An open letter to the Vice-Chancellor of Kashmir University

Respected Vice Chancellor,

I, as a student of Kashmir University want to draw your attention towards the pain, stress and agony we students have been going through. Ours has been one of the most unlucky batch ever studied in Kashmir University. When we got admitted to Undergraduate programme of the University in 2015, the University administration adopted the semester scheme. It is from there that our suffering started. Our graduation took almost 4 years, that too after giving combined examination for 5th and 6th Semesters. I got admission in Masters programme in October 2018 and the classwork for the same commenced in November. It is quite pathetic to say that after almost two years we have completed only one semester, the results of which have still not been declared. No one can deny that the conflicted situation has played a crucial role in this but the role of University administration is no less; this administration has been callous, sadistic and discouraging. The shutdown post abrogation of Article 370 resulted in the loss of almost 6 months of classwork. Barely had the classwork resumed that we had to face Covid-19 and the University was shut for classwork. In the eight months since August 2019 we had the privilege of enjoying classwork for only a month. What could have we studied in that month, that too chilling winter, is quite imaginable.

After a few days of online classes with voice breakage and buffering due to slow internet connectivity, only when available, the University has come up with the idea of holding examinations for the first and second semesters of Batches 2019 and 2018. It would be share injustice if the students are forced to appear in the examination when in reality there was only a month of classwork. One fails to understand why the University is keen to take the examinations when the UGC has already notified that in case the situation arising out of Covid-19 did not improve, the grading of the students should be composite of 50% marks on the basis of internal evaluation and the remaining 50% on the basis of performance in the previous semester. Though the guidelines are advisory in nature, these to a large extent address the concerns of the students.

In the very first place it is very disheartening that the University has failed its students and the Kashmiri society as a whole. The highest seat of learning has failed to devise a mechanism to work in conflict situation and save the career of thousands of students who join the University with high hopes. After only a month of lockdown, UGC felt the need of coming to the rescue of student community and issued guidelines whereas the University has failed to come up with an innovative mechanism to deal with the situation arising out of a prolonged conflicted situation. It should draw lessons from JKBOSE which operates in similar conditions but ensures that the academic session is not wasted. The University has confined itself to taking late examinations, hiking admission and examination fees and failing to complete the degrees of students in prescribed time. By implementing the UGC guidelines the University will get an opportunity to streamline its academic calendar which is disrupted since 2017 as none of the batches since then has completed Masters in two years.

The University has already notified for the commencement of classwork for 3rd semester (Batch 2018) and 2nd semester (Batch 2019). However, with no clarity and the fate of previous semesters still undecided, it is almost impossible for us to concentrate on our studies. The trauma faced by us can be gauged from the fact that while we have to attend 5 to 6 hours of daily online classwork, we are told to prepare for the examinations also. It looks like that the University is playing with the career of the students by underestimating the gravity of the problem. While life and economy have come to a standstill because of Covid-19, the University has unilaterally hiked the examination fee by 22%. So much concern about the students most of whom come from humble backgrounds!

Our teachers at the varsity have failed us. They are not concerned about us and have failed to raise their voice for us. Our multiple appeals to the authorities fall on deaf ears as the University is behaving in an authoritarian manner and denying its students a respite backed by the UGC, in whose name the University takes almost all its decisions. The reluctance on part of University is causing huge psychological trauma to the students. While our career is being ruined, our counterparts from Jammu University and other universities have moved far ahead of us. While my friend and 12th class batchmate moved to Aligarh Muslim University, he has taken admission to Ph.D programme and I am stuck in the 2nd semester of my Masters course. The University administration simply isn’t understanding how it is ruining our academic career and job prospects because of its regressive and stubborn policies.

If because of Covid-19, the respite from which currently looks bleak, virtual classes can be taken why can’t an out-of-box solution be found for the examinations. For a student it is the classwork that matters. The UGC guidelines have been carefully framed and legitimise the promotion of the students to next semesters on the basis of internal assessment and performance in the previous semester. It is high time that the University implements the guidelines in letter and spirit and save thousands of students from mental agony, pain and trauma.

Sir I hope that you would read this letter and help the distressing students.

Regards

The author is pursuing Masters from the University of Kashmir.