May 2 was a busy day at Symbiosis Law School, Noida. The student body had put a representation on Twitter tagging many people. They asked for one simple thing: cancel exams, or hold them later once the pandemic is over.
Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament, responded saying that he has written to the University to honour the student’s reasonable request. The same day, Symbiosis Noida came out with an official statement, saying that there is a provision for ‘Special Exams’ for students having health or technical concerns, and that regular exams have to be held as per schedule to ensure that the academic calendar is adhered to.
The next day, the University sent an email to students, regretting the misrepresentations put out by students on social media. It then called for an open house to discuss these issues.
We spoke to several students about the situation at the University (under the condition of anonymity), and how they feel their problems still haven’t been addressed.
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) May 2, 2021
How It Started
On 7 April 2021, the students were informed that their end semester exams will be held in May, on a proctored basis, online. It would be a two hours exams, where the students would need to be in a secluded space and be in front of their laptops the entire time. There would be a software monitoring their movement–thus any bathroom breaks or any other person appearing in the frame, would not be allowed.
“Even if someone wears a mask, the software would flag that,” one student told us.
All this was a cause of concern for the students, who wrote to the administration. The administration called an open house to discuss with the students. “In the open house, they only discussed the pattern of the exam, weightage of marks etc.“, said one student.
Many students wrote to the admin and amplified their concerns on social media. Then, the University came up with the idea of Special Exams.
Despite continuously requesting the college authorities to take cognizance of this issue, we are still at a position where we're torn b/w taking the exams or taking care of our loved ones. We seek your support in amplifying this message so that it persuades the correct authority. pic.twitter.com/KcjKH4RQtl
— Not a college union. (@Notacolegeunion) May 1, 2021
Problem with the Special Exams
The University has allowed for Special Exams right now. Students having any physical/mental/technical issues can avail these exams, which would be held at a later date. If any student or someone in their family has COVID, then they could show the documents and sit for the exams later. In case someone is not feeling well mentally, then they could produce a document from a counsellor/therapist. The University has a counsellor as well whom people can speak to.
However, the students tell us that this hasn’t addressed their problems.
“Firstly, there been no mention of how and when the Special Exams will happen. Thus, many students who are not well, are apprehensive that this would clash with their internships later,” one student told us. “They should at least give us some information about the time and the manner of these exams.“
“Also, with the state of mental health infrastructure in the country, most people don’t have access to counsellors. The University counsellor is already overworked. I’ve booked a slot for myself, but I’ve been given a date only for the next week. Thus, I’ll still have to prepare for my exams till then, as I don’t know what the counsellor would say,” another student told us.
“If there is a provision for Special Exams, the University should make it unconditional so that anyone can opt into it,” the student added.
Difficulty in Preparing For Exams
“Everyone is suffering right now,” one student said. “Thus, it is unfair to ask us to sit and study for an exam.“
The students’ say that there is still a lot which the University can do to make it easier for students. The easiest would be changing the nature of the exams. Although the University has given an extra one hour to write the exam, the fact that it is still being held under proctored mode makes it difficult.
“Even if they have to go ahead with these exams, make them assignment based. That’s the least they could do,” one student told us.
Recently, the University suspended online classes because of a government order. Students told us that the University might reduce the syllabus in some instances. However, they have also uploaded recordings of some portions and asked the students to go through them.
The Need For Empathy
“Students are also scared now to voice their opinion after the University has expressed displeasure with us reaching out to people outside,” said one student.
“We’ve been having a constant back and forth with the University. This is just adding to our mental woes,” they added. “Most of our emails aren’t responded to. Only when we raise voice on social media do the University takes notice.“
You can read the latest response from the students here.
At a time when the entire country is under pressure, many institutions look to continue with functioning as if life goes on normally.
“This is surprising since last year Symbiosis Noida had promptly cancelled its exams,” one student informed us.
Recently, a PIL has been filed before the Gujarat HC for Nirma University to postpone exams.
The NLU-Jodhpur administration also came under immense pressure after reports came out that a student was worried about attendance, exams etc., even on their deathbed. Finally, after a long struggle by the students, the University decided to suspend exams until further notice.
We hope the universities take notice of these issues. Only then can they stay true to the idea of law being a tool for social engineering, a tenet of which is – empathy.
We reached out to the SLS-Noida for a comment, but they did not respond to our email. We’ll update the story if and when we get a response.
We realize that there are many such colleges going through similar troubles. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to bring them to our notice.
Note: This story was first published on Lawctopus.