The Emergency Senate Meeting : Resolving the Exam Conundrum

The Emergency Senate Meeting : Resolving the Exam Conundrum

NIT Rourkela has been on the news. However, this time it is not for the right reasons as it otherwise is. Media reports of COVID cases emerging on campus and students protesting for online examinations have been circulating on media for the past few days. Attempts of setting up a dialogue with the Administration to express their concerns were made by the students, resulting in an emergency Senate meeting being called on 26th March 2021. Here is how the events transpired over the last few days.

Check out these extensive articles by Monday Morning in favour of online examinations published over the past two issues (WHY ONLINE EXAMS IS THE BEST WAY FORWARD? & FOLLOWING UP ON THE NEVER ENDING ONLINE EVALUATION FIASCO)     

The backdrop of the Mayhem

Some COVID cases arose in various parts of the institution, and there was no clarity or transparency from the administration side on the number of cases on the campus. There were rumours all around that many students have been tested positive in various hostels like VS, DBA and even KMS. Despite all these, the administration didn't actively address the concerns of the students so as to curb the campus's growing cases and the locations of these cases were not disclosed officially.

The factor that triggered the student revolt against the Administration was a mail that was circulated among final years via Zimbra on the 25th March 2021. The mail stated that –

Moreover, there was no information or schedule regarding the conduction of the spring semester. Adding to the students' woes, this schedule also didn't provide enough time to complete their project evaluation, technical presentations, lab works. This created a lot of unrest, anger and confusion among students as there were clear signs that the administration wanted to quickly wrap up the academic schedule for the final years at any cost. 

The Uprising

Proceedings on 25th March 2021:Heeding to Student's Queries

In view of all these happenings, the students decided to bring this matter in front of Hon’ble Director and seek transparency on two agendas.

  • Regarding the mail which involved the rescheduling of the timings of practical classes dates and examination dates.
  • Rumours behind the growing number of cases in the campus premises.

Prof. Biswas called up a meeting at BBA in the first half to listen to the students' pleas. Prof. Rohan DhimanProfessor-in-Charge (PIC) of Safety & Security, and Prof. S. K. Pratihar (Chief Warden ) too graced the meeting to look into the student's problems. The meeting saw a huge gathering, but the students followed the necessary SOPs. There were many discussions in length regarding the students' problems, and many of those were agreed to by the administration. But the Administration requested the students to come up with a single proposal and asked only a handful of students to represent their proposal on behalf of their batch. 

Later, a meeting of all final year students was conducted in SAC to list all the grievances and nominate the students who would represent them at 6.00 PM in BBA.

The main meeting at BBA kickstarted at 6.00 PM with Prof. Animesh Biswas (Director, NIT Rourkela), Prof. Rohan Dhiman (PIC- Safety and Security), Prof. S.K. Pratihar (Chief Warden), Prof. S.K.Patel (Dean Academics) and Prof. Susmita Das (Dean Faculty Welfare) representing the administration. 

The crux of the proposal put forward by the final year students stated:

The meeting's entire agenda was about the conduction of exams amidst the rising COVID cases within the institute. The students in general preferred online examinations to save themselves from the risk of getting infected by the virus.

The Administration meanwhile stated the following points in opposition to the student's proposal of online exams.

  • Senate might not agree on the proposal of online exams.
  • No proper infrastructure for the conduction of online exams.
  • Result declaration and preparation of the final grade card may not be released before 30th May 2021.

Eventually, it was decided that an emergency senate meeting would be set up seven days later, owing to senate meetings' norms. The students who had laid the proposal in front of the Senate also stated that they too want participation in the senate meetings. Although this demand was not met entirely, the administration agreed that only one of them could represent them in the meeting, and Debaprasad Badajena (a final year student of the Department of Electronics and Instrumentation) was chosen to represent the students. But later that day, it was circulated that the senate meeting has been preponed and will be conducted on the next day, i.e. 26th March 2021 via offline mode, 5:30 PM at BBA.

The Conclusion (?)

Proceedings on 26th March 2021: Metamorphosis of the mode of evaluation

The much-anticipated senate meeting in BBA kickstarted at 5.30 PM, with Debaprasad Badajena leading the student's proposal in the meeting. Students flocked outside BBA with flack cards demanding online exams with a fear that the outcome of all their attempts might not go in vain. The student representative, Debaprasad Badajena was allowed to present the proposal on behalf of the students but soon after that, he was asked to leave the meeting for the senate to deliberate further on this matter. The outcome of the meeting was successfully in favour of the students as the administration finally favoured the online exams and said that it would be conducting it in the due course of time.

This protest garnered a lot of attention from various media bodies of the state, showcasing the sorry state of administrative affairs in an institute of national importance like NIT Rourkela.

THE NEVER ENDING CORRECT NOTICE SAGA

Following the senate meeting, an official circular signed by the Registrar was shared in the 'Academic UGPG' Telegram group. The key points from the circular were as follows:

  • The pending end-semester exams of both Autumn and Spring semesters for all the programmes would be conducted online.
  • The Institute would not be responsible if the students faced any internet connectivity issues during the online exam. 
  • All the students of UG, M.Sc, MA, MBA programmes would have to vacate the campus within a week.

However, a lot of confusion persisted among the students. The circular did not mention the students of which years it was meant for. As for the schedule of the examination, the circular stated that it would be "informed to the students in advance." 

Following this circular, when a few of the students had even booked their tickets to return home, everyone was left bemused as the circular was deleted from the group. A message was shared by Dean Ac. Prof. S.K.Patel soon after, which made everyone question the indecision that was being broadcasted by the Administration. The message stated:

Do not leave the campus until the correct notice is uploaded. By mistake, the wrong notice was uploaded a while ago from now. Earlier notice has been withdrawn. Sorry for the inconvenience.

It was not until the morning of the next day that the students received any clarification about the "correct notice." Students received a circular signed by the Registrar, which stated that the previous circular shared regarding online examinations' conduction had been withdrawn after due consultation with the district administration. 

Clarifications from the Administration

Monday Morning reached out to the Secretary of the Senate, Hon’ble Registrar, Prof. PK Das, to have an insight into the stance of the Administration: 

The Senate Decision:

This is what Hon’ble Registrar had to say:

There will be online examinations for sure, but a committee headed by Dean Academics has been formed to finalize online examinations' modalitiesWithin seven days, the committee will submit its final report on the same, and a new notice is expected after that. The decisions were taken in the presence of one of the student representatives.

All students belonging to the courses mentioned in the circular have to vacate the hostels and will have to give online examinations at their own risk.

Some international students might not have flights back to their country right now, such cases will be dealt with on a case-to-case basis, but this can't be a general principle. Otherwise, students will merely stay back and enjoy campus with online exams.

The Administration is concerned about students' career but is equally pained at the behaviour that students showed towards the Administration. The students came back to the campus for offline examinations. The Senate had taken the decisions of offline examination, keeping the best interest of students in mind, and also the schedule made was according to the jobs and internships joining dates. Now that things will be very different, we will still try our best to manage it while also making sure that the online exams are effective. The Administration, in no way, is against the students, and this must be understood. Panic should not be created.

Reasons for retracting the circular:

The circular was undersigned by the Registrar and was published through the Dean Academics. That is not the precise channel; a message must be officially communicated by the Registrar himself first. With that, all students will be tested before leaving the campus as per the local Administration guidelines, against what was promulgated initially. The circular now stands on hold.  

The next set of rules and regulations will be notified to the students once the committee comes up with the decisions.

Team Monday Morning is actively on the lookout for further developments.

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