The Pondicherry University administration took down the exam circular posted on May 18 stating regulations and fee details about the end of semester exams after students at the institute vehemently protested online against it, calling it “insensitive and unjust” at a time like this. The exams were supposed to be held as a combination of online, offline and MCQ formats.

The circular also stated that the students require 70 per cent attendance to be eligible for the exams, to which the students have argued that the University Grant Commission (UGC) guidelines clearly specified the period of Lockdown as ‘deemed attendance’. “Regarding the requirement of a minimum percentage of attendance for the students/research scholars, the period of lockdown may be treated as ‘deemed to be attended’ by all the students/ research scholars,” according to the UGC guidelines.

The PU Students’ Council (PUSC) issued a statement on Monday soon after the university put out the circular. “This unwarranted urgency for initiating the examination process during this times of the pandemic not only defy the spirits of the UGC guidelines on examination but also shamelessly failed to exhibit all values of fairness and accessibility that an educational institution is supposed to uphold,” the PUSC statement read.

President of the PUSC P Parichay Yadav said that they had been in talks with the administration right after the UGC guidelines came out in April. “Over the past few days, we got to know that the university was still in favour of online exams and evaluation. Online assignments were still being sent, faculty had plans to take online exams, but the students’ council was raising its voice for a long time as soon as they got to know about the students’ issues. Not just internet connection but in some places, they also don’t have stable electricity. After the UGC guidelines, we were hoping that the university wouldn’t take such a stance. As soon as they put the circular up, the students protested online and they had to take it down,” he explains.

Speaking on the attendance requirement, he adds, “While the UGC guidelines state the period of lockdown as ‘deemed attendance’ and when the lockdown is extended up to May 31, 2020, what is the rationale of 70 per cent attendance requirements? Is it another unjust plan to put undue pressure on students and play with their futures in these already difficult times? The circular is vague and doesn’t take into account or state the status of syllabus completion, or the provisions for those who have been unable to attend online classes and hence, missed out on a large part of their syllabus.”

Parichay tells us what the university instead should have done was to collect data from students and have communication with them to understand their issues. But that’s where they have been failing continuously as an institution, he adds. “The students’ council gathered data via a Google Docs form stating details about access to internet connections, availability of basic items, mental health issues, etc. More than 70 per cent of students lack access to the internet, over half of the student population at the varsity lack a peaceful environment and proper space to study. Now, we have put out posters with those data to make it clear to the varsity administration how their decisions could affect students,” he says.

The students’ union is also planning a mass representation movement where they will send letters to the UGC and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) regarding this matter.

We tried contacting the varsity administration for a comment but haven’t received a response yet.

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