Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Management-gate: What went wrong?

I continue to be amazed by the unfolding saga that is management-gate. Desipundit has picked up the cause and is posting regular updates on the latest things happening across the blogosphere. A lot of bloggers are expressing their support to Rashmi (the editor of the JAM article in question) and Gaurav (just another blogger who linked to the article and in the course of events decided to resign his job at IBM). The whole blogosphere has rallied behind the cause. IIPM is now ranked #1 search item on Technorati (as of 3.17 PM, EST today) and another blogger Varna now has received an email legal notice (!) from IIPM, similar to one that was sent to Gaurav.

The question in my mind though is what next? What exactly is the cause here? What are we supporting? What needs to be done? If there is nothing to "act" then all this is mere words floating on the internet.

So what went wrong? Was IIPM at fault by having misleading or hyped up information in their advertisements? After all they can state whatever it wants as long as they pay for them, can't they? I guess the answer is yes and no! A company can hype up a product all it wants. It is up to the consumer then to demand integrity from the company, either by demanding to meet up to the description in the advertisements or by toning down the ads. I guess that's where things are going wrong.

IIPM can get away with all these hyped up advertisements because it gets students. There are literally thousands of students who would line up for admission (irrespective of what IIPM says in its advertisements). There is such a huge demand for these degrees that IIPM will get away with anything it says. It might as well promise paid trips to Mars. The problem is at some point the IIPM staff and students started believing in their own advertisements.

Now, when JAM published a fact finding article about these advertisements, it was not doing something wrong. It is not a crime to point out facts. In fact, it is a sign of vigilant democratic action. The way IIPM reacted to this is what is most outrageous about all this. The way it SHOULD HAVE reacted is by refuting the facts mentioned in the article point by point, on their website and through press releases. Appropriate legal action taken by IIPM against what it perceives as libel is also acceptable.

What is wrong is that IIPM chose to go under the radar and create fake blogs to slander Rashmi. It went ahead and pressured Gaurav by threatening his employer IBM with protests and demonstrations. This malicious response is totally against the freedom of speech. What I understand (and correct me if I am wrong) by freedom of speech is:
The freedom to express my opinion freely without the fear of physical and psychological harm against myself or my family or well-wishers.
From this perspective I say that IIPM engaged in almost criminal behavior in its response to a simple article in a small magazine. It points out how fragile they feel their reputation is and how important it is to save their "sales pitch". It almost seems like those are the only things they have ... a fragile reputation and a sales pitch... no modern campuses, not quality education... just a sales pitch.

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