Students at Himachal Pradesh University Institute of Legal Studies, Shimla, have written an open letter to the director requesting the cancellation of their upcoming examination. The students have alleged that the university didn’t conduct any online class – and has thereby violated the guidelines issued by the University Grants Commission, which had directed universities to take all the classes online.
“With an exception of two or three teachers, only few links to third-party online study material were sent by the teachers on WhatsApp groups which can in no way be equated with an online lecture given by professional teaching staff,” reads the letter.
Students say that there have been a “communication gap” between them and the teachers lately as most of the college WhatsApp groups, where links to study materials were sent initially, have been inactive since late July. Besides, not every student was made a member of these groups, students allege.
Despite all of this, students say that the college is not only demanding full fees but is adamant to conduct offline examination.
According to the letter, a lot of students live in far away places, for whom travelling won’t be possible without putting their lives at risk when the number of COVID-19 cases across the country have now crossed the three million mark.
In the letter, the students have demanded that the college either cancel the examinations for the time being or hold them at a later stage when classes are properly conducted.
The full letter has been reproduced below.
The Hon’ble Chief Minister Himachal Pradesh
Chairman of UGC
Chancellor of HPU
Vice Chancellor of HPU
Subject: Request regarding cancellation of examination for University Institute of Legal Studies, Ava Lodge
Dear Sir, It is ironic to learn that examinations for HPU UILS students are being considered along with all other categories of students, it is a gross injustice being done with law students for reasons below:
1. First and foremost, the guidelines issued by MHRD and UGC to ensure continuity in teaching- learning process have not been followed by the college. Online lectures using modes such as Google Classroom, Google Hangout, Cisco Webex Meeting, YouTube Streaming, OERs, SWAYAM Platform and SWAYAMPRABHA (available on Doordarshan (Free dish) and Dish TV), etc. were supposed to be held but no such classes were taken in spite of taking full fee from the students. With an exception of two or three teachers,only few links to third-party online study material were sent by the teachers on Whatsapp groups which can in no way be equated with an online lecture given by professional teaching staff. Even these groups have not been created for some subjects and not all students were included in these groups. In the same guideline, it was advised that the faculty must maintain a “substantive contact” with the students and discuss course material with them on a regular basis even after posting the lecture material online. However, a majority of the Whatsapp groups have been abandoned since late July and even the aforementioned inadequate study material is not being sent now.There has been a lot of communication gap between students and teachers.
2. As a consequence of this, panic prevails amongst students despite time and again enquiry being made about online lectures, fee and examination from the authority concerned but to no avail.Various students submitted the application and many are still visiting the Director’s office to address these issues.
3. Those students who are residing in other states after the closure of college and subsequently, remain in their respective states after COVID-19, their health is now at risk because of their movement from their respective places due to COVID-19. It is worth mentioning that the college does not have any hostel facility and is hence putting the
burden of accommodation and travel arrangements on the shoulders of the students in order to conduct these examinations. It will be difficult for many students to avail accommodation as many people wouldn’t be ready to offer their accommodation to most outsiders for rent during the pandemic.
4. It can be a life-threatening situation to many students who already have underlying health conditions and vulnerability.
5. The Supreme Court of India has also upheld UGC Guidelines regarding giving an option for earlier years/intermediate semesters not to hold the examination as long as the situation does not permit. The urgency to hold examinations for these semesters at the peak of COVID-19 cases in the state does not appear to have any rational basis. The Bar Council of India had also suggested a similar remedy by promoting intermediate year students and holding exams after reopening of colleges.
6. It is completely arbitrary for the university administration to arrive at this decision without
any consultation with the concerned students. Having paid the college fee, all the stakeholders must get equal say in the decision.
7. Most of the students left the university and the city without any books or notebooks because of the uncertain nature of the pandemic and hence could not predict the scale and duration of COVID-19, students in remote areas cannot access online study material and have been residing in villages since then. It is difficult for the students to cover the syllabus without any reference material which would usually be available in the college library.
In view of all this, it is requested that examinations for law students may be cancelled for the time being and may be held after proper classes are conducted.
From the students of HP University Institute of Legal Studies.
Featured image credit: University’s official website