The exams, scheduled from December 14 to 23, will be held in designated Kendriya Vidyalayas, mapped based on the students’ addresses.

IIT Madras students concerned over institute’s decision to conduct sem exam offlineImage for representation/PTI
Coronavirus Education Friday, December 04, 2020 - 17:57

Hundreds of students pursuing their studies in the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) have raised concerns over the institute’s decision to conduct exams offline. The exams, scheduled from December 14 to 23, will be held in designated Kendriya Vidyalayas across the country, mapped based on the students’ addresses. What has irked the students is this: when a few other IITs have conducted online exams for all their students, why is IIT-M insisting on offline exams for some papers.

An email from IIT-M read: “Based on the GIS mapping, an exam centre closer to your place of stay has been mapped for most of the students. However, if you would like to change this centre to a different centre/city, you are welcome to do so. The last date for changing the centre is December 3 (Thursday) mid-night. However, for some personal reasons, if you do not wish to write these exams NOW, you may choose to do so. Please note that, if you are not choosing ANY option, it will be assumed that you are fine with the centre, which has been allocated to you.” However, many students allegedly received this email either on Wednesday or Thursday, giving them very less time to plan for their exams.

One of the major concerns of the IIT-M students has been that the institute has not specified or assured them that the exam centres will be safe amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The obvious health risks

The students, who are currently in their respective hometowns, are attending the semester classes online. Speaking to TNM, Ram*, an IIT-M student who is now in his hometown outside Tamil Nadu, said that the institute is not paying heed to the request of the students to conduct the exam, too, online. “The students don't want to write these exams offline because there are health risks. Many students even tried to take it up with their respective professors. However, they are emboldened to conduct it offline because the institute administration is fully supporting them," he said.

This is despite a resolution from the institute’s students body, he added. The Student Legislative Council (SLC), on November 22, passed a resolution after conducting a survey with responses from 1,900 students. “Fifty-five per cent of the students have reported a daily rise of 100 to 1,000 cases within a 30km radius of their residence. Hence, choosing public transport or gathering at the exam centre will be dangerous,” the resolution said. Adding that 55% of the students were solely dependent on public transport for commuting to and from the exam centres, the resolution proposed that IIT-M reconsider conducting exams at TCS iOn centres.

However, the institute responded by changing the outsourced centres from TCS iON to Kendriya Vidyalayas across the country. This change did not reassure the students, who now need to scramble and look for the Kendriya Vidyalaya nearest to them.

‘IIT-M lacks responsibility and accountability’

For Shyam*, another student pursuing his undergraduate studies in IIT-M, the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya is around 25 kilometres away. “We want some responsibility and accountability from the institute. After slogging for three to four years, when we put in so much hard work to be where we are, we want the institute to take some responsibility for our safety. We have lost a lot of our near and dear ones to the pandemic. In that sense, we expect a certain degree of responsibility from the institute administration,” he told TNM.

Pointing to the option for the students to opt out of writing offline exams, Ram said that those students will have to write all the missed papers together once the institute reopens and resumes classes. "Students will have to write more backlogs along with the next semester exams in person. That is not an option because it causes tremendous pressure on us," he added.

Accusing the institute of being complicit in creating an environment that is detrimental to the mental health of the students, Shyam said that a few professors have indeed adjusted to the current situation and given them take-home or online exams. “The institute gave professors the option to conduct exams online or offline. Many professors, however, have chosen to conduct it offline, which has now put many of us in a tight spot. If you are sending students to offline exam centres, what is the point of having the semester classes online at all?” he added.

The students also pointed out that while the National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducted the NEET and JEE, took responsibility to ensure that all necessary precautionary measures were in place in the exam centres, the IIT-M model of outsourcing it completely is not convincing enough.

"We have also sent individual emails to the institute detailing our concerns, but none of them has been specifically addressed by the administration," Ram added.

TNM has requested response or a comment from IIT-M. The story will be updated if and when they respond. 

(*Names changed on request)

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