Slamet Iman Santoso, a distinguished figure in the realm of Indonesian education, left an indelible mark on the development of the University of Indonesia (UI) and the field of psychology. Born into a dynamic period of Indonesian history, Slamet’s journey exemplified dedication, integrity, and principled leadership, which guided his involvement in shaping the educational landscape of his nation.
Slamet’s story began with his significant contribution to the establishment of the University of Indonesia, a pivotal institution in the nation’s development. He continued his journey by serving in various capacities, most notably as an instrumental figure within the Faculty of Medicine and subsequently contributing to the growth of the Faculty of Psychology.
In the academic year 1961–1962, Slamet Iman Santoso assumed a prominent role in the leadership of the University of Indonesia as he was appointed Assistant Rector I for Academic Affairs. This position marked him as the second-in-command after Major General Dr. Teuku Muhammad Sjarief Thajeb, the UI Rector. Not long after, Slamet found himself assuming yet another key role as the Dean of the Faculty of Teacher Training and Education (FKIP), in addition to his roles as Vice Rector and Dean of the Faculty of Psychology. Juggling these three responsibilities was undoubtedly a challenge, but Slamet’s determination and focus prevailed.
His initial priority was to address issues within FKIP. He aimed to enhance the professionalism of the faculty’s instructors and establish a coherent alignment between the subjects taught and their corresponding fields of study. He initiated a process of sending instructors without bachelor’s degrees to appropriate higher education institutions to pursue studies in their respective disciplines. However, this endeavor was not without its challenges.
Slamet’s account of his time as the head of the Department of Economics at FKIP illustrates the complexities he faced due to partisan affiliations. The head of the Department of Economics was a member of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), while the Faculty of Economics at UI was associated with the Indonesian Socialist Party (PSI). This political friction created obstacles that needed to be navigated, reflecting the overarching influence of politics on academia during that period.
During his tenure, Slamet encountered yet another obstacle: the debate surrounding the establishment of the Teacher Education Institute (IPG), a project supported by a faction within the Ministry of Education and Culture with backing from the PKI. Slamet’s pragmatic approach led him to advocate for FKIP’s excellence and disregard the presence of the new institute. However, President Sukarno intervened, determining that both institutions should merge to form the Institute of Teacher Training and Education (IKIP). This decision brought the administration of the merged institution under the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.
Given these directives from above, Slamet was tasked with integrating the two institutions. He initiated communication with the leaders of IPG, requesting a list of instructors and students for integration purposes. However, despite repeated attempts, he received no response, leaving the integration process less organized than desired.
Slamet’s frustration with political interference came to a head during the 1962 Graduation Day. While his colleagues and student representatives praised Manipol-USDEK (Guided Democracy, Indonesian National Revolution, and the National Campaign) and President Sukarno, Slamet delivered a frank speech. He emphasized the importance of placing the right individuals in appropriate positions, lamenting the consequences of mismatches. This candid statement created a stir among the audience and sparked a lively response from President Sukarno.
Subsequently, Slamet was summoned by the Highest Command (KOTI) for interrogation on allegations of being anti-Manipol and anti-Bung Karno (a term referring to President Sukarno). Maintaining his composure, Slamet requested the interrogators point out any statements he made that were anti-Manipol. After a lengthy examination of his speech, the interrogation concluded with an unexpected outcome: “Slamet Iman Santoso is honest and straightforward, without any ulterior motives, but not dangerous, as he doesn’t have followers!”
Slamet’s principled character and determination as an academic set the stage for numerous events reflecting the “Cold War” between UI and the Demokrasi Terpimpin regime. Despite facing adversity, Slamet’s resilience was evident in his refusal to surrender, even as he encountered despairing anecdotes.
Slamet’s steadfastness was also showcased when he declined external pressure to dismiss H.B. Jassin from UI due to his support for the Manifesto Kebudayaan, a cultural manifesto. Over the years, Slamet continued to make significant contributions to Indonesian education and academia, becoming a vital force in shaping educational policies.
Slamet Iman Santoso’s journey was not without its trials, but his dedication and unwavering principles have left an enduring legacy. His multifaceted roles in education, leadership, and advocacy demonstrated his commitment to the betterment of Indonesian society and education. His story serves as an inspiration for future generations, highlighting the importance of standing up for principles, navigating challenges, and contributing to the development of a brighter future.