‘We Are Being Asked to Write Offline Exams’: Students at St Joseph’s College, Bangalore

Two days from now, second and third-year students from St Joseph’s College will have to travel to the campus to write their semester exams, starting from November 17, as per the college’s official notice. While the number of coronavirus cases are dropping in the state of Karnataka, over 56% of the cases are being regularly reported in Bangalore, where the college is located.

In such a situation, the college is allegedly adamant about holding offline examination, sidelining the concerns shared by the students – especially those who will have to travel long distances to reach the college. The first-year batch has also been asked to prepare for an offline exam which, as students say, might take place next month.

According to students, the college has provided an alternative option for those who won’t be able to come to college, but the arrangement for the same, they say, seems “sketchy” at the moment. They say that the college hasn’t specified an examination date, and have allegedly asked the students to pay an extra amount, which has also not been mentioned. Students are also not sure whether those exams will take place in offline or online mode. A copy of the notice issued by the college is with LiveWire.

“They [college administration] say that they will take the alternative exams latest by October 2021 which means that the final-year students won’t be able to apply for the masters the same year,” said a student on the condition of anonymity.

The arrangements for offline exams, students say, are also dubious. They say that the college has asked students to bring a negative COVID-19 report to be able to write the exam. Those from Bangalore can get themselves tested at the testing centre in the college itself and outstation students, as per the official notice, can visit testing centres in their own cities.

But students argue that those from outside Bangalore can catch the virus on their way to the college despite having a negative report.

“We have students from Rajasthan, Goa, Kashmir, Kerala and even overseas. It is a possibility that they might get infected while coming to the college. And if they do, who will take the responsibility? How will they find accommodation for self-quarantine?” added the student.

Also read: SKUAST-Kashmir: BTech Students Oppose University’s Decision to Conduct Offline Exams

The college has sent students a consent form to be signed by the parent/guardian of the student which states:

“I take full responsibility for this decision. I am satisfied with the standard operating procedures adopted by the college and will not hold anyone responsible for any eventuality that may occur during the examination period.”

Students say that there is no way to verify whether the arrangements being made at the college are adequate. However, once the consent form is signed, they won’t be able to question the authority, and it would be impossible to go back.

According to students the main reason why the college wants to take examinations online is because online exams (rightfully so) are unfair and discriminatory to those who don’t have access to electronic devices. While students agree with the argument, they say that asking students to travel long miles to write the exam in the college is equally unfair.

Besides, the college did conduct the mid-semester exam as well as the sixth semester exams in online mode which, according to students, went smoothly, and those who faced difficulty were taken care of.

“We wrote our mid-semester exams on google form where questions and options are shuffled to avoid instances of cheating. Colleges like VIT and others are also conducting exams in online mode,” the student added.

The college, students say, is trying to show that everything has gone back to normal and is allegedly not understanding the risks involved in travelling, and writing exams in the offline mode.

The college, students say, had earlier said that the classes will resume from October 1. However, on September 29, they issued a notice backtracking on their decision. By then outstation students had already come to the city with their luggage.

“We had booked accommodation and had planned accordingly before travelling but the new notice came very late. Some of us incurred a loss of around Rs 10,000,” said a student.

On Thursday, the college also allegedly asked National Social Service – central government sponsored public service program – volunteers to come to college and decorate the campus for the opening of a new block. “How can they call students to college to decorate the campus when coronavirus cases are on the rise? They [college administration] conducted a webinar on mental health a couple of months back but now they are ruining our mental health,” the student added.

If the college sticks to their plan, students will either make arrangements to travel back to the college or will stay at home.

While calls made to the public relations department weren’t answered, LiveWire is waiting to get a response on the email sent to the controller of examination. We will update the copy as and when there is a response.

‘We are strictly following the safety protocols’: college admin

The college’s public relations officer Prof. Kiran Jeevan said that the college is taking the examination in offline mode because the government of Karnataka has ordered all colleges in the state to re-open on November 17.

“We are following the orders of the government in re-opening the college for examinations for the UG [undergraduate] and PG [postgraduate] students in the third and fifth semester,” he said. “We are not forcing students to come to college to write the examination.”

The dates for the alternative exams, he added, will be decided based on the convenience for all the students. “We are going to make sure that the alternative exams are conducted at such a time so that students don’t face any issue while applying for higher education. We will consult the parents and students before finalising the dates,” he said, adding that no extra fee will be charged for the same.

As far as the safety protocols are concerned, he said that the college administration will make sure that all the classrooms are properly sanitised after the examinations are conducted and students and faculty members are provided with gloves and masks. The college has also set up five testing stalls in the campus for students who wish to get tested for coronavirus.

The students, on the other hand, have complained about the discrepancies in the testing process. On the condition of anonymity, a student said that the college recently collected their samples from November 13 to November 15. However, they later found out that their samples didn’t reach the designated labs.

“The college authorities when contacted said that the affected students may write the exam provided they don’t show any symptoms,” the student said adding his concerns about the possibility of having asymptomatic patients in the examination centre if such is the scenario.

Featured image credit: College’s official website