The JNU administration in an undemocratic move is rushing to make the JNU entrance exam an online process. This was done by overlooking the protocol of the university to arbitrarily impose this decision without prior consultations with the teachers and the students. The newly elected JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) has come forth in a press conference held yesterday to allege that “this is a massive scam in the making.” Newly elected JNUSU president N. Sai Balaji said, “This is a close conducted effort to destroy the University.”
The announcement of the move is problematic and will add to the JNU aspirant’s woes. Additionally, the process with which the university is planning to implement the move needs to be closely delved into.
Currently, the entrance exam takes place across multiple centres nationally, covering over 50 cities. The move pushed by the administration is expected to objectify the process by taking it online. However, previous experience of competitive online exams such as CLAT, and more recently, the Staff Selection (SSC) Exam and the NEET exam, have shown otherwise. Elaborating on the struggles that the online exam will bring with it, Sarika Chaudhary, Vice-President, JNUSU, explained that the issue of accessibility will be a big concern for the aspiring students. Moreover, factors such as internet availability and lack of basic computer skills may lead to the denial of a level playing field for many.
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The decision to go completely online with the entrance exam was taken in the meeting of the Academic Council (AC) in July this year. Balaji pointed out that it is in this meeting that “ the JNUSU was illegally debarred from attending, citing some proctorial notices which were… served to the JNUSU weeks after the AC meet.” The exams will now be conducted in an MCQ based manner as opposed to the previously prevailing open answer system. The union members added, “How will one assess an aspirant’s critical thinking ability? The MCQ system is extremely problematic for social sciences.”
What is more problematic are the gaping holes in the administration's implementation of the policy. The students have pointed out that the Vice Chancellor (VC) has created an online examination committee. However, two of its members Krishnender Meena and Anuja have been accused of massive plagiarism in the past and therefore, the credibility of their report needs to be revisited.
Additionally, a bigger problem with the process drawing flak from multiple quarters is the administration's decision to involve private vendors in the process of the examination. The administration has stated that an expert panel will be constituted comprising of people from outside who will be involved in the question paper making process. The involvement of the private vendors and outside experts are likely to open up a possibility of paper leaking and other malpractices. Balaji added, “If there is so much involvement of players from outside the university, then how is this a JNU exam. Also, why do we need experts from outside, are our own professors not enough?”
The students have also raised questions about how the tenders will be allocated and how transparent that process will be. Sarika added, “There are always questions raised about the students living off the taxpayer’s money. Here there is a clear attempt being made to send off the taxpayer’s money to private players and it needs to be resisted.”
Currently, the administration has already made a move to fast track the implementation of the policy ahead of the exams scheduled to take place in December this year. The teachers have been asked to submit the question papers for the online entrance, prior to October 8, failing which help from outsiders may be taken. The JNUSU asserted that the teachers are being literally blackmailed to succumb to the diktats of the VC. The administration has also demanded the answer keys months before the exams are held, which is a violation of JNU’s protocol to guard against leaks and compromises.
Under the current administrative regime, students have asserted that the inclusionary nature of the university space is likely to undergo serious damage due to the inordinate haste of the administration. Further, the JNUSU also asserted that if needed, it will be challenging this decision in the court. Meanwhile, the students are gearing up for a massive nationwide signature campaign, followed by a mass agitation to mobilise support.