Quarantine in Academic Institutions

With COVID-19 dominating news, word “quarantine” is heard everywhere in the valley. Young or old, rich or poor, rural or urban, literate or illiterate, employer or employee it dominates the gossips, chats, phone calls or meetings. From government mandated to home quarantine, the purpose is to limit the spread of COVID-19 in absence of an effective treatment or vaccine. Of course, it will contain it but at a cost; boredom, anxiety, pain, agony, fear, stigma, demotivation, negative thinking (related to individual) and negative environment (physical – equipments don’t work, nothing works, how do I work etc; or emotional – people related matters). This type of environment, abundant in demotivating factors is pretty common in academic institutions. Nepotism, rewarding non-performers, negative criticism, too much/too little work, lack of priorities, too much job security/insecurity, lack of role and goal clarity, feeling of being under-utilized etc., are harming the institutional progress. Staff, from clerical to scientific, is quarantined/isolated for decades due to lack of transparent transfer policy resulting into employees demotivation and poor contribution. More the duration more is the demotivation and even more is the hostile work environment.

Etymologically, the word “quarantine” stipulates a different number, 40, deriving as it does from the Italian quarantina (giorni), or “space of 40 (days)” – originally in the regional Venetian form quarentena – from quaranta (“40”), which is derived from the classical Latin quadraginta (“40”), tallied up from quattuor (“four”) and -ginta (“10 times”). It separates and restricts the movement of people exposed to a contagious disease. Isolation separates sick people with contagious disease from healthy. Both help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease. Transfer is “ a lateral shift causing movement of individuals from one position to another usually without involving marked change in duties, responsibilities, skills needed or compensation”. It may be employer or employee initiated and can be permanent or temporary. Transfer is a must and essential in an organization, for minimizing politics between employees, for their cordial relationship, increasing work transparency, obviating syndicate of employees for unethical purpose and obviating nepotism. Minimal transfers in academic institutions give rise to adverse effects/vices; severity depends upon the quarantine duration.

Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use, says Charles Schultz. Unwillingness to take calculated risks holds us back in achieving excellence. Institutions have the recipe, choice lies with them, use or not to use. Ample transfer options are available in hitherto long duration quarantine/isolation centres but execution is their choice. Want to hug the success or wail for the failure in future. Employees are happy with the staycation, do achieve herd immunity against the deadly vices and adapt to the vicious environment but susceptible to outside environment (perceived by the isolated lot as sick).

The views expressed are author’s own & not of the institution he works for

Aijaz Ahmad Dar, PhD (Veterinary Medicine) is working as Subject Matter Specialist – Animal Science, KVK Kupwara, SKUAST-Kashmir