JNUSU Appeal to Faculty: Onwards to the 7 Oct 2016 AC Meeting

JNU is facing an unprecedented crisis in past several months- where the entire democratic fabric of this campus is under attack. JNU administration has created an atmosphere of politically motivated administrative crackdowns and hounding of students and teachers alike. Former and present JNUSU members and student activists are being served show-cause notices and punishment threats almost on a daily basis on one spurious ground or the other to create a chilling effect. Common students too are facing continuous harassment from the administration due to  bureaucratised admission process, violation of reservations for students with disabilities, slow and inefficient hostel allotments, harassment and humiliation of 9B research scholars, arbitrary hostel and mess rules, delay in fellowship disbursal, cut back in journal subscriptions and library facilities, censorship and surveillance on JNU’s unique culture of public meeting, debate and discussion, hostel and dhaba spaces. Indeed, what we are experiencing is the daily unfolding of the #ShutDownJNU part II.

JNUSU, since 22 September, is on an Indefinite Sit-In Vigil at the Ad Block against gross administrative insensitivity towards the massive hostel crisis and demanding speedy resolution of some important policy issues to make JNU more socially inclusive. However, the administration has not given any hearing to our demands so far. On the contrary, once the AC agenda came to the fore, we are faced with a fresh round of anti-academic, anti-student policy offensive.

It is in this context we would like to draw your attention to and seek support for the speedy redressal of the following urgent concerns of the student community:

JNU’s ‘Push-Out’ Policy: Fresh Offensives to Destroy Integrated BA – MA in SLL&CS

JNUSU would like to draw to your urgent attention to an extremely arbitrary, undemocratic and anti-student proposal from the Dean, SLL& CS for the revised Ordinance of the “5-Year M.A. Integrated programme” in SLL&CS. The proposal is going to be placed in the Academic Council (AC) meeting (Item no 7).

The AC Meeting of 25th April, 2014 resolved to accept the revival of the integrated B.A – M.A programme in SLL&CS, scrapping an earlier decision of delinking of B.A and M.A. But the new proposal, once again, is trying to dismantle the Integrated BA/MA and deliberately attempting to push – out students through provisions of absurdly high CGPA.

The minimum CGPA requirement for promotion to 2nd year BA is proposed to be raised from 3.0 to 5.0 in core courses; minimum CGPA requirement for promotion to integrated M.A is proposed to be raised from 4.0 to 6.0 in core courses; students getting CGPA between 5.0 and 6.0, will be awarded BA Pass degree after three years, and those getting CGPA 6.0 will get BA (Hons) degree only if they decide to discontinue- no BA Degree shall be awarded to students who continue to be enrolled in the five year integrated MA programme; the CGPA requirement for obtaining M.A. degree is being raised from 4.0 to 5.0!

These policy level changes are absolutely arbitrary, anti-student and unacceptable. Further, as per record, these proposals were ‘passed’  in the SLL&CS BoS of March 2015 in Part B, that is, by keeping the student community and student representatives in the dark. It is highly unfortunate and disturbing that instead of addressing the serious problem of large scale drop-out faced by the students of SLL&CS, the SL admin has chosen ways to push–out more students. JNUSU urges you to drop this highly retrograde and anti-student proposal from AC agenda.

Speedy Hostels for ALL: The JNU administration’s absolute failure to start constructing new hostels has created massive crisis. It clearly demonstrates the admin’s total insensitivity towards the enormous crisis of thousands of students, coming from far off places and joining a “world class university”, which can’t even provide basic accommodation to the students and research scholars. After JNUSU and JNU student community’s continuous intervention, the admin was forced to complete the construction of dormitories near Teflas, constructions and expanded accommodations in the Damodar complex, and dormitory facilities in some other hostels. However, after some initial advances, the construction of Shipra–2 remains stalled and the administration has not worked at all to set up the promised Porta Cabins for temporary accommodation-for which they claimed to have allotted funds months back.

