Distinguished Alum Award...Nominations

December 7, 2010

KM’s IIM-A class (they call themselves COSTIIMA, Class Of Seventy-Three, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad) has been asked to nominate some “distinguished” alums from amongst themselves. Earlier, they were told they could not nominated their own batchmates, which made sense to me, but now, apparently, they’ve been told they can.

Here are my thoughts, which I, of course, expressed in an email to the group:

If you do have to nominate your own batchmates, I agree with R that a private nomination would work best, and avoid all sorts of complications. For example, X, when I saw your nominations, my immediate reaction was, “Why not A? Why not B ? Why not C? Why not….” and a list followed in my mind.

I still feel that nominating one’s own batchmates is a process lacking the requisite perspective and distance. Ironically, it is the very fact that you are, in general, such a unified group, which makes me feel it shouldn’t be done. It seems to me, to be one step away from nominating oneself! (I do know someone in Bangalore who wrote a laudatory Wiki entry about himself, and was the laughingstock of town when the fact came out!)

Let me share an incident with you. Soon after we were married, we went on a company picnic, and I was chosen the “Best Picnicker” or something like that. On the way home, someone gave me some honest feedback….”others did all the preparation for the picnic, but people voted for you only because you were the most communicative and lively. I’m happy you got it…but I wish someone who deserved it better had got it.” I’ve never forgotten the truth of those words. It was a “distinction” that caused unnecessarily negative feelings.

And in this case, the parameters for “distinguished” are very unclear to me. Does “distinguished” mean, monetarily successful? Entrepreneurially successful? Successful at leading a happy and fulfilled life, with money not a consideration? Being well-known? Each of you might use different yardsticks. And many of you might not vote at all; this does not mean that you do not have an opinion about who is “distinguished”, just that for one reason or another, you have not participated in the process. To me, this could skew the results, much as our elections are skewed because the middle class does not vote.

Elevating someone over the others on grounds subject to so much interpretation…can prove very troublesome, I fear.

But if you do have to do this, then R’s idea of private nomination, is a good one.

There is a very valid reason why democracies have secret ballots. Each one of you needs to make your own nominations, without being swayed by others’ choices.

But let me ask you again….all of you know each other so well by now…why the need for the endorsement of an award? Are not all of you, by now, beyond it, secure in the sense of your own worth? Does an award to some mean that the others are less deserving of it? Could you not, as a batch, say, “For our batch…we feel each of us is “distinguished” in hes(her/his) own way, and so we do not want to discriminate”….now that would be unique, and what a sense of unity you’d convey! (This is me being idealistic as usual.)

Troubling questions to me. Sorry to keep repeating this,and I know that I have no locus standi to say this….but I feel deeply about it.