It ain’t broke, so don’t fix it: JNUTA letter to Rector on moving to a December entrance examination.

 

Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra

Rector I

JNU

 

Dear Prof. Mahapatra

The JNUTA is dismayed to read your letter dated 5 June 2017 asking for feedback regarding the holding of the JNU Entrance Examinations in the month of December. We are given to understand that a Committee headed by you has sought comments on the matters below and given Chairpersons and Deans effectively two days to respond.

You are aware that these are the summer vacations as well the weeks in which entrance examination answer scripts are being evaluated is, and it is impossible for Chairpersons and Deans to elicit and collate the opinions of their colleagues at such short notice. Any decision based solely on the opinions of Chairpersons/Deans will be an unpardonable deviation from past practice. We therefore request you to give ample time for setting the consultative process in motion and to wait for its completion.

The JNUTA also demands an unequivocal withdrawal of the final sentence of your letter which states that should there be no response by the 8th of June, “it will be presumed that the Centre will be agreeable to the decision taken in the Standing Committee on Admissions.” This hectoring and dictatorial tone is both unwarranted and impolite, and not at all expected from a colleague who has benefitted from the civility and mutual respect that has characterised our corporate life.

The JNUTA has these observations to make vis-à-vis the matters raised in your letter:

  1. The suggestion for a uniform format of entrance examination across Schools and Centres is in unacceptable, as it infringes the rights of Centres, who are the only bodies with the requisite expertise, knowledge of the all-India picture, and experience to determine which pattern works best as a fair and rigorous evaluation of candidates. It also has no bearing whatsoever on conducting the exams in December rather than June. A plurality of question paper formats imposes no burden whatsoever on the university officials and functionaries administering the entrance examination, and it is not for any committee outside the Centre/School/Special Centre to decide what a particular discipline/area demands. Further, the proposal to designate an MCQ component as a screening level for further evaluation of answer scripts is academically imprudent for particularly research degrees, where writing and argumentation skills have their due importance along with knowledge.
  2. The eliciting of opinions on the duration of the exam also has no relevance to moving to a December time-table. If Centres so wish to reduce the duration to two hours, they may choose to do so, but there is no need for a uniform pattern across the university.
  3. With regards to a clear-cut set of procedures, the Committee would be better placed in not presuming that Centres are not already employing such procedures and should actually seek information from them as to what they employ. Again, there is no need for the Standing Committee on Admissions to impose a uniform pattern across all Centres.
  4. It should be understood that changing the entrance examinations dates to December 2017 has serious implications for the syllabi Centres’ propose for the examinations. For postgraduate disciplines like MA and MPhil/PhD this means that examination questions cannot rely on candidates’ being fully acquainted with the entire BA/MA syllabus. This can have serious implications for an evaluation of the preparedness of candidates for particularly research degrees, as not all universities necessarily teach a particular area at the same stage in their MA programmes. In JNUTA’s view, this is the most crucial aspect of a transition to a December examination, and Centres need to be given enough time to discuss this issue threadbare. Between now and December 2017, there is simply not enough time to mount a careful consideration of all the issues, which must include due reflection on all the issues raised by JNUSU.

The JNUTA would also like to remind you that all decisions pertaining to admission policy is must be made in the Academic Council of the university. A discussion in the Standing Committee on Admissions without prior sanction whatsoever from the Academic Council is highly inappropriate, especially when what the University intake is to be and its overall admission policy is to be has not even been discussed yet by the currently adjourned 143rd Academic Council.

Unlike many in the current JNU administration, you are well placed to appreciate how well JNU’s long and established practice of consultation with all colleagues about admission policy has served the university’s development, and its quality of research and teaching, and the JNUTA urges you to adhere to these traditions at all times. Discuss the admission policy in the 143rd Academic Council first (once the university reopens), and only then turn to a possible revision in admission schedule, being always guided by the maxim from Bert Lance — “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The university is already suffering because of the JNU administration’s sustained effort to ‘break’ the university’s admission policy so as to ‘fix’ JNU students and teachers; please do not draw further opprobrium upon yourself and the administration of which you are a part, by undertaking another hasty exercise that has no statutory sanction whatsoever.

Ayesha Kidwai                                          Pradeep Shinde

President, JNUTA                                    Secretary, JNUTA

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