Vantage point

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Free Riders

A particular species of human beings that makes its existence known only in business schools is the 'Free Rider'.

In b-schools, they give you a project or a term paper for almost every subject. And almost every project or term paper is to be written in groups. The free rider is someone who manages to avoid work with the deftness with which Fardeen Khan avoids acting. However, he/she is part of the group and so ends up getting the same marks for the project as everyone else, people who did work on it.

The tactics employed by the free riders to avoid work are astounding and manifold. Excuses range from a myserious illness, to an urgent visit to the city, to a visit from the significant other, to something as bizarre as denying having received any emails at all. Follow-up, pleading, cajoling, threatening them is of no use. They are as assured of marks as an Indian babu is of his job security. The slightly less rhino-skinned free riders will take up the responsibility of formatting the final draft of the report, taking its printouts and submitting it.

First year, and especially the first two terms are very tricky, because that's when you discover this free rider phenomenon, and identify those batchmates who fit the bill. Due to the lack of information in first year, free riders have a great time. But the second year is what separates the really hardcore free riders from the amateurs.

By second year everyone knows who the free riders are. Plus second year is mainly made up of elective courses. So not only do you have greater freedom in choosing your group members, but you also possess knowledge of whom to not choose.

So all the free-riders find themselves being put out to dry. Naturally it forces all the free-riders to form a group. The group is always mentioned by others with ill-concealed sniggers, and their presentation is always scrutinised and debated in greater detail.

It is from this group of free-riders that, as if cast from the pure molten evil of Mt. Doom in Mordor, emerges 'The One Free Rider'. He/she is the purest of all free riders, one whom even a group of free-riders can't compel to work. And if this person is not picked even by the free-rider group, he/she possesses enough acumen to survive via other demonic means.

Once all the groups have been formed, and he/she hasn't been included in any of them, this is what is done. The group with the nicest folks is identified. Then the Prof is sent a mail saying "SOrry sir, I forgot to enter my name in the sheet of paper with group divisions. I am in Group number 8." The Prof duly notes this down. Then the nicest member of this nice group is approached, and told "I didn't have a group, so the Prof alloted me to yours." The nice one obviously has to pass on this news to the other members, who shrug and ebar with it. Anyway, they had chosen all the members. An extra one won't add any value(obviously!) but won't cause much harm either.

"The One" obviously avoids all project meetings, and anything that resembles work, and yet manages to get a decent grade on the project.