“We would like to record our deep dismay at the proposed changes in the structure and content of Delhi University’s undergraduate programme of study.
Even as we are dealing with ad hoc notices being issued by the University on a regular basis to counter the hurried, thoughtless and non-participatory imposition of the Semester System, there is now an even hastier and an entirely undeliberated, undemocratic proposed imposition of the four-year programme which is bound to have devastating consequences on the future of higher education.
The structuring of the four-year programme was handed over to a 61-member task force with a skewed representation from different departments and which has therefore been unable to take into consideration the pedagogic concerns of teachers. In hurriedly called meetings of