Been Missing... to USA!

Friday, August 9, 2013
Hello again, people!

Wow, was that really the date when I last wrote in here? Too long ago! I’m so sorry for that. Last semester was out-of-your-mind crazy and I just got back from… yep, the United States of America!

I still almost can’t believe it myself. I have always dreamt to go to the Land of Dream but supposed I wouldn’t be able to go there anytime soon. At least, not until I get a scholarship for Master Degree or after I have worked and can afford the cost myself. But… the universe begged to differ.

Early in this year, a lecturer of mine emailed me and a number of other students. She told us that we were the selected few that had the chance to run for an opportunity to get a full-scholarship for a summer programme in the States. Study of US Institute (SUSI), to be exact. It is an intensive five-week course fully funded by the US Department of State. The programme consists of a number of focus areas, such as Religious Pluralism, Global Environment and New Media in Journalism. The one I applied for was the New Media in Journalism.

I didn’t dare to have too high a hope. I knew how competitive it would be. The embassy would only pick about 6-9 students from ALL OVER INDONESIA. And I just knew that the selection process did not stop at the US Embassy for Indonesia in Jakarta. It went across the ocean: to the home base – the officials of US Department of State in charge of the programme.

But then, one day in March, as I was just finishing up my mid-term exam, I got a text message from US Embassy for Indonesia in Jakarta asking me if they could call me right then. I was still clueless; I thought it would be about the US Embassy library membership that I signed up for a couple of weeks before.


In that phenomenal call, they casually told me that I had been chosen as a grantee for the SUSI New Media in Journalism 2013 in Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.

(insert frantic screaming here)

So, yeah! Thanks be to God, I was among the selected Indonesian participants that went to the US with Malaysian delegation last June-July.

On that note, I will take my leave for now. But, I’ll be back! Yep, you got that right. With more stories of my journey living the American dream.

I hope you had a great summer!

Debate: Religion, GPA and Work

Sunday, January 27, 2013
Hey there, I'm back! And no, sorry, with no Bangkok post this time O.o

It's been craaaazy, believe me! Working two jobs and preparing for your research proposal (yep, i'm walking down the aisle towards my final thesis as a Bachelor student!) AND being a scholarship recipient of Djarum Beasiswa Plus turned out to be quite a challenge in maintaining a regular blog! :p

However, I'm back with a not-so-usual feature: In My Opinion!

So today I'm gonna tell you about my latest academic debate with none other than Kecoakman. The theme is about discrimination (religion and GPA) in work. So, shall we?

His question 1: Is it discriminating to not hire someone because of his/her religion?
In my opinion, yes. It is discriminating to not hire someone with reason other than his/her capability. Sure, people might have personal preferences about things based on their own experiences, and religion might be one of the things there. But no, it still counts as a form of discrimination, because then people of certain group/religion will never have the equal opportunity for that position (unless they change their religion).

His question 2: What if it is because of religion-related reasons that are also related to working performance? For example, I will not hire a Moslem because he/she will lose one hour or so every Friday for their Friday Prayer?
Whenever someone is hired, they are asked to sign on their Contract of Work (CoW) as agreed with the company, usually represented by a Human Resources Department (HRD). In that CoW, rights and responsibilities of both parties will be arranged.

For example,
Responsibilities: work 50 hours and get 3 new customers per week for the fee
Rights: get salary of IDR 2 million every month, 1 day leave every month

Responsibilities: pay the salary, make sure the working condition is appropriate
Rights: get the job done by their employee

Now, it doesn't matter if the Moslem applicant take a 1-hour leave every Friday as long as he/she is able to meet his/her responsibilities as arranged in the CoW. It can be done with a good time management, maybe take an overtime when needed. If not, then his/her boss has the right to fire him/her, but not not-hiring them because of his/her religion.

His question 3: What if I turn down an applicant who is a Christian, because I will need someone who can work full hour on Sunday as SPG in the mall and I am certain that he/she won't be able to do that since he/she will be going to church?
Well, then, it is still discrimination. It is based on your assumption that if he/she is a Christian, then he/she won't be able to work on Sunday. The right thing to do is to put specific working hour and day in the requirement. For example, say, "willing to work full time on Sunday, from 08.00 - 21.00". (this is extreme, of course)
Then if you should turn down a Christian applicant, it would not be based on her religion, but because he/she is not willing to work those hours. On the other hand, you can hire an applicant who is a Christian AND willing to move his/her church schedule to Saturday to work with you. Therefore, no one will be discriminated for his/her religion; every group of religion (or non-religion, that is) have the equal opportunity to get the job.

