In the normal course, these would be pen-and-ink assessments, strictly timed and monitored. But the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has adopted a bizarre policy to work around the exam boycott initiated by students protesting against the increase in hostel fees, a fight that began in October and continues. The boycott, JNU’s first according toThe Telegraph, began on November 30. Determined to hold exams despite the boycott, the administration announced an “alternate mode of examinations” earlier this week.
As part of it, students in JNU’s masters, MPhil and PhD programmes are being sent their question papers on through email and the messaging app, WhatsApp. Although the School of Environment Studies has asked for hardcopies or submission through email, the university’s announcement allowed for images of handwritten scripts to be submitted even by WhatsApp.
“There are groups of five-seven students, usually first-year MSc or MPhil students, who are submitting but the rest of us are not giving anything because this is basically a leak,” said a student of the School of Environment Studies.
The JNU Teachers’ Association has been seeking a meeting with the Ministry of Human Resource Development about it and on Friday, they staged a protest at the National Archives.
‘Alternate mode of exam’
An official notice released on December 19 by the JNU administration read “ ...an alternate mode of conducting the end semester examination in the University has become imperative in view of the persistent student strike, calls for boycotting and physical prevention of holding of such examination by agitating students by closing down the school/centre building”.
A notification issued earlier on December 14 had said that conducting the semester exams was the responsibility of the course in-charge and that exams had to be held between December 12 and December 21, as per the university’s academic calendar. Faculty members had their leave cancelled as well.
While there is no way of ensuring student answer the questions themselves and without assistance, there are detailed on submitting the papers. The School of Environmental Studies’ email tells examinees to write their answers by hand, sign the scripts and scan them. It further says: "Students must write the course number, enrollment number, class on every page of the answer sheet".
Calling it a mockery of the higher education system, the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) has rejected the “alternate mode of conducting exam”.
Ranjani Mazumdar of the School of Arts and Aesthetics said: “This (exam conducted through Whatsapp) is hardly a way in which an institution of higher education can conduct the exam. Exams are held on a venue. Most teachers find this a bizarre formulation.”
When asked about the evaluation of answer scripts, Mazumdar pointed out that there is no way to ensure that the answer scripts are sent from genuine students.
“Conducting exams through Emails and Whatsapp damages the sanctity of examinations. It is the derailment of our academic process. It has been compromised” said D.K. Lobiyal, president, JNUTA. “In various schools, the syllabus has not been completed since the classes were not being conducted since November. The students have suffered an academic loss of a month. Without completing the course, the exams cannot be conducted” he added.
‘Road ahead’ On December 19, the JNUTA released a statement in response to the official statement released by the JNU administration. “The JNUTA reiterates its position that the Administration has to first take the steps necessary for the restoration of normalcy and it is only then that the academic activities of the semester can be completed,” the statement says.
Mazumdar informedCareers360that a meeting was organised with the secretary and the joint secretary of the Ministry of Human Resources and Development to resolve the issue. The details of the meeting are yet to be disclosed by the association.