The massive hostel crisis is further aggravated by the terribly slow and non-transparent hostel allotment process by the DoS office. For example, the students who got admission under different streams in one centre are facing discrimination as the merit lists of different streams are being merged despite the fact that different streams held separate entrance tests.

It is indeed unfortunate that instead of fulfilling  its basic responsibility of providing hostels, the DoS is busy tampering with every existing norms and procedures and unilaterally imposing new ‘rules’ and ‘procedures’  causing harassment to students in every possible manner. JNUSU has been demanding that while arranging for more dormitories and spaces for alternative accommodation, administration must immediately start constructing new hostels. The admin must also right away undertake the repair-work in old hostels, furniture, facilities and water crisis in dormitories must be immediately solved. The concerted moves to dismantle the residential character of the University through multiple means has to be defeated, and we appeal to you for your support in this regard in the upcoming AC meeting.

Reduce Viva-Weightage Now: Reduction in weightage of viva marks in JNU admissions has been one of our central concerns in our efforts to make  JNU’s admission policy more equitable and inclusive. Since March 2012, JNUSU and the student community have been raising this crucial demand at every possible forum. During the Academic Council meetings held in 2012 and 2013, JNUSU’s intervention ensured that this issue was discussed at great length. After the AC meeting of March 2012, a committee with JNUSU representation, was formed to look into this matter. This committee analysed the viva- voce data of five years (from 2007-2011), and the findings of this committee were subsequently submitted to the AC of October 2012. Despite the fact that discriminatory trends were clearly visible in the viva voce data, the AC did not decide to reduce the weightage of the viva marks; however the AC did make the following commitments:

“After due deliberations, the council resolved to continue with the existing structure of written and viva-voce for at least two more years and review the same thereafter. Resolved further to constitute a committee under the Chairpersonship of Prof. S.K. Thorat, Centre for Studies in Regional Development , School of Social Sciences, to structure the viva – voce to avoid any discrepancy in the award of marks to the candidates belonging to the weaker sections of the society. The student representatives in academic council did not agree to the proposal”.

Since then, four more batches have taken admission in JNU and the SAME discriminatory trends are visible each year. Successive AC meetings, while refusing to take a final call, kept extending the deadline for review.

The findings of the Viva committee (2012) have highlighted gross disparities and deeply disturbing trends in the viva-voce marking pattern.

(A)  For 2007-11 Data analysis shows:

  • On an average, SC/ST students scored 11-13% lower marks than general category students in the written exam. However, in the viva voce, they scored 19-20% lower than general category students.
  • On an average, OBC students scored 6% less than general category students in the written exam, while they score 11% less than general category students in the viva voce.
  • Further when we consider the performance of ALL students who receive more than 40 marks in the written exam.
  • Out of all the general category students who scored more than 40 marks in the written, 4% students received between 0-10 in the viva voce. Another 30% received between 20-30 marks in the viva voce.
  • Out of all the SC/ST students who received more than 40 marks in the written, 5% received between 0-10 in the viva voce! ONLY 12.7% received between 20-30 marks in the viva voce. This is when they performed at par with general category students in the written exam (i.e. they all received more than 40 marks).

 

JNUSU once again updated the analysis after 2013 admissions using the data for 2012 and 2013 admissions.

 

(B) Findings for 2 years 2012 and 2013 admissions

For 2012-13 and 2013-14:

  • On an average, SC/ST students scored 12-14% lower marks than general category students in the written examination. However, in the viva voce, they scored 16-20% lower than general category students.
  • On an average, OBC students scored 7% less than general category students in written examination, while they score 13% less than general category students in the viva voce.
  • Moreover, if consider the performance in viva ONLY of those students who got more than 40 marks in the written exam in 2012-13 and 2013-14:
  • 9% General category students received between 0-10 in the viva voce. And 31.9% received between 20-30 marks in the viva voce.
  • Out of all the ST students who received more than 40 marks in the written, 1% received between 0-10 in the viva voce. Only 7.6% received between 20-30 marks in the viva voce.
  • In the SC category, 37.8% of the students (who got more than 40 in the written exam), got viva marks between 0-10, another 46.3% got viva marks between 11-20 and the remaining 15.9% got viva marks between 21-30.
  • Similarly, for OBC students, only 19% of those who got more than 40 marks in the written exam, got more than 20 in the viva (compared to around 32% of general category students).

