The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) administration is planning to conduct examinations through WhatsApp and Email even as students boycotted end-semester exams over a massive fee hike.
In a note sent on mail to all chairpersons in School of International Studies (SIS) and faculty members on December 16, the School's dean Ashwini Kumar Mohapatra said the decision was taken "in view of the extraordinary situation in the campus due to persistent obstruction of End Semester Examination by the agitating students."
As per the decision, question papers will be sent to the students registered for the Courses by the respective teachers for M. Phil and M A programme. Then, students will have to submit the answer scripts by December 21 to the teachers either in person, or through Email or images of handwritten scripts through WhatsApp.
In a meeting, held on December 16, with Deans of Schools and Chairpersons of Special Centres and the Vice-Chancellor, it was decided that "an alternate mode of test in the End-Semester Examination for M. Phil/ PhD and M.A. Programme of Studies be conducted," he wrote.
He added that students failing to submit examination scripts within the deadline may be given an additional day.
When asked about whether the process would be fair and transparent without invigilation. Mohapatra told Outlook, "What can you do in this situation? I am concerned about the future and career of students losing their academic year. They cannot register for the next semester if they are marked absent for the exams."
He further said, "The decision was taken as my colleagues who tried to hold exams in the university buildings could not do it as those were locked. If students tried to enter the building where the examination was being held, then agitating students stopped them."
Avinash Kumar, professor at the School of Social Sciences, said it was "a mockery of the worst kind."
"JNU has been converted from an institute of international standards to a WhatsApp University," he said, adding, "The administration is not trying to resolve the actual issue. What can be more ridiculous?"
"This is beyond rationality and they have stooped so low. You cannot conduct exams like this. This process is against the academic rigour, evaluation and standards set by JNU in the last 40-45 years," Kumar said.
"How can one expect a student, who has been on protest for last 50 days against privatisation of education, to sit for such an exam?" he asked.
JNU students have been on protest since November over a massic fee hike in hostel and mess and security charges, which will especially affect some 40% of the university's students from lower-income groups.
The students, on December 5, boycotted their semester exams over the hostel fee hike issue even as the university issued a circular saying those not appearing for tests would lose their studentship.
The JNU Teachers' Association (JNUTA) said that propositions made in the note, which was put out with approval from the Vice-Chancellor, were not decided through "due process".
They said in a statement, "The move to have exams through email is also a crude attempt to coerce teachers into discarding all their commitment to serious academics and participate in his vicious agenda of penalizing students and murdering the rigour of academic programmes."
"Virtually no end-semester examinations have taken place even after the passing of five of the nine days slotted for these in the Academic Calendar," adding that the VC did not take this as "a complete failure of his attempt to push through an academically and legally untenable farce."
The JNUTA said it has asked the MHRD and the Honourable Visitor as to "how can they stand by and let this VC and his mauling of teaching-learning processes continue unchecked?"