21st March 2022 saw students gathering in front of the main building at 1:45 pm protesting for an open house after receiving irresponsible and unsatisfactory responses in the meeting held between student representatives and the administration on 16th March regarding the mandatory calling back of students. The students’ demand for holding an Open House was accepted and the time was decided to be 8:00 P.M.
The much-awaited, and yet struggled for, Open-House began at sharp 8, without any delay, with the crowd gathering in full capacity at TOAT, anticipating answers. The inception of the session wasn’t without any less commotion. The session began with the Vice President addressing the students, recounting the chronology of the events that had occurred thus far.
The students then began presenting their queries to the administration. The following is a summarised transcript of the same.
The argument presented by the student body: It was raised before the Administration that the Ministry had issued just an advisory and not a “mandate” for recalling all students and conducting the offline examinations for all. However, the student representatives were apprised that there is an order from the Ministry to mandatorily recall the Students and conduct Offline Examinations. Why was such a Mandate ( reference: Mail from ERP titled ” For circulation to UG students” on March 7, 2022) decided upon, when the Ministry had issued just an “advisory” and why were the student representatives not involved in the decision-making?
The argument presented by the director: Initially, the director denied the allegation that the student representatives were not involved in the decision-making process regarding mandatory calling back and conduction of offline exams.
Then, the VP clarified that the student representatives only got to know about this when the Dean, Students’ Affairs in a class, had mentioned Offline Examinations to be conducted mandatorily for all, to which the Director finally agreed. There was no further clarification on why the recalling was mentioned to be mandatory when the Ministry had just issued some advisory guidelines.
The argument presented by the student body: Why was the decision of mandatory callback of the students by 31st March taken, when the West Bengal Government had extended the COVID restrictions in the state till the same? This comes completely contradictory to their previous stance till 1st March, that the Administration would take decisions of calling back students based on the state government’s guidelines on COVID restrictions.
The argument presented by the director: The other 6 IITs and many schools in West Bengal are taking offline exams and hence IIT Kgp will also follow the same procedure.
The students countered that IIT KGP is an autonomous institute that should be capable of making a standalone decision while taking into consideration the unique local conditions of IIT KGP and the concerns of the KGP student community.
The argument presented by the student body: Does the administration empathize with the students who aren’t able to come to campus, given the irresponsible responses to the queries raised by the student representatives?
A question was asked about the few students who hadn’t yet returned to the campus and the plans of the administration with regards to them. The administration had responded with uncustomary statements like the administration ‘disowns’ them, ‘they are not behaving like true IITians’, ‘their parents have pampered them a lot’. The Director rejected that any such statement like ‘disowning’ the students was made. 1053 students were unable to come to campus, but their voices were unheard. Their parents were unwilling to send their children due to a lack of medical facilities or financial problems. It was also brought up that bringing all of them to campus without going through any quarantine measures could lead to medical hazards. After much to-and-fro banter about following covid regulations and empathizing about the financial and personal problems of these students, he said that the administration empathizes with the 7% who can’t come and they won’t be forced to come.
One solution initially presented by the Director was that the students already on campus can give the offline examinations and the remaining students will be called at a later stage for their examinations. The students did not agree with this, stating that final year students would not be able to graduate until their exams are conducted which would also lead to further delays in job joining and pursuing higher studies.
As the open house progressed towards conclusion the Final question of the reason for the change in status-quo was raised. In response, the director upon listening to the issues faced by the student offered two impulsive options as solutions, the first being changing the timeline of the end semester examination delaying it by 10 days giving students time to prepare. The second was to mandate the offline end semesters just for the students currently residing at the campus. Both the solutions received very strong disapproval from the student community.
The counterargument for the first option was that the students have already planned out their schedule according to the current academic calendar, changing it abruptly will severely hamper their life plans. Will the administration take responsibility for the aftereffects?
The same fervor was reciprocated for the next option, where the student community raised the issue of the hike in counseling cases during end semester examination, signifying the substantial increment in mental stress/trauma which the student will encounter during offline examinations, yet might not be prepared to face the same. The director did not respond to these statements which led to a chant demanding his resignation.
The student community asked for a reason for the administration’s insistence on offline end semester examinations. The director cross-questioned the students about their problems with respect to offline exams and the students answered about the entire semester being online and the education thus being subpar to the standards of offline examination.
After a much-heated discussion and the director speaking up about a few students wanting offline exams, the student community proposed that the students should be given an option to choose their own mode of exam. The director agreed to this demand which led to the conclusion of the open house.
Awaaz, IIT Kharagpur appreciates that common ground was reached between the administration and the student community.
Footage of Open House could be found below.