Academic Freedom And Democratic Transition

Optimism in founding nation is a must because it will give positive energy in thinking and action. Optimism now start to stream and the momentum is on 2045 right after 100 years independence of Indonesia. It expected that Indonesia will become one of the global economic power by GDP USD 7.3 Trillion and per capita income USD 25 thousands.

We can not deny, today we are not in ideal condition yet. By many indicators, we are under ASEAN countries. On global innovation index Indonesia is on rank 85, compared to Singapore (8), Malaysia (35), Thailand (43), Vietnam (42), Philippines (54) and Brunei (71). In 2019, our global competitiveness index ranked on 50 in world and forth in ASEAN under Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Our global food security index ranked on 62 in world and fifth in ASEAN.

In the 2018 Food Sustainability Index (FSI), Indonesia scored 59.1, behind Ethiopia 68.5 which we used to know as a starvation area. Our Food Loss and Waste or FLW quite high. According to FAO, our FLW is around 300 kg / capita / year and is ranked number 2 in the world, after Saudi Arabia. FLW has become a worldwide concern because one third of world food production is lost and is wasted. Actually, by tackling this FLW, our food availability will increase.

Not to mention if we look at the IFPRI version of the global hunger index that our index score is 21 and the score of developed countries is less than 5. In 1992 our score was 35.8 and for 22 years until 2016 it fell by 12.9%, or averaged down 0.6 point per year. If there is no specific systematic and serious effort,with a decrease of 0.6 per year, it will take 27 years to be the same as developed countries. Of course we appreciate the government's step to overcome the problem of stunting, because stunting is an important variable in the global hunger index. If this problem is handled with extra hard work, the time needed for the equivalent of developed countries will be even faster.

The facts mentioned above should not make us discouraged. These facts should make us more serious to think about the future of this nation. Any world is experiencing its own turmoil because what is faced is uncertainty. Britain is upset because of the uncertainty of his future after his decision on Brexit. Singapore is upset because of the uncertainty that will emerge after the operation of the Kra Canal in the Thailand and China projects, which potentially will kill the Port of Singapore. By passing the canal can save about 1200 km compared to conventional lines. The United States is also haunted by internal political dynamics that can create uncertainty. Electronic producing countries are upset because of innovation disruption that makes their products obsolete.


VUCA and Superior Human Resources

Indeed, we live in an era of VUCA which is full of shocks of change accompanied by uncertainty and increasingly complex situations. Naturally, if later VUCA was mentioned it would make us fragile. However, we can convert the fragility due to VUCA into agility when we are ready with new skills, including creating new vision strengths about the future, creativity, risk literacy, complex problem solving, flexibility, and collaboration. Call it the Mc Kinsey study (2019) which shows that in Indonesia there are 23 million jobs that will be replaced by machines due to automation. But at the same time 27 million to 46 million new jobs will be created. That is, VUCA still opens opportunities for adaptive people.

The question is what is the position of universities in Indonesia amid optimism but with facts that make us sad and the confusing situation of VUCA? Simply put, the postulate is that advanced Indonesia needs superior HR and superior HR requires higher education. But does the college or campus guarantee to produce superior HR?

What is superior HR? Superior HR is adaptive to change. Charles Darwin reminds us that the species that can survive are not the strongest and smartest but are responsive to change. Being responsive to change requires a number of soft skills such as fast learning ability, agility, flexibility, and future mindset. Change almost always brings newness. Facing novelty requires fast learning so it takes mentality as an agile learner. Future mindset draws the line forward with full confidence that change is a necessity. Future mindset is always ready and alert for changes and uncertainties. But speed and agility are also needed in the face of volatility.

