A Q&A session (with the A being mostly silent) with the Director IITKGP, ensued on the 21st of March, which commenced at 20:00 hours and continued for three hours. It’s always something with the number ‘3’: stigmatized 3 AM, the Three Musketeers, Three problems with offline examinations, Three examples to put forth this argument. In honour and supreme reverence of the number ‘3’, we at The Scholars’ Avenue present a TOATal account of the events witnessed.
What began with the students questioning the director about the ministry mandate regarding a supposed compulsory recall of all students to write offline examinations — which failed to receive a convincing response — ended on an exhilarating note with the director declaring that offline examinations will be made optional. There was an exemplary display of solidarity from the student community in putting forth their concerns regarding offline examinations, compulsory recall of students before March 31st, and the administration’s actions previously indicating that the student senate were not perceived as stakeholders in institute wise decision making regarding offline examinations after an online semester.
The director finally acceded to the demands of the students for online examinations.
The session commenced with the VP elaborating on the major questions posed by the student representatives to the administration. The ministry mandate mentioned in the mandatory recalling + offline tests mail sent on March 9, 2022, which was cited as the reason for the recalling has been questioned from multiple angles ever since it was released. The VP mentioned that the decision of mandatory recalling + offline tests was taken solely by the administration, without taking the student senate’s opinions into consideration. The reasonings for such a hasty and uninformed decision was one of the major questions posed by the VP, which were followed up by student representatives and members throughout the session. Multiple student representatives stated that the administration outright said that they would “disown” students (7%, 1053 students) who are not able to come to campus within the stipulated timeline. This situation of not taking the student senate into confidence while taking such a huge decision was acknowledged to be a fiasco and “spilt milk” by the director but no ownership was shown towards the fact that they’d stated the students unable to come to campus would be disowned by the institution.
The second major question was about how the administration was conveniently changing which set of guidelines to follow — West Bengal or centre. Earlier during campus lockdown in January, West Bengal guidelines were followed but now, when the Centre guidelines differ with the state, centre guidelines had been taken up. No satisfactory response was received on this question.
The next point brought to the floor was the mail sent from the admin mentioning compulsory recalling of all the students (except the first year UG batch) by 31st March. The students questioned this decision as there was no mandate from the Ministry to recall all students. Several students residing at their homes face various logistical and financial issues to reach the campus within such a short period of time. These were put forth before the Director to which he asked to know the number of students who were facing these problems. This was met with a huge uproar from the students as they asserted that the numbers don’t matter as long as even a single student is facing an issue. The students showed utter resentment towards the statements made by the admin in a recent meeting with the senate about the parents having saved money during the lockdown and so sending students to the campus now shouldn’t be an issue. Students raised a point that during the previous recalling process protocols like mandatory isolation, vaccination certificates were followed, however, this time the orders overruled all of them and planned to call back all the students. No concrete answer to this was received. The Director considered the difficulty in reaching the campus on such short notice and proposed that the exams be conducted at a later date when all the students reach the campus. The crowd burst into a chatter of discontent as several students had important events planned as per the current timeline of the semester and a delay would be highly inconvenient. Finally after a lot of heated argument, the Director declared that the students who aren’t able to come to the campus stay at their homes and asked the ones on campus to suggest what should be done about the exams. This directed the discussion into another shortcoming of the administration: accountability.
A major point raised by the student community was accountability (or the lack thereof) on the administration’s part. Students came up with multiple problems and posed a single question to the Director: “We signed an undertaking to arrive on campus at our own risk. Are you willing to do the same, assuring us that you take responsibility for whatever might go wrong with any student owing to the sudden transition to offline examinations?” One major concern highlighted by the students was the disruption of plans made by people keeping in mind this semester was originally intended to be conducted in the online mode.
When the Director tried comparing Kharagpur’s situation with other IITs, the students retaliated furiously. According to them, the comparison didn’t make sense in the first place since the other IITs had been given an ample amount of time, unlike our situation wherein the decision was imposed on us barely a month before the exams. More importantly, the crowd asked the director, “Does the status of Kharagpur in the eyes of other IITs matter more than the hardships our students are facing?”
The job of an administration is to ensure the smooth execution of decisions it takes. What sort of a smooth transition was thought of when this ill-advised transition was conceived so hastily? Upon hearing this point raised by the students, the Director started asking the students, “Are you not smart enough to take offline exams?” This further infuriated the students as it continued the trend established during the open house: a lack of directness.
When the discussion moved to the much-awaited and considerably, for some, the main purpose of the Open House, safe to say the entire student community present at the theatre were at the edge of their seats. The moment the topic of offline exams was thrown on the floor, student representatives left no stone unturned in putting forth their arguments.
“What problem does the administration have with online exams?”
The director responded with the fact that schools had offline exams then couldn’t an institution of eminence do the same. The students countered that just the second years and a select few third years are having hybrid mode of classes, none of the other students have had a modicum of that luxury. So, when the teaching standards in an online mode have not been at par with the usual, why should the exams be? Director had no response.
When a solution was asked from the Director in response to the grievances put forward by the student community, two not-so-viable options were put forth. One: exams can be pushed back by ten days to give more time for preparation. Two: offline exams shall be conducted only for the students presently on campus. Both solutions were shot down instantly. First, students have prior commitments that they have made after considering the OFFICIAL academic calendar. Second, is this discrepancy required when online exams for all is a better alternative. When no response to either counters were given, vigorous chants of “resign” spread through the crowd.
Seeing the administration’s keen interest in sticking to offline exams no matter what, the representatives also brought forth the current system of continuous evaluation. When almost the entire semester has been filled with tests, assignments, quizzes — all of them online, too — why is there a sudden need to impose offline examinations on the students? Director responded with “Because all students studying in this institution are brilliant.” Needless to say, that was responded by a loud, disappointed uproar from the students’ side.
Culminating the three-hour long discussion, the student representatives put forth their demand: Students should be allowed to choose their mode of examination.
To which the Director said YES.
(The director seeing the entire student community of Kharagpur united was evidently forced to consider the demand. The response was a YES. The discussion led to a fruitful result and this was possible due to the valid reasons put forward by the student community and the patience shown by the administration at the open house .)
We at The Scholars’ Avenue believe that such an issue would have never risen had the administration taken the students’ senate’s views on this matter into consideration. An entire day of hectic protests and meetings, which culminated in an Open House could have been avoided. Nevertheless, a huge thank you to all the student representatives that made this outcome possible and for re-establishing the power of the voice of a student body.