In the middle of a global pandemic, when the country’s collective mental health is in shambles, students of Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT), Manipal have been forced to not only write strictly proctored online exams but also submit regular assignments and attend online classes even on Sundays, according to students.
According to students, the college changed their evaluation scheme in the second week of August, 2020, according to which, for 5-10 marks, they have had to submit three different assignments to be marked on the basis of an average score of the three. So, from August to October, they were continuously asked to submit as many as five assignments per week and appear for regular quizzes. Despite vehement opposition from the students, their requests went unacknowledged.
Further, in December, they were initially asked to write offline exams. However, after a few months-long protests, the college offered them the option to write their exams online in January 2021. However, that too didn’t come as a relief. The examination guidelines were rigid with inadequate gaps between two exams and harsh proctoring using Microsoft Teams. Students also say that they were “harassed by the proctors”, as can be seen in the screenshots below:
“Around May 2020, we were asked to write online mock-exams using PEXA (an app that prevents access to other tabs or use of the internet while writing the exam) which was in its initial stages of making at the time and caused our devices to abruptly freeze – a decision that was hugely protested resulting in cancellation of the exams. Besides, during online exams that happened in January 2021, we had to sit in front of the screen for three hours without accounting for network issues, power issues, physical or mental well-being. And if the internet went down for even a couple of minutes, they wouldn’t allow us to submit our answers. The only other option was to reappear in the exams in March 2021,” a sixth-semester student told LiveWire on the condition of anonymity.
They added that they were given no relaxation in terms of the evaluation, and were, in fact, negatively marked for their wrong answers.
Compulsory online exams
Other than that, students accused the institute of being inhumane and insensitive for pressuring them to stay in the hostels and attend online classes despite the significant rise in the number of cases in March 2021. According to a report by The News Minute, over 900 students at MIT, Manipal tested positive for coronavirus in March 2021, and the campus’ hostel area was declared as a containment zone on March 17, 2021. Students were only allowed to leave the campus upon producing a COVID-19 test negative report.
Those who got infected were asked to shift to a block that was assigned as the quarantine block, where they had to use a common washroom and received delayed meals.
“In March, I tested positive for COVID-19 like many other students on the campus. We were all asked to quarantine ourselves and to use a common washroom. Besides, when we were sick, we rarely received our meals on time,” said another student who is currently in his fourth semester.
The students also complained about the quality of education that they have been receiving in the online classes. According to them, professors have been rushing with the syllabus as only 50% of the syllabus has been covered so far and they have less than 20 days left for their last day before the preparatory leave before exams.
Students are now concerned about how they are going to prepare for their upcoming exams as their classes for odd semesters end on June 19 and their exams are to begin on June 22. Not only do they have inadequate gaps, insufficient preparatory leaves and unfinished syllabus, but also no concession in terms of reducing the syllabus as other colleges have.
“With as many as five labs in a week along with regular assignments and assessments, we have barely had time to prepare for our exams. Besides, with my college nearing its end, I have to not only find an internship but also find myself a job. But, I have no idea how I am going to manage it all along with writing my exams and taking care of my mental health,” said another sixth-semester student.
No response from the administration
Although students have tried explaining their ordeals to the college administration, no satisfactory responses have been given on their end. Moreover, the comments section of MIT-Manipal’s social media accounts has been disabled due to which they haven’t been able to express their grievances there either.
Consequently, they have written an open letter to the college’s administration compiling all the woes they have been facing and suggesting alternative methods to conduct end-semester exams keeping in mind the physical as well as the mental health of the students.
They have also been protesting online against the ruthless schedules and testing modes used by the institute on a state-run page on Twitter through a campaign #enoughManipal #cancelMITexams. They have demanded either an immediate cancellation of the end-semester exams or to make them optional with a reduced syllabus.
They claim that these exams will not only clash with the internships of the sixth-semester students putting them at risk but will also put unnecessary pressure on the mental health of the students who are already dealing with pandemic anxiety, loss of loved ones, and post-covid physical weakness, in some cases.
LiveWire tried contacting the director, the joint director, the assistant director and the director of public relations and communications at MIT, Manipal but there was no response. The report will be updated with their response as and when it comes.
On June 5, 2021, the institute uploaded a notice on its website declaring that the online end-semester exams for the fourth and sixth semester students will be conducted, however, with revised guidelines. According to the notice, the theory classes will now be suspended from June 14-19, granting the students a few more days to prepare for their exams.
Another key relaxation highlighted in the notice was that the students will be allowed to “rejoin writing the examination in case of short breaks due to call drops and internet connectivity issues”. Besides, even though they have not reduced the syllabus, the duration of the examination will now be two hours as opposed to three hours and the students will have a choice to answer four full questions out of a total of six questions.
According to the students, the notice has added to their burden instead of reducing it.
“Earlier we had three hours to answer five full questions, however, now we have only two hours for answering four full questions. Besides, the suspension of the classes won’t be of much help either as we will be having our lab exams during that week. Hence, the institute isn’t actually helping us but just pretending to do so,” says a fourth-semester student.
Note: This report was updated on June 6, 2021 to include the notice issued by the institute on June 5.
Featured image credit: Manipal Institute of Technology Website