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More than Exam Trouble at Delhi University: A Statement

11 May 2012

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We, the undersigned college teachers from Delhi University, are disturbed at the carelessness and insensitivity with which many second semester examinations for under-graduate students were conducted at the University on May 7, 2012. Our sense of dismay is deep because we are convinced that the current exam trouble at DU is only indicative of a larger crisis that has been thrust upon our university during the past few years.
In one instance, on May 7, candidates were informed through a circular sent by the Examination Branch mid-way through their examination—by which time many students had already finished and left—that the paper they were attempting was a three-hour one, carrying 75 marks, not the two-hour 38 mark paper that they were given to believe it was at the start of the examination. In yet another instance, concerning the Language Credit Courses, candidates were either not given any question paper because the exam branch had never written to a teacher asking that a paper be set, or they were distributed the wrong question papers. The confusion and chaos this created impacted thousands of students in different DU Colleges, the large majority appearing for the Contemporary English paper.

Shocked students had to wait in their seats in a state of rising nervous tension, 9.00 am onwards, not knowing what lay in store for them. In some colleges they were informed as late as 11.30 am that a faxed version of the correct paper had finally arrived from the Exam Branch and their exam would begin at the time at which it should have ended, i.e. noon!
At Ramjas, Venkateswara, Khalsa and other Colleges across the city, students objected vociferously to this cavalier treatment of themselves and the travesty it made of the end-semester examination. Many staged a walk out, protesting very strongly at not being given the choice to appear at another date for an examination that had been inordinately delayed for no fault of theirs. Hungry and tired, if they ultimately did sit for the examination in the middle of an early May afternoon it was not because they accepted what the University had put them through, but simply to get the examination behind them, and/or for fear of being wrongly penalised for legitimate protest.

Furthermore, colleges were receiving faxed copies of the Contemporary English paper at different times after 10.30 am. The faxing and photocopying of papers and the differential timings for their receipt and the start of exams make a mockery of the principle of confidentiality which is central to the conduct of examinations at DU. Additionally, it was evident from the hand-written format in which the paper arrived that this was the form in which the paper had been set. It had neither been printed nor had care been exercised to ensure that every question was fully present and legible. The last couple of lines from the question at the bottom of page 4 were missing in the copy received by several Colleges.

The Delhi University Administration has set a terribly worrying precedent. The maltreatment of students, the pervasive culture of fear that has come to prevail in our University and the norm-less conduct of examinations are matters of grave concern and to say the least, scandalous.

The deeply troubling aspect is, however, that none of this is surprising. These are neither the first such ‘mistakes’ nor will they be the last of their kind. The point is not to hide behind lies and start pointing fingers at Departments or, for that matter, the Exam Branch of DU, but to urgently acknowledge that this fiasco is symptomatic of the systemic collapse and deep rot that has come to haunt academic and intellectual pursuits at Delhi University over the last 3 years or so. The blame for this must be laid squarely on an Administration, headed by the Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University, that at the behest of the MHRD, has been hurriedly and thoughtlessly forcing through fundamental changes in form — semesterisation, for example—with shocking disdain and disregard for debate, participatory democratic functioning and processes, norms, systems, meaning and content.

The Vice-Chancellor’s professions to the contrary notwithstanding, ‘errors’ of the kind that students had to suffer on May 7, graver ones in fact, will, unfortunately keep recurring, probably with greater frequency, unless the DU Administration headed by a megalomaniac Vice-Chancellor can be stopped in its tracks from mindlessly pushing ahead with a rushed top-down ‘reform’ process that is blind to structures, workability and the deeper consequences and implications for Higher Education.
May 9, 2012

  1. Mukul Mangalik Ramjas College, University of Delhi
  2. Amrapali Basumatary Kirorimal College, University of Delhi
  3. Rina Ramdev Venkateswara College, University of Delhi
  4. Giti Chandra St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi
  5. Shahana Bhattacharya Kirorimal College, University of Delhi
  6. Hari Sen Ramjas College, University of Delhi
  7. Madhvi Zutshi Khalsa College, University of Delhi
  8. Vinita Chandra Ramjas College, University of Delhi
  9. Abha Dev Habib Miranda House, University of Delhi
  10. Saikat Ghosh Khalsa College, University of Delhi
  11. Sanam Khanna Kamla Nehru College, University of Delhi
  12. Mihir Pandey Ramjas College, University of Delhi
  13. Nilofer Kaul Hansraj College, University of Delhi
  14. Chitra Joshi Indraprastha College, University of Delhi
  15. Nonica Datta Miranda House, University of Delhi
  16. Vibhas Chandra Verma Deshbandhu College, University of Delhi
  17. Rana P Behal Deshbandhu College, University of Delhi
  18. Madhumita Banerjee Ramjas College, University of Delhi
  19. Roopa Dhawan Ramjas College, University of Delhi
  20. P K Chaudhuri Deshbandhu College, University of Delhi
  21. N A Jacob Ramjas College, University of Delhi
  22. Debraj Mookerjee Ramjas College, University of Delhi
  23. D Manjit Dyal Singh College, University of Delhi