Jawaharlal Nehru University [JNU] is once again witnessing a dispute between the students and the administration. The varsity’s Vice-Chancellor, Jagadesh Kumar, issued a circular on December 22 asking students as well as research scholars of all courses to fulfil the minimum attendance criteria. The circular issued to the Deans of Schools/ Chairpersons of the Special Centres / Chairpersons of the Centres says that attendance is mandatory for all students registered in all programmes including M.Phil and PhD of the university. It also advised all centres and schools to maintain an attendance record of all students.
This will be the first time the varsity will record the number of classes attended by each student. Already unpopular among the student and teacher community, this move has further drawn sharp criticism towards the VC. The Jawaharlal Nehru University Student’s Union [JNUSU] led a mass delegation of students to the Vice Chancellor’s office on January 4. They were met by a significant number of security personnel and disappointment. JNUSU urged every student to join the Mass Signature Campaign against Mandatory Attendance, and to come to VC Office and say ‘Hazir Janaab’; to give their attendance and submit their Mandate against Compulsory Attendance. They garnered approximately 2,500 signatures from the students rejecting this, what they called, "arbitrary farmaan”.
The students were unsuccessful in meeting the VC but the Chief Proctor encountered them and adamantly stressed that the matter be discussed with him. The students, however, were uncompromising and insisted on meeting with the Vice Chancellor. After a lot of deliberations, they managed to get an appointment in writing with the VC for Monday, 9:00 am.
“The recent appointments in JNU are not based on candidates’ academic credentials but political loyalties. There has never been a compulsory attendance rule in the history of JNU. In order to make sure that students attend the classes of such partisan appointments the VC came up with this farmaan.” Simone Zoya Khan, JNUSU Vice President told Newsclick.
According to the JNU Teachers Association, there was no decision by the 144th Academic Council to make attendance compulsory for all the registered students. The overwhelming opinion amongst teachers of the University is that the diktat for compulsory attendance seeks to manufacture a problem. There is no pernicious tendency towards absenteeism in JNU students at any level.
"In the last two years, the VC has tried to destroy the inclusive and democratic character of our campus through anti-student policies one after another, such as massive research seat cut, the decimation of reservation, withdrawal of deprivation points etc," JNUSU said in a statement.
The statement further said that the idea behind not having an attendance system was to encourage both teacher and students to evolve methods to ensure there are effective teaching and participation of students in the class. It also claimed that compulsory attendance can become a weapon in the hands of the administration to harass students, as is seen in other universities where BJP appointed VC's are at the helm.
“JNU’s academic excellence achieved till date has rested on the philosophy of freedom of debate and discussion, inclusion and equality. The move to impose compulsory attendance is highly absurd.” JNUSU President Geeta Kumari said.
“The question arises, that JNU being a research university where both professors and students majorly involve themselves in research how logical would it be for students of M. Phil and PhD to sign an attendance register on daily basis,” said a JNUSU member.
They fear it will become a new tool in the hands of administration to harass the students.
A representative of the Student Union feels that this move is in sync with all other institutional attacks consistently taking place in the varsity post the February 9 fiasco.