JU Row: PIL Files In Calcutta HC To Resolve Impasse On Admission

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Kolkata: A PIL has been filed in Calcutta High Court amid the tussle going on in Jadavpur university on entrance examination in Arts & Humanities department.

A PIL seeking action against the university students who are on a hunger strike over the new admission procedure was also filed before the Calcutta High Court. The petition is likely to come up for hearing on Thursday. The petitioner, Rama Prasad Sarkar, claimed that the agitation was hampering educational activities at the university and appealed that action be taken by the authorities to ensure a return to normalcy.

The university has been embroiled in controversies since July 4, when the executive council announced its decision to scrap entrance tests for six courses. Around 20 members of the AFSU started a hunger strike on July 6, two days after the university announced that it would admit undergraduate students in English, comparative literature, Bengali, history, political science and philosophy on the basis of board marks, reversing its earlier decision to hold entrance tests.

Among the 13 arts courses that the university offers, six departments held entrance exams, including the English literature department. On Tuesday, the admission committee, headed by vice-chancellor Suranjan Das, held a meeting to discuss the matter. However, the meeting ended without a unanimous decision. An emergency executive committee meeting was then held on Wednesday, after which it was declared that instead of conducting entrance examinations, students will be admitted on the basis of their Class 12 board exam results.

The trajectory of entrance policy change was far from smooth. Applicants were sent an SMS asking for a scanned copy of their board marksheets a week before the entrance exams. Some students allege that a uniform policy was initially planned where 50-50 weightage (board marks and entrance marks) would be the admission criteria for all bachelor’s programmes, but opposition to this led the administration to offer the external examiner route for one of the two papers. And then came the final notification on entrance exams being scrapped altogether.

The move has been criticised by teachers, students and alumni of the university. Was due procedure followed? According to some teachers from the arts faculty, the decision was made public on July 4. However, there was no roadmap given on how this would be implemented or what kind of criteria there would be. “We were asked to give our recommendations. We gave some recommendations but we have no guarantees about if they will be taken on board. So we are essentially in the dark about the process. We have been completely sidelined,” said Rimi Chatterjee, a professor in the department of English.

According to the administration, the old process was deemed illegal. However, “Not a single court case has taken place in JU over admissions,” said Abhijit Gupta, who heads the English department. “Now, teachers are being considered to be unnecessary to the admission process. Decisions of the admission committee have been overturned by the EC.” While acknowledging that the EC is the highest decision making body, Gupta said that he couldn’t remember the last time the admission committee’s decision was questioned.

“These are two different systems. The school leaving exams assessments tell you that students have enough ability to leave school. University is different; it is a place of higher education. It is a question of aptitude, school leaving marks cannot be a correct indicator of that. Schools don’t even offer many of the subjects that are taught at the undergraduate level, for example philosophy or comparative literature,” argued Gupta.

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