Your letters: The dominance of senior students

Student orientation has become common in our educational institutions. Students, our intellectual generation, are oriented starting from junior high school until the highest educational institution, universities. We see nothing wrong with this.  We let our children be oriented by their seniors.

We permit the seniors to do whatever they want to our children. We often see our children competing in tasks involving finding strange items. We also see them wearing weird clothes when going to school. In truth, we know it is abnormal, but we are quiet, we are blind, and therefore we do nothing. We are dominated by the seniors.

Neither parents nor students realize the seniors’ domination. It becomes normalized because it is invisible and difficult to detect. Pierre Bourdieu, a sociologist who was primarily concerned with the dynamics of power in society, introduced us to the concept of symbolic violence. Symbolic violence is soft violence, untouchable and invisible even to its victims (Bourdieu in Haryatmoko,
2010: 13).

In some institutions, still, visible and invisible violence occur. Sometimes, we see via social media how the seniors treat the students. Usually, the easiest way to tell is by looking at the uniform. The worse the uniform the students wear, the worse the orientation will be.

However, what we need to observe is not only the uniforms or the tasks, but also what is done to students in school.

Generally, violence that cannot be seen as violence happens when seniors do something to students during student orientation. It can be orders, words or even tasks. The name of student orientation itself, whether we realize it or not, is a symbol of the power that the seniors want to show.

The nametag that the seniors wear during orientation is a symbol as well, since by wearing it they distinguish themselves from the students. We never recognize it and it is normalized because the symbol is unseen.

Bourdieu explains that people cannot see the symbol because they do not recognize the violence as such. When parents and teachers see what the seniors do, they do not see it as something wrong.

They think it is normal for the seniors to do it. Most of the students believe the same thing as well. Bourdieu says that dominance does not always have the form of colonialism or physical violence, but can be in the form of symbolic dominance, which is often consciously and unconsciously approved by its own victims (Haryatmoko, 2010: 5).

However, while some of the students do not recognize the violence as violence, some do. They suffer from what the seniors do to them. They recognize that it is wrong; they do not want to be shouted at all the time.

They do not want to be told to run if they don’t like running. They do not want to be forced to wear unusual clothesor force their hair into unusual styles. What they want is simple. They just want to study and to be treated normally.

It is also poster in


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