Jadavpur University, Kolkata, has been caught up in a web of controversies because of the recent decision of the executive council’s to scrap all the entrance tests for admission to BA courses. Instead, it had been suggested that students be enrolled solely only on the basis of their Class 12 board exam results.
The timeline of events leading to above-mentioned decision, and more, is listed below.
Six, out of 13, arts courses have entrance tests as the selection criterion for admission to undergraduate courses. While this system has been in place for the last 40 years, the recent administrative changes had sought to annul it and replace it with a different mode of admission to these courses.
Initially, a revision in entrance policy was decided by the administration wherein 50-50% weight (board marks and entrance marks) was to be the admission criteria for all bachelors’ programmes. This was opposed by the student and teaching fraternity on a huge scale. The said opposition led the administration to offer a move of involving “external experts” in formulating one of the two sets of question papers. To discuss this matter and reach a conclusion, the admission committee, headed by Vice-Chancellor Suranjan Das, held a meeting on July 3, 2018, but failed to arrive at a unanimous decision. The matter, then, came into the hands of Executive Council who on July 4 decided to scrap the entrance tests altogether and proceed with the admission process on the basis of Class XII results.
This decision had caused Jadavpur University to erupt in a series of protests throughout the campus. Students and teachers, both, have expressed their unhappiness with the decision.
On July 5, 2018, a group of students confined members of the executive council, including the Vice-Chancellor, on the campus till midnight. On July 6, 2018, the Arts’ faculty refused to work and staged a ‘sit-in’ protest outside the administrative office. He also said that scrapping of entrance tests will “lower the academic standards” of JU. University’s Teachers’ Association is supporting the protest of Student Union. They have refused to take part in the admission process this year.
The credibility of faculty is also at stake by not allowing them to be a part of the admission process. Many teachers believe that school’s “rote-learning” is only valued at Boards level, but admission in colleges require analytical and reasoning skills, which entrance tests are aimed at testing. Also, more than 200 alumni of JU have condemned this decision in a signed letter.
But, the administration had decided to stay with the decision. The Vice-Chancellor said that the changes are only for this academic year, according to The Telegraph. The majority of the executive council had voted for the decision, so he had to abide by it.
According to The New Indian Express, State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said the move would ensure “uniformity” in the admission process.
The registrar said, “Admission to UG arts courses shall be on basis of marks in board exams. This is because of some legal questions that have been raised about the admission process. This decision has also been taken to address the sentiment of the teachers who have seen the legal questions raised about their involvement in the admission process in negative terms… The executive council reposes full faith in teaching community. Current students have no role in the determination of the admission process. Even so, Executive Council has heard and noted their opinion.”
Until a short while back, Jadavpur University has been able to remain free of direct political interventions. But, this move is being touted as one that is usurping the autonomy of the University. This new admission system will remain in place for one year.
The decision is “not only controversial but also political”, according to some students. They have alleged that this decision is politically motivated. The State has intervened in working of the university previously as well. Just a few days ago, there was an attempt to dissolve the students’ union and turn it into a students’ council, which could considerably curb students’ say in administrative matters, reported by The Wire.
Rohit Dutta Roy, an alumnus of literature department of JU, in a conversation with The Wire, said that this move is a tried and tested route to corruption. “As school marks become supreme, most of the top-scoring students come from the science streams and many vacate their seats on JEE results of engineering colleges. The vacated seats then tend to be auctioned off”, he said.
“Jadavpur University is one of the only places in the state where Trinamool’s student organisation has not won elections, despite enjoying state power for so long. Board marks give the government a direct say on who gets admitted. The main impetus seems to be to get TMC to win elections here,” he added.
The teachers have also decided to boycott the classes, till the time their opinions are considered and this system is scrapped. The BJP also held the Mamata Banerjee government accountable and asked it to intervene “to find a solution to the ongoing problem.”
While awaiting the Vice-Chancellor’s response to these doubts and protests, the students had called for an academic protest on July 6, 2018. After the same, they had warned to continue and escalate their agitation if they didn’t receive a positive response from the Vice-Chancellor soon. Meanwhile, 20 students continued their hunger strike on July 8, 2018, after which they received a letter from the Vice-Chancellor requesting them to withdraw the strike. The students denied the request and continued the protest. “We thank him for his letter. But we have informed that the agitation will continue until there is positive response,” said one of the agitating students.
After days of strikes and protests by the students, the Jadavpur University decided to go back to the earlier method of entrance tests as the admission criterion for the six humanities undergraduate courses. This was a result of an emergent Executive Council meeting called for the same.
As of July 10, due to the protests, the college administration has finally reversed its decision, and the old admission procedure will be continued, which is to give 50-50 weight to Class XII results and the entrance exam results to form the merit for admission.
Members of the Arts Faculty student Union (AFSU) have finally withdrawn their 96 hours long hunger strike. Around 20 students from the Student’s Union were on a hunger strike since July 6th, and two of them have been hospitalised now.
The JU Vice-Chancellor informed the press of his wish to resign “as it has become difficult for him and pro-vice-chancellor Pradip Ghosh to continue, considering the present situation of JU”, as reported by The Wire.