His question 4: But what about GPA, then? Most job vacancies have specific requirement for minimum GPA, say 2.oo and above. Isn't it also based on the assumption that people with GPA less then 2.00 work with lower performance than those with ones above it? And what if those with GPA less then 2.00 is willing to manage - as you said with religion - their working style so that they can meet the working performance required?
It is an assumption all right, but it is more of a standardized quality you look for in applicants. Everywhere around the world, GPA system works in more or less the same way, some with tougher standards than the others (say, Harvard or NTU or even national leading universities in Indonesia such as University of Indonesia and Parahyangan Catholic University) - which is why leading-universities' alumni get extra points in that when looking for job. Students must meet their responsibilities: turning in tasks and papers, finishing exams, taking up the required credits, making final thesis.
Now, there are several possibilities why students come up with lesser GPA. It can be because of they are incapable of meeting those responsibilities (purely based on the intelligentsia level), or they don't put that much of an effort into their study (poor time management - more play than study, or they just don't like the major they're studying, or in short, their work ethics).
With that in mind, it is just logical if a company put a minimum GPA requirement, because they are looking for the best to join their company. If you have 1,000 or so applicants, GPA requirement is one of the easiest way to sort them. When a HRD is faced with a choice between an applicant with 3.50 GPA and one with 1.90 GPA, it is logical if they go with the 3.50 GPA guy right?
Say, you are looking to hire a new architect as your associate. You have two applicants from the same university. On one hand, is this amazing applicant with 3.90 GPA. It implies that this applicant was an amazing student, he/she was able to meet the standardized requirements in his/her university. You can bet that he/she really knows his/her field, he/she masters the skills needed as an architect.
On the other hand, you have this one applicant with 1.90 GPA. What does that imply? Is this applicant incompetent as an architect? Or maybe he/she is competent, but was just too lazy back in college? Either way, it doesn't seem promising for your company. But you want to be sure, perhaps. So you ask for their portfolios during school.
You take a look at the sketches made by the first applicant, all got As or Bs, because the composition is right, it makes sense, and yet is very creative. And then you take a look at the second applicant's sketches, all got Cs or Ds, because they are messy, some pillars just don't make sense, and they look like he/she just copied them from somewhere else - not creative at all.
Isn't it clear who are you going to take with you into your precious company? How is the second applicant supposed to MANAGE his/her incapability? Learning by doing? That's not for work; that is supposed to be done at school, not at work. An employer would seek for those who are ready to use.

His question 5: But exactly the same with religion! They are both based on assumptions. I think your argument is based on the willingness/capability. In the religion case, it depends on the applicant's willingness to re-arrange their prayer/church schedule. While in the GPA case, you say that the GPA is a proof for their capabilities. And it's true, for their college era. But what if they are willing to change? People can change in about 3 months if they really put hard work into it.
But the company won't gamble on that, will they? They won't wait for another three months to see if their "sweet words" on changing are true and, shall they not be true, sack the person and go back to square one to seeking another. And God only knows how long it will take for someone to adjust his/her capability and work ethics to the level needed by the company.
While on religion and prayer time, it is more exact. Either you are willing or not to move your Church schedule. Either you can keep up your work even though you lose one hour each week for Friday Prayer or not. And hence, religion should not be the reason for not hiring someone.
Your GPA is the result of the choices you made in college. You know that GPA is one of the major requirements for work. And if you still chose to play around in college, resulting in poor GPA (because I believe, if you are accepted in the university, in that major, you actually have the capability - although it might not be as good as others', hence your "intelligentsia" won't lead you to flunk), you know what's coming for you. You know that companies might not want to hire you.
But with religion, "if you choose to believe in a certain religion and really uphold your religion values, companies might not want to hire you because you will lose more time in upholding those values (e.g. pray, etc)" doesn't sound right, does it?

Up to this very second, the debate is not settled. :p I have a feeling it was because we began this debate not on the same basis, and I got too emotional to clarify that. I tried, but that - getting too emotional - is like my most profound weakness in debates, so yeah... lol Maybe we'll just agree to disagree, but... I hate it when there is no exact "who's right and who's wrong"! Although actually the thing might be exactly that there is no right and wrong in this! :p

And that's all that I can share with you. :D What's your opinion?