Uncertainty must be faced with collaboration. In the future, great innovation is generally based on collaboration. We cannot alone face the uncertain future. Collaboration enables the accumulation of potential to become a new force. But strong collaboration will be created if it is based on high mutual trust. Society in developed countries is characterized by high trust society, as Fukuyama studies. An important element in building a high trust society is integrity, and integrity will emerge from honesty. This is in line with the results of T. Stanley's study which states that out of 100 factors that make people successful it turns out that IQ ranks 21st, favorite schools rank 23, and graduates with the best grades ranks 30th. Factors that rank 5th big is: honesty, discipline, good interpersonal skills, support from spouse, and work harder than others. So facing the future requires strong integrity, and thus superior HR is characterized by strong integrity, good soft skills, and tough skills. How can the campus be able to score the characteristics of superior HR with the strength of skill and integrity as above? Are academic freedoms and academic pulpit freedom important factors?



Campus has academic freedom and academic pulpit freedom. Academic freedom is the main capital for the campus to grow and develop and produce superior human resources. According to the Law of the Republic of Indonesia Number 12 of 2012 article 9 paragraph 1, Academic Freedom is the freedom of the academic community in Higher Education to explore and develop Science and Technology responsibly. Freedom of academic pulpit is an authority held by professors and / or lecturers who have the authority and scientific authority to express openly and responsibly about something related to a group of knowledge, branches of science, or the field they study. Academic Freedom and academic pulpit freedom will be a crucial atmosphere for building creativity and critical thinking. Creativity and critical thinking are skills that are needed in this VUCA era. Creativity is now an infinite and very decisive capital. As Jack Ma said, the coming competition is a competition based on creativity and imagination. People used to compete based on how much financial capital they had. But now conditions have changed and financial capital, knowledge and assets have been defeated by creative capital. Almost all new Unicorns that emerge and then defeat conventional companies are because of their high creativity. So, creativity will be an important instrument in one's vertical mobility.

Similarly, critical thinking is an important capital to deal with ambiguity that is now happening. The current era is flooded with information that is increasingly open. It is easier for everyone to access information. In the midst of a flood of information that can be disseminated by anyone and at any time, as well as many new streams and even new concepts that emerge, critical thinking skills are needed to filter it.

How can academic freedom and academic pulpit freedom create creativity and critical thinking? The size of campus life is rationality. As a barn of rationality, the campus opens the opportunity for anyone in it to think to generate new thoughts and think about responding to other thoughts. Rational interaction on campus occurs because what is discussed is science and technology. Science and technology rely on rationality. Science and technology increasingly develop when creativity and critical thinking skills are glorified, and that can happen if rationality is also glorified. Rationality is steering media that makes a campus still exist. Campus life because rationality thrives and gets a place of honor. The more advanced the campus, usually the more time allocation of people within it to exchange their rational thoughts.

What is the relationship between academic freedom and democracy Academic freedom is actually one form of democracy on a micro level. The campus is demanded to be democratic because it is true that the campus was raised in democratic ways. Imagine, what is praised is rationality and any expression as long as meeting the standards of rationality is very possible on campus. This is what distinguishes "democracy" on campus from democracy outside of campus.

The "democratic" tradition with the characteristics of academic freedom above makes the campus has a main characteristic, which is rational. Campus rationality is forming the next campus character, which is independent. This independence makes the campus more valuable or not. The more independent a campus, the more glorifying its meaning. Conversely, the more independent a campus is, the more rationality is usually abandoned and replaced by the ties of interest as it applies in the realm of practical politics. Rational life on campus is a capital for the campus in positioning itself in a democracy. Many people have an interest in the campus. But politicians who are statesmen will never take steps that damage the spirit of the campus as the frontline guardians of rationality and common sense. Statesmen will continue to maintain the campus as an asset of democracy. Strong academic freedom and academic pulpit will strengthen campus independence from the pulls of practical political interests. The independence and idealism is the capital of the campus in maintaining academic freedom and academic pulpit freedom. But is academic freedom a free form of freedom without purpose?