1

As the graph above shows, in 2012-13 and 2013-14, a much larger percentage of SC/ST/OBC/PH students received viva marks between 0-10, compared to general category students. While only 36.7% of the general category students received viva marks between 0-10 marks, this figure shot up to 67.7% in case of SC students, 65.8% in case of  ST, 55.9% in case of OBC and 62.9% for PH.

Two issues arise:

  1. a) Firstly, the question that arises as to why the difference between SC/ST/OBC students and general category students become almost double in the viva voce, consistently, year after year, in centre after centre? When such trends repeatedly and consistently emerge for an entire category of students, one cannot overlook the implications of this analysis.
  2. b) Secondly, the core problem in the way of fair evaluation is embedded in the STRUCTURE of 70%-30% written-viva ratio, whereby the extreme marking in 30% viva (in the range of 0-5 to 25-28) washes out the performance of the candidates in the 70% written. As a result, marking in 30% viva becomes the ONLY effective criterion of selection and performance in 70% written remains merely a qualifier! Therefore, we are facing a STRUCTURAL problem- where the very principle that Written and Viva should TOGETHER judge the ability of the student stands compromised and subverted. This is all too obvious in the social category-based analysis. But it is ALSO important to note that high weightage of viva marks leaves a huge space for intended/unintended discretion and bias that can affect ANY student, irrespective of social category.

Indeed, our demand is not premised on casting aspersions on the interview board, where subjectivities/biases can creep in for intended and unintended reasons. Rather, our demand is premised on the principle that an evaluation process, which has both written and viva component, can be fair only if the impact of intended and unintended subjectivities or biases, unavoidable and inherent in any viva process, DO NOT BECOME OVERWHELMING ENOUGH to wash-out and nullify the performance of the candidates in the written.

High Viva Weightage: Legally Untenable

Way back in November 1980, a 5- Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court comprising legal luminaries like P.N. Bhagwati, Y.V. Chandrachud (CJI), V.R. Krishnaiyer, Syed Murtaza Fazal Ali, A.D. Koshal) had clearly said:

“We are of the view that, under the existing circumstances, allocation of more than 15% of the total marks for the oral interview would be arbitrary and unreasonable and would be liable to be struck down as constitutionally invalid”

Again in 2011, the Supreme Court in a viva related case of ICAR, UPHELD the validity of this 1980 verdict in yet another judgement.

It is therefore important that the viva weightage be reviewed and that we move towards an immediate reduction of the viva weightage to 10-15%. The last Academic Council meeting in May 2016 saw reasonable agreement around our demand. We must ensure that the issue is resolved NOW and it is not derailed any further.

Reservations in Direct Ph.D.: After the JNUSU’s consistent pressure, the AC Meeting of April 2015 was forced to agree to implement reservations in Direct PhD. Unfortunately, the decision stood violated in the very first instance of Direct Ph.D. admissions in 2016 Winter semester. JNUSU strongly demands that JNU must correct such shameless violations of previous AC decisions to scuttle social justice in actual implementation. JNUSU also reiterates that the huge space for discrimination in direct Ph.D. admission should be regulated through transparent norms. We appeal for your support in this regard.

Ensure that Centre for Studies in North-East India (CSNEI) is Declared Full-fledged SSS Centre: This issue was discussed in the 27 May AC meeting, and a decision was taken to upgrade the North East Centre into a full-fledged SSS Centre. However, unfortunately, there have been attempts to derail the same: some ‘options’ (i.e. of rotating the Chairperson of the Centre between five Schools, and setting up a fresh ‘Committee’) have been introduced, which were not part of the 27 May 2016 discussions. It is essential that the future of the first batch of M’Phil students not be compromised by this ad hoc functioning. CSNEI must immediately be declared an independent Centre in SSS.

