Published: 17th February 2021
Madras University protest: Archaeology students miffed after profs 'unfairly' failed them and gave them results over a phone call
The Registrar allegedly asked the students to go back to Vellore for their excavation trip and come back in March to sort out the issue
A group of students from the Archeology Department of the University of Madras has been sitting on a protest since Tuesday night. The students claim that they were unfairly failed in some papers by the department and are now demanding that their papers be graded by professors from outside their University.
The students said that the issue started in December when their semester exams were allegedly scheduled at the same time as their internships. “We were supposed to start our internship at the Archeological Survey of India in Chennai but we couldn’t also attend the exams at the same time. So we asked for permission and we were allowed to start the internship after the exams,” a protesting student said. However, the issue with scheduling continued, the students said, “They started the new semester right after. So now our classes were clashing. We were being questioned as to why we were not going in the morning to ASI and we were only finished classes at 3 or 4 pm and after that, it was too late to go to the Secretariat. We raised this issue with the department.” This got them into trouble with the department who was angered by their protests, the students said. Some students also believe that their participation in the January protests against ‘unfair’ hostel fees could have contributed to the decision on their marks.
“One of the papers is taken by a non-teaching staff member. He took offense to what we were doing and yelled at us. Others in the department also were angry with us including the HOD, ever since we’ve been facing issues,” the student said. Interestingly, the students say most of their professors are retired or guest faculty, and non-teaching staff also end up taking classes.
The results of the exams they gave in December were announced on February 12, but it wasn’t really ‘announced’ the students say.”Usually, the administration would public the results on the website, or mail us or at least put up the notice on a notice board and send us screenshots of it. None of that was done, we were informed of our results over the phone,” the student told us. When the students heard this news, they were on an excavation trip in a remote village in Vellore, which is why when they found out that eight of them had failed, they couldn’t do more than just emailing their HOD and administration.
“In the call, we were literally just told how many Aa or Bs we had got. No mention of what subject or given any other details. Just briefly how many of what grades we had received,” a student recalled.“When we didn’t get any proper response from them, we left our trip and came to the University. But the HOD was refusing to change his mind. We demanded that we be given our internal and external marks to see how the decision was taken to fail us. But we were not given the marks nor were we given our answer sheets,” the student said. Eventually, they approached the Registrar who promised to conduct a revaluation, “That is when we saw that the answer sheets that were being corrected were not the original ones but copies. The examiner had used pencils to evaluate and so many questions, we were given fewer marks despite giving enough content. Some of the marks had been erased several times. Is this how the University operates?” The students also allege that they were treated with a lot of disrespect and none of their queries were answered properly.
The Registrar allegedly asked the students to go back to Vellore for their excavation trip and come back in March to sort out the issue. “In March, our results will be printed, it will be too late for us to make any changes. He then asked us to come back in a few days but we cannot keep travelling back and forth. Also, the faculty who gave us the low marks is also threatening suspension,” the students accused. The HOD, Registrar and the Controller of Examinations met with the students but haven’t given them proper reassurance, the students said. “We were told the issue would be sorted out but we wanted it in writing. They don’t want us to carry out the protest on Wednesday because a syndicate meeting is scheduled. So they want to act like nothing's wrong,” the protesters added.
But the students are determined to remain on campus until the administration agrees to let their papers be evaluated by professors from a different University. “There is so much monopoly in this campus. The Department sets the question paper, they only assess, they only decide everything that happens. There is no one really who is supervising, so we are at the complete mercy of the professors here. So we cannot depend on anyone to help us,” the students complained. The students are placing three demands in front of the administration — they want to know where their answer sheets are, for the revelation to be conducted immediately by a professor from another University and for action to be taken against faculty members.
“We come from poor backgrounds and we keep on facing one problem after another on this campus. The faculty are vengeful and treat us with so much disrespect. It makes us feel like we are better off without this education. We are determined to stay here till a different professor looks at our paper. We don’t care about the syndicate meeting, we are only exercising our democratic right to protest,” the students said in a statement
We have reached out to the University for a comment and will update this copy when we receive it.