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As their protest is poised to enter Day 6, students of the Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University (DSNLU), Visakhapatnam have addressed a representation to the Chancellor of the University.
In their representation, the students have asserted that the problems plaguing the law school are larger than merely the detention of students.
Last Friday, over 80 students from the University were made to vacate the hostel having failed to clear their backlog. Following the eviction, the students commenced an indefinite protest near the University Gate. According to a student’s statement made over email, the administrative authorities also threatened remaining students against participating in the protests.
As per the University’s Vice-Chancellor (VC) V Kesava Rao, the source of the protests primarily had to do with the detention of students. Rao said that he had no option but to evict the students having backlog, in view of recent orders passed by the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad.
While speaking of an Academic Council meeting slated to be held to resolve the issues, Rao said that he could not allow the detained students to continue staying in the University hostel in the meanwhile.
However, the students contend that the problems are far more systemic than let on by the administration.
In the collective statement to the Chancellor shared with Bar & Bench, the students have raised several grievances concerning the arbitrary and unreasonable exercise of powers by the administrative authorities of the institute.
Specific issues have been raised pertaining to academic maladministration, vindictive practices in the conduct and evaluation of exams, and student harassment.
Notably, the representation highlights that the unpredictable manner in which DSNLU is run has had its toll on the students. Reference has been made to abrupt changes made in the in rules, which are implemented in a hasty manner, only leading to further confusion among the students.
Concerning the issue of detaining students this year, it is noted that the awkward timing of the 2017 rule which provided students up to four chances to clear their exams, in effect created a distinction between students who failed to clear their odd semester papers and those who failed their even semester papers in the same year. As explained in the representation,
“The entire student body of DSNLU is of the opinion that mere ‘bad luck’ of failing in a subject in the odd semester cannot be a reasonable ground for detaining such a large number of students.
It is pertinent to note that the said examination rules were applied only to the even semester of the Academic Year 2016-17, as a result of which the students who had a backlog in the odd semester in the Academic Year 2016-17 have had only three attempts to clear their respective examinations, creating a disparity among the students who have backlogs in the even semester and the odd semester.
When a rule has been applied, whether the application was valid or invalid, it must be applied in a manner that is uniform and benefits all the students that are affected by it.”
The odd timing apart, the students point out that while exam rules are amended from time to time, they are seldom published or notified to the students. Rather, they are left to rely on oral instructions from University staff.
“The only updated copy of the rules lies with the Examination Department itself, and clarifications are conveyed orally to the students which creates avoidable confusion amongst the students.”
The students have also highlighted that owing to such communication gaps, they were also caught by surprise when informed that they had exhausted all attempts to clear exams.
“…students weren’t notified that the previous time they attempted for the odd semester examinations was their last. Further, the odd semester examinations were conducted in the month of January, 2018 and the results of the same were declared on April, 2018. The students, during this entire time were not made aware or notified that the exams conducted in January, 2018 was their last attempt, mainly due to the confusion and indecision regarding the same among the University Authorities themselves.
Only on 30th June, 2018, vide the aforementioned notification, were the students notified of their fate. Moreover, the Hon’ble Vice Chancellor had assured the students of the University in April, 2018 that he would ensure that the students who had a backlog in the odd semester would be given one final chance to clear their papers.”
On a broader note, the exam evaluation system at DSNLU itself has been questioned. Flaws in the system with respect to significant improvements in results when the answer scripts are re-evaluated by external examiners have been highlighted. Further, it is also argued that grace marks are awarded in an arbitrary manner.
To address these issues among others, the students have proposed several recommendations towards more transparent administration and allied reforms.
Notably, given the maladministration in the examination department, the students have demanded the immediate resignation of the Dean of Examinations, for her misuse of power and dictatorial actions.
It is also requested that the Chancellor order an academic and financial audit of the University. Problems on the academic side include the appointment of less qualified teachers, inability to retain good faculty, faculty being allotted subjects beyond their area of expertise only to fill up vacancies for the subjects allotted etc.
Concerns have also been raised against the complacent teaching methods of the faculty at DSNLU.
“Furthermore, the faculty, apart from a few exceptions, largely consists of people who read out of a textbook or slides prepared out of a textbook. All prospective and the current students of the university are fully capable to read from a textbook by themselves.
The Students of this University chose to join this institution because of the merits it is expected to possess by virtue of being a National Law University. For students who are expected to pay approximately ten lakhs over a course of five years, a much better quality of education, professionalism, facilities, and resources are expected.”
Among other demands, is also a plea that the VC Rao conduct a special exam for the students facing detention.
The students have made the request with the observation that the same would not constitute a violation of the Hyderabad High Court’s judgement on the issue, given the VC’s powers to make special rules including deviations from existing rules to suit special situations under Rule 18.1 of the DSNLU examination rules.
Read Student Representation addressed the Chancellor below:
Image courtesy: Facebook