, of knowledge and self-understanding. Secondly, there is recognition of the possibility of comparative legitimate alternatives (F-VA, 2015). This is what visualizes the academic world as a struggle to seek better things: the path to the development of science, knowledge, and the arts; True academic culture; and productive social relations.

One source of danger that threatens such an endeavor is the inclusion of personal sentiments affiliated with primordial identities and values ​​(religious, ethnic, and the like) and intolerance. Such sentiments can develop into a collective – even institutional – sentiment that not only impedes the advance of science, knowledge, and art, but is also misleading and destructive. PTs/Universities that have been contaminated by such sentiments become intolerant and discriminatory.


PT/Universities and attitude competence

One of the learning achievements to be achieved through the establishment of the Indonesian National Qualification Framework (KKNI) – Government Regulation No. 8/2012 – is the attitude and values ​​that reflect the character or identity of the Indonesian nation and state. Through scientific activities and social interactions taking place in the PT, students are invited and inherited attitudes and values ​​of tolerance. Through various academic and non-academic forums, students will be developed into possessing what is known as intercultural competence (F-VA, 2015).

In college, learners wish to be enabled to see which is good, better, and very good; not just right and wrong. Thus, in this context, lecturers and professors become key figures in building a framework of mind that opens the door to tolerance and dialogue and not the other way around; namely dwarfing and extinguishing them.

The experience and education in the PT/universities will develop the ability to think and act rationally, and in turn will foster a sense of social responsibility. All of this will ultimately lead to the development of conscientious and altruistic generation (F-VA, 2015), a generation with high awareness and social responsibility. This is the key to the progress of civilization of the nation.

Looking at recent events, where some of the country’s main state-owned Universities (such as UGM, ITB, IPB) declared a statement of staying true to Pancasila, it seems that it should be appreciated as an effort to restore the nature of university students who value differences and develop intercultural competence as an important requirement in the development of science, knowledge and art, as well as the quality differentiator of PT in Indonesia, Let us hope so.


Mangadar Situmorang
Rector of Parahyangan Catholic University


Source: KOMPAS – Wednesday, June 14, 2017