Minority deprivation points:  Minority Deprivation point in JNU admissions has been a long standing demand of successive JNUSUs and JNU student community. The Sachar and Ranganath Mishra committees had highlighted the under-representation and educational deprivation of minorities and recommended corrective measures. In JNU also, there is severe under-representation of Muslims in schools and centres outside Urdu-Arabic-Persian centres in SLL&CS. Earlier, the RN Menon committee (2012 – 13), which was constituted to examine the provision of Minority deprivation points, had abruptly ended its meetings, after supposedly ‘receiving legal opinion’ that such a provision would not be tenable. However, we believe that this needs to be reasoned more clearly. Firstly, deprivation points are not the same as reservation. Secondly, there is a certain double-speak by those who say that affirmative provisions should not be based on any religious community. Then why are the Dalit Muslims denied reservations on account of being Muslims? Isn’t religion then being used to restrict affirmative action? Then why can’t deprivation points based on the socio-educational backwardness of the minorities be a ground for expanding affirmative action?

Putting the issue endlessly on the backburner is unjust. JNU’s deprivation point system of 1994 has provisions for includes deprivation points for OBCs (till the implementation of OBC reservation in 2008)  for women; for those from backward regions; for Kashmiri migrants; for widows/wards of Defence personnel killed in action; wards of serving personnel and ex-servicemen disabled in action; widows/wards of Defence personnel who died in peace time with death attributable to military service; and wards of Defence personnel disabled in peace time with disability attributable to military service. The awarding of deprivation points to minorities will not only serve the interests of students aspiring to enter JNU, but also shape the terms of discourse throughout the country by a positive step to address the socio-economic-educational backwardness of the minorities. So, instead of being guided by dominant  prejudices, Minority Deprivation points in admissions must be awarded for socially and educationally deprived minorities to address their educational deprivation and under-representation.

Concrete policies to address large scale drop-out:  To address large scale drop-out, JNUSU reiterates the demand for the provision of repeat/improvement provisions in M. Phil course work with additional semester, improvement provisions after 1st year in BA languages – flexibly adjusting the additional year option available for BA. JNU must also form a committee at each school, comprising of one student councilor, one member from teaching faculty of that school in co-ordination with the equal opportunity office to study the issue of drop outs at the middle of each semester and present their findings to the AC/BoS along with the action taken report. Large scale drop-out happens in M.Phil., often after course work before dissertation writing and also after M.Phil. degree when students fail to get enrolment for Ph.D. due to CGPA shortage. Students from deprived backgrounds suffer the most due to stringent CGPA requirements as there is no provision of repeat/improvement in M.Phil. Repeat/improvement provisions should be introduced in M.Phil. course work and stringent CGPA requirements be lowered to redresss large-scale drop-outs in M.Phil./Ph.D.

Reservations in Faculty Positions: Reservations must be properly ensured at all levels/cadres of faculty appointments and all backlogs must be speedily cleared. OBC reservation in faculty appointments in all cadres must be ensured, including in Associate Professors and Professors posts.

Institutionalize minority cell: JNUSU believes that the institutionalization of a minority cell to deal with the grievances of the students and employees in JNU campus who hail from the religious minority communities in India is essential. This, along with the already existing SC/ST cell and the Equal Opportunity Office can co-ordinate the organization of remedial classes to students who may require it and can also organize coaching classes for JNU entrance tests to students who desire to continue/pursue their higher education in JNU.

Ensure the Rights and Dignity of Contract Workers: The recent incidence of violence by supervisors on a security guard has once again exposed the vulnerability of the contract workers on campus and the impunity of the JNU administration authorities in violating the rights and dignity of its employees. JNU administration must take stringent actions against the concerned supervisor. Admin must also take all steps to immediately stop violation of labour rights in campus.

