St. Xavier’s College adamant on offline exams

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St. Xaviers College, Mumbai is having a “mock exam” on Thursday, to “acclimatise students in the practice of writing”. The South Mumbai Autonomous College, has decided to hold offline examinations despite appeals by students against the decision.

Students say, they have not attended lectures physically for the last two years due to Covid lockdowns and restrictions. All lectures till date have been conducted online; this includes practicals for science stream students.

The students have collected a total of 1,287 signatures against this decision in an online appeal made out to the college authorities but to no avail. The principal in response “offered outstation accommodation at various venues, including the college hostel”.

Principal Rajendra Shinde has stuck to his decision. He has given the appeals from ‘outstation’ students, who find it difficult to travel to Mumbai as well as find accommodation for a short period of time, a pass.

The college has made some ‘cosmetic’ changes to the ‘Exam Time Table’ but according to a student, who did not want to be named, “it hardly matters”.

The college on its website has put up the seating arrangements for the examinations which will begin on March 28 at 8.15 a.m.

Lectures are scheduled to end on March 26. The students are neither being given ‘study leave’ nor extra time to attempt the theory questions in the paper.

Students had approached higher education minister Uday Samant and he directed the Joint Director Education to write a letter to colleges.

Sonali Rode, Joint Director said: “We are requesting colleges who have decided to hold Semester 6 examinations offline to hold them online since there will be a disparity in marks and students will not be tested on common grounds. To ensure there is no academic loss to the students we are requesting colleges to hold exams online”.

Uniform statutes under Section 72 (10) of the Maharashtra Public Universities Act 2016 allow autonomous colleges to evolve methods to assess a student’s performance, conduct examinations and notify results.

Colleges that have decided to adopt the offline mode of examination are being shielded by this rule.

Colleges like St. Xavier’s maintain that University Grants Commission (UGC) gave colleges autonomy to raise academic standards. The directive received from the Joint director is not legally binding. However, the autonomous colleges issue graduation certificates under the seal and signature of Chancellor of the Mumbai University.

In a long message addressed to students of St. Xavier’s College, Principal Shinde has justified his decision suggesting to the students that they could appear for “additional exams in October 2022”.

However, students rejected this appeal. They think the decision comes across as being ‘cold and inhuman’.

“The college has ditched us at the last moment. How can Principal Shinde suggest that we take the additional examination in 2022. Will we want to forfeit this academic year? Shinde said our online scores will not be accepted abroad but how does it matter in a Covid year. What about students from Mumbai University. He has succeeded in pulling the wool on our eyes,” a student said on the condition of anonymity.

“All we want is for us to be treated at par with the other students of Mumbai University. The assessment of all students should be common for all of us. If we are being asked to write offline exams then the rest of the university students should also be assessed through offline exams,” added the student.

“The psychological impact of being asked to suddenly write an examination paper within a stipulated time period, even if it is a combination of MCQs and lengthily answers, has not been assessed by the college,” said a professor of St Xavier’s College on condition of anonymity.

“The issue has become one of prestige. Human sympathy has been thrown out of the window. Students are finding it difficult, financially, to travel to Mumbai to take the exams. The Deputy College controller of examinations Dr. Sangeeta Shetty, who has no love lost for students is actually calling the shots.”

Xavier’s was the first college to be granted autonomy by the University of Mumbai in 2010. It was founded by the Jesuits on January 2, 1869.

Anu Aga who led Thermax; Teresa Albuquerque, Historian; Norma Alvares, Goan environmentalist; Zeenat Aman, Actor; Mukesh Ambani; Head of Reliance Industries; Shabana Azmi, Actress and Vidya Balan, Actress are some of its alumni.

Sophia College has decided to shift the offline exams to online mode after receiving a letter from the office of the joint director higher education (Mumbai division) dated March 11, requesting for a change in mode of conducting final semester examinations.

This was in keeping with the decision of the University of Mumbai to hold Final Exams in-online mode.

However the directive is not binding on the colleges.

Other Mumbai-based colleges, N.M. College, Mithibhai and Jai Hind, have adopted offline examinations.

Mithibhai College claimed “100 per cent students attended the offline exams”.

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