Campus Central

Insult, Injury & Illness: DU’s Offline Exams

With the exam season in full swing, DU students face the brunt of the sweltering heat and the rising Covid cases together this time. Various cases of mismanagement of the examinations by the varsity and the colleges have come to light as of late, further adding misery to students’ lives. Read on to find out more about the same.

Exam season. These two words send shivers down every student’s spine. But surviving this season becomes all the more difficult when one is required to give offline exams (after having received a more or less online education) in Delhi’s orange alert level heat and amidst rising Covid cases.

Despite several months of protests, social media campaigns and even a court case, Delhi University’s first offline examinations in more than two years finally began on the 11th of May, 2022. But far from going off without a hitch or being easier than other examinations as students had been assured, many of the tests have been terribly mismanaged and proven to be some of the most difficult exams in several years.

Applied Psychology Honours students, for instance, received their exam papers more than an hour late because the university had apparently neglected even to print them. At Ramanujan College and others, this caused serious issues because not only were the students inconvenienced and disconcerted by the delay, they also had to be moved to another venue as a second set of students were to give their exams in their designated classroom later.

The college authorities were helpful throughout, even though they weren’t at fault. The university apparently forgot to make the paper for my exam.”

Mrinal Bhatt, and Applied Psychology Hons. student at Ramanujan College

Colleges like KNC also experienced significant delays without any prior notice. Students were forced to wait an additional forty minutes for the examination of the SEC paper Public Opinion and Survey Research held on 11th May. In their case, the response from the college was inadequate, and there were other problems related to the conduct of the exams. There was no proper seating arrangement for the exams, and students were made to sit side-by-side, flouting social-distancing norms.

KNC is certainly not unique in its non-adherence to COVID protection guidelines, however. In most colleges, social distancing norms have not been followed due to a shortage of space, mask mandates were not enforced due to the discomfort they caused students in the sultry weather and, in many cases, even sanitizers were not provided.

Some of the invigilators made attempts to get students to keep their masks on at the beginning. But it was so unbearably hot in the classrooms on that day (45* C if I recall correctly) that they soon gave up.”

Sampurna Saha, an English Hons. student

The heat has also affected students in other ways, often compromising their performance in their exams. Most students gave their exams in classrooms without air conditioners or coolers, and some even had malfunctioning fans. They reported feeling ill or faint, with one even suffering a severe case of heatstroke that has kept her in bed and away from her books during this critical time.

If the university insists on conducting exams in the middle of an orange alert heatwave, in the months when we’d ordinarily be having a summer vacation, they should have at least made arrangements to ensure students did not fall sick because of the weather. Personally, the heat slowed down my writing speed and I found it difficult to concentrate because of it.

Aima, a second-year student of Kirori Mal College

Some of the papers that have been conducted until now have been extraordinarily difficult, chief among them the Corporate Accounting exam. Its contents were highly challenging, with some students alleging that a few questions were from outside the syllabus entirely. Options were provided for some questions, but they were from the same chapters, making the choice meaningless for many students.

It (the Corporate Accounting paper) was so difficult that even the most studious students were not able to solve it. Even the teachers gave up. Some teachers said that the paper had the difficulty level of a CA final paper”

A second-year DU student on condition of anonymity

Students reportedly had nervous breakdowns in the exam halls upon being confronted with this paper, with several crying or going through anxiety attacks.

Giving the Hindi-B paper was also an exercise in chaos for the students, as two separate questions were from outside the syllabus. This mistake was not rectified quickly, and teachers were helpless as they did not receive any response from the examination board until more than 90 minutes after the start of the exam. Even when the paper was corrected, students were stumped because the paper pattern was very different from usual and they were given only one compulsory question rather than several options, which is the norm for Hindi exams.

For one question, we got three updates! [..] By the time the final update came, half the students had already done the question. It was very messy and annoying, nobody knew what was going on.

A BA Programme Student of Gargi College

In the Cost Accounting exam that was held on the 21st of May, too, two questions (Q2 and Q4) had minor printing errors that nonetheless changed their meaning completely. These errors were not corrected until more than an hour after the exam had already started, when many students had already attempted them.

Students of several courses also did not receive the additional options that a university notification dated 1/4/22 had suggested they would. This was highly distressing to them, as it only compounded all the other problems they faced. However, as this notification only suggested that extra options should be provided wherever applicable rather than guaranteeing that they would be, it must be noted that the university did not actually go back on its word.

Naveen Yadav of the ABVP emphasised the same when asked why, despite the ABVP’s prominent leadership in the protests to reopen DU, it had still not made any statements or protests regarding the conduct of offline examinations. However, he acknowledged that the university had mismanaged several issues regarding the exams and promised that the organisation would look into the matter.

We do agree to you that University has made some mishaps while conducting the examination. And we are also feeling the same, but as a responsible students wing, we cannot start protesting against the university during the time when examinations are going on. This will create a chaos, and could lead to more mishaps. Also, the flow of the students and their concentration might get affected. But, I as a responsible member promise you that, we will definitely take action against the University for being so casual, we won’t let any student face any kind of problem. We will be asking University to be lenient while evaluating the answer sheets, where extra choices were not offered”

Naveen Yadav, ABVP

While many students (as evidenced by the huge pro-OBE protests that swept across the campus) were against holding offline exams altogether, others saw them differently. They saw these exams, which could have been the first proper, fair ones in years, as a chance to regain the academic credibility they had lost due to being the so-called “COVID batch”. However, the events of the past few weeks, in combination with the unpleasant circumstances under which the examinations are taking place, have robbed most of them of that optimism.

Regardless of the justifications provided by all organizations and authorities, it is a pity that students of an institution known for its activism now find themselves without anyone to take up a cause as important as this. With the varsity, the respective administrations of the colleges, and the student political parties all failing to show up for the second and third years this exam season, one wonders if any of them would be willing to take accountability for the various mishaps that have taken place. If the students do not end up being compensated in one way or the other, all three might end up losing respect in the eyes of the students.

Editor’s Note: As someone who fell ill twice in the last 10 days, it has been a horrendous nightmare for me. Exams in these kinds of situation are worse. The university could have come up with better management of the same since they were so adamant on conducting offline exams for us. Mid-semester exams? 50-50 weightage from viva and class tests? C’mon, there had to be one way or the other. But, no. Either the University expects us to be students with superhuman qualities or thinks itself to be one because of its demand. Sigh.

P.S.: Have lots of water, everyone. I suffered from a heat stroke recently and it has been bad-sad-mad.

Himasweeta Sarma, Editor-in-Chief

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Featured Image Credits: Economic Times

Shriya Ganguly

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