The need of the hour is to safeguard JNU’s academic autonomy and quality, given JNU’s already strained academic and physical infrastructure. We thus have serious concerns regarding some proposals of new Centres and ‘Certificate’ courses, which are dictated either by funding agencies, commercial interests or political motivations:

Special Centre for Disaster Research: A Recipe of Disaster for JNU’s Academic Autonomy

We have several crucial concerns regarding the proposed setting up of a ‘Special Centre’ for Disaster Research.

Regarding autonomy: This Special Centre originates from a Transdisciplinary Research Cluster (TRC). According to the Governing rules for TRCs in JNU (http://www.jnu.ac.in/TRC/rules.htm), it is clear that the “relevant funding agency” will get to play a crucial role in any Centre which emerges from a TRC. Obviously, this in itself is a serious concern because it undermines the academic autonomy and credibility of any programme/Centre and JNU as an institution. Clearly, before approving any Centre in JNU, we must make sure that the intent, content and curriculum should NOT be compromised by the interests and the predilections of a funding agency.

Lack of Due Process: The requisite process for the setting up of a new academic centre is severely compromised in the case of Special Centre for Disaster Research. For a new Centre or a Special Centre to be approved by the AC, the proposal should first go through other levels of discussions and approvals. In this case, the proposal of a new Special Centre HAS NOT gone through any of the Board of Studies (BoS) of any of the Schools in the University. The proposed curriculum, course structure and syllabi has NOT been discussed at the BoS level. The proposal has NOT even been sent to the various Schools for discussion and deliberation. In other words, no systematic discussion has taken place, and no opinion has been sought from the larger University community.

The proposed Centre in a sense is being premised on an MoU signed by JNU with the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM). However, the proposal to set up a teaching programme as part of the TRC has NOT been discussed anywhere in JNU’s several decision-making bodies before the MoU was signed with the NIDM. We also need to remember that an MoU is NOT a legal commitment. A teaching programme in JNU, whether or not it emerges from an MoU or a TRC or any other means, CANNOT bypass existing structures and statues of the University.

Academic, Infrastructural and Institutional Concerns: Apart from the crucial question of autonomy mentioned above, where is the faculty for the proposed Centre to come from? Where is the building for the same? Will it come up by encroaching upon the existing academic and physical infrastructure? Transdisciplinarity is of course welcome, but this cannot come at the cost of undermining academic credibility or overstraining JNU’s already over burdened academic and infrastructural facilities.

Also a clear separation of faculty and research between existing centres and the proposed new Centre is essential, without which serious conflict of interest would arise. We cannot have a situation wherein existing faculty conducts/supervises research in an existing Centre, which is then passed off and used as research for the new Special Centre.

We would also like to emphasise that in the interest of the institution, faculty members involved in transdisciplinary initiatives such as the proposed one must not concurrently occupy positions in existing centres. Undue and disproportionate authority of few chosen faculty members across more than one centre is not desirable.

Moreover, the JNU Vision 2020 document which has been approved by the JNU Academic Council, has suggested that single centre units should NOT be set up.

Certificate Courses in Sanskrit Centre:  To begin with, JNUSU believes that ‘certificate courses’ should not be the priority of a primarily research-oriented University such as JNU. Secondly, the certificate courses being proposed do not even meet the specifications of ‘skill imparting, career oriented’ courses that are mentioned as criteria for certificate courses in the UGC scheme. Also, the courses are designed on a dangerous premise that ‘Sanskrit Studies can be equated to’ Indian Culture and that topics on only exclusivist Brahminical traditions are deemed and essentialised as a course on ‘Indian’ culture.

We seek your support towards resolving these crucial demands and concerns in the 7th Sept 2016 AC Meeting.

Mohit, President, JNUSU      Amal, VP, JNUSU     Satarupa, Gen. Secy, JNUSU      Tabrez, Jt.Secy, JNUSU

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