Published: 28th September 2021
Over 80% of Jammu's Cluster University's private students flunk exams. But is their protest justified?
The students claim that they were shortchanged by a change of rules. The varsity says that they went by the book. Who's right and who's wrong?
Private students of Cluster University of Jammu are in a fix as about 1,600 out of the 2,000 of them have failed their semester exams. As a result, the varsity has been hit by a saga of student protests for the last 40 days. Why? Because, students of the varsity believe that there has been mishandling of exam papers by the university authorities and, as a result, several have been demanding an immediate re-examination.
The exams were held from February 24, 2021 and the results were published by the varsity in August. Ever since those results came, hordes of shocked private candidates have been on a protest.
How exactly was the exam 'bungled' by the varsity?
Owing to the pandemic being at its worst at the time, a notification issued by the Dean of Academic Affairs on February 9, stated that they were giving students a one-time relaxation on the papers they were writing, whereby they had to answer all the objective questions (Section A) and could choose to attempt 2 out of 4 subjective questions (Section B), in each question paper. This was done only for private candidates, given how they had to take the exams physically and not online.
This is also where the allegations begin. Chaitanya Kapoor, a private third-year Bcom student, said that they were given different instructions when inside the exam hall, "Our answer papers were taken within an hour instead of three hours (the usual duration) and we were told to write half the questions on the paper." He also claimed that the examiners told them that whatever they score would be doubled." And so, most of the students claim to have done just that — answered all the objective questions and opted to write only two of the subjective ones. Both Kapoor and Kosur, are UPSC aspirants and are hoping to take that up after their results are sorted out.
This move was never in doubt, as confirmed by Dr Mushtaq Ahmed Lone, Controller of Examinations, Cluster University of Jammu said, "They had to attempt two out of the four questions instead of answer four out of the eight questions. The marks for those two questions would have been doubled so it is like answering four questions instead of two."
However, when the results were published, there was widespread shock. Many of them blamed their poor marks, having failed, on a conspiracy by the university in not doubling their score as promised. A third-year private BA student, Heena Kousar, claimed, "When our result was out, it turned out that the varsity did not correct our papers as per the promised pattern but instead stuck to the usual pattern." The shock gave way to anger and exasperation and ended in a protest that is now closing in on the two-month mark.
A mistake? Really?
But did the varsity make a mistake? Lone vehemently maintained that they did not and explains that the varsity cannot challenge the marks awarded by teachers and suggested that students use the option of reevaluation. In fact, the varsity had even offered to check and publish a modified result if any discrepancies were found. An exercise that ended with more heartbreak for the protesting students. A notification issued by the varsity said there would be no modified result as the "evaluation has been done by evaluators as per the relaxation provided to students and there will be no change in the result of the said examination."
So does the protest count for very little, if not nothing? It appears so at this point. Lone said that re-examination was simply not an option, "The re-examination that they are demanding is not in line with our statutes. They will have to appear for the exam along with regular students," he said firmly. When asked about the academic regression of students who will have to appear with regular students next year, Lone said, "The university is deliberating over the solution for that. It is being discussed."
The reality of the situation is also a bit harsh, as Lone pointed out that many of them were repeaters, who had already failed exams, "The results of private candidates are usually low," he said tacitly.