Academic freedom must be put in the interests of the nation going forward. Academic freedom is an instrument of democracy that should give birth to ideas and actions that express systems that guarantee the realization of prosperity and justice for all people. Within this framework, there are a number of steps that we must take.

First, we must understand our economic and demographic structure. The rural economy and its population based on agro-maritime are still the hallmarks. Talking about democracy means talking about the majority of the population and their economic features. It is undeniable that farmers, fishermen, ranchers, people around the forest and other rural communities are still dominant. With the potential of abundant natural resources accompanied by such demographic characteristics, there is no other way than to strengthen Indonesia's agromaritime sector. Building a majority-based economy is one of the characteristics of economic democracy.

Second, it must be understood that democracy must be carried out in stages. At present it appears that political democracy is more dominant than economic democracy. Even though what is currently needed is economic democracy because it is directly related to the interests of the people's needs. Thus, economic democracy must continue to be pursued by strengthening the basis of the majority of actors, namely agro-maritime. Efforts to strengthen the agro-maritime sector begin with addressing agrarian inequality by providing access to agro-maritime actors to agrarian resources, both land and water. However, access to these agrarian sources must be accompanied by access reforms, namely technology, capital, markets, and human resources. This can happen if we place agromaritime as a "production" regime, and not just a "trade" regime. The production regime will condition the creation of added value from the results of the production process carried out by the people. Meanwhile the "trade" regime is more focused on the aspect of availability of goods and does not care where the goods come from. This is where the "trade" regime is vulnerable to the practice of rent-seeking which is not infrequently a negative impact on the realization of justice. Strangely, the "trade" regime is more fertile in the era of democracy, so that there is a phenomenon as revealed by Giddens (1999) about paradox democracy. The paradox of democracy arises from the disappointment and dissatisfaction of the people towards democracy, because an established democracy is ridden by an elite that utilizes authority that is detrimental to many parties.

Third, it must be understood that public expectations are very strong for the campus within the framework of economic democracy. The campus is expected to come with superior innovations that answer market needs. With the 4.0 Industrial Revolution, the campus is also demanded to be able to come up with innovation 4.0 which is a solution for society, industry and government. The birth of Innovation 4.0 excels with the application of IoT, artificial intelligence, drones, blockchain, and robotic must start from a good research strategy. The campus must begin to develop transformative research that is oriented to change. In the framework of an economic democracy in which the people's economy must be strong, the campus must have alignments. This alignments will be strong if we have a strong nationalism. The task of strengthening nationalism in innovation is at the same time answering the question: Innovation for whom? Innovation must take sides. Innovation 4.0 must be grounded and useful for the wider community of actors at the grassroots. This empowering innovation will strengthen the people's economic base, which in turn will contribute to the maturity of political democracy.

Fourth, it must be understood that Indonesia is still in a democratic transition. As one of the largest democracies in the world, it turns out we are still focused on democratic procedures and not yet on substance. The values of democracy are not only not owned by ordinary people but also the elite. The dissatisfaction of the elites who lost in the elections which then sparked riots in various regions is proof of our immature democracy. In this transition era, the campus plays an important role. Unlike campuses in developed countries where their role in democracy is no longer required because that role can already be played by the wider community, in the third world like Indonesia, the opposite is true. The campus with its independence is eagerly awaited. Campus awaits its role as an intermediary when social polarization extends. The campus is waiting for its role as a conditioning when the atmosphere of public spaces heats up. The campus is awaited by its role as an agent of social control when official control institutions are powerless. Campus is awaiting its role as a contributor to development policy thinking when policies are taken no longer based on common sense. But the role of the campus must be understood by all parties, so it is not only the task of academics to protect the campus, but also the task of the government and politicians to help maintain the campus spirit.


Campuses with academic freedom are increasingly challenged to deal with change. The era of disruption is facing us, and we must make one of two choices: to disrupt or to be disrupted. Hopefully the campus will again be involved in the history process so that it always prints new history in Indonesia.

Bogor, 27 December 2019