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“Assam University is open to ‘online exam’ provided principals write to us,” Registrar Dr. PK Nath

Students of colleges affiliated with the Assam University Silchar protested for more than 12 hours today in various parts of Silchar.

The Assam University Silchar has declared the routine to conduct the odd semester examination from April 8, 2021. The students’ demand is that the examination must be conducted online instead of offline.

After several discussions with the administration, a joint meeting was called at the University’s conference hall. Representatives of the students, the district administration met the registrar of the University Dr. Pradosh Kiran Nath.

In an exclusive interview with Barak Bulletin, the registrar spoke at length about the current situation and the possible solutions.

Here are the edited excerpts of the interaction:  

Today there was a joint meeting between students, administration, and Assam University, what was the point of the discussion?

The students of affiliated colleges came with the demand that the odd-semester examination must be conducted online instead of offline. The reason behind this demand, according to the representatives of the students are – rise in COVID cases and discrimination as the Assam University Students are appearing Online.

Addressing them one at a time, what is your view on their demand based on rise in COVID cases?

First of all, we need to understand that the Assam University is not the competent authority to assess the COVID situation. It is the district administration that needs to issue an advisory and based on that advisory, we can take a decision. When Dibrugarh University is conducting offline examination, when the election commission is conducting elections, when a Mela has happened, when everything is open, how can Assam University singlehandedly take a decision to conduct offline examination based on the COVID situation?

What did the district administration say about the COVID situation?

The administration clearly communicated that based on the current COVID situation and when an election is taking place in the state, they cannot issue any such advisory suggesting online examinations.


Dr Pradosh Kiran Nath. Image source


What about the argument around discrimination?

Assam University Silchar is a hostel-based institution where a significant number of students study by staying in the dormitory. The district administration had taken the hostels for COVID purposes and we only got them recently. After that, our faculties were in training duties and that is why we could not start offline classes. From April the offline classes will start and therefore the subsequent semester examinations will be conducted offline. Because their classes were online, their examinations are being conducted online. The affiliated colleges held offline classes and therefore their examination is being conducted offline, there is no discrimination whatsoever.

The students who are protesting said that their classes were conducted online, so why should they sit for the offline examination?

Assam University Silchar functions following the Standard Operating Procedure issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Whereas the affiliated colleges in Assam function by following the SOPs issued by the Department of Health, Government of Assam. Now, the MHA SOP instructs universities to open in a phase-wise manner, which we are doing at Assam University Silchar. However, the state health department allowed the reopening of colleges in November.

Colleges reopened, but classes were conducted online…

In that case, the principal or the respective authority should have written to the Assam University stating that they were unable to conduct offline classes. At the same time, they should have mentioned under what circumstances, it became impossible for them to conduct offline classes. We are in possession of no such official communication. So, for us, the classes were conducted offline and therefore the examination has been scheduled offline.

The students have blocked the roads and are protesting, what is the way out of it?

In today’s meeting, I have suggested them two options. The first option is to get an advisory issued by the district administration stating that offline examination can be hazardous and therefore we must conduct online examination. The administration clearly said they cannot issue any such advisory. So, the second option – the principal of the colleges must write to the controller of examinations requesting the University to conduct online examination. Forwarding students’ requests won’t work, the principals must write a formal email. If we get an email from the majority of the principals by tomorrow, we will hold a standing committee meeting along with the principals and take a decision.

Is the University open to conduct online examination?

Assam University is open to conducting online examinations provided principals give it in writing. Also, if we change the mode to online, the examination will get deferred by at least 15 days. That will delay the declaration of results and the entire proceedings. That might hamper the chances of students getting enrollment in Universities outside Assam where the examinations are already happening and offline. What I would also like to state here is that the Assam University Silchar took the decision to conduct offline examinations after discussing the matter in a meeting in presence of the principals of affiliated colleges. It was a unanimous decision to conduct offline examinations from April 8, 2021.

Did the students agree to further delay the examination which might jeopardise their career?

It is for them to answer. What I told them is they must take a collective decision. Tomorrow, it must not happen that there is another set of students protesting and demanding offline examinations. Also, the students should not protest against the delay. If their principals write to us and they manage to take a  collective decision, we are open to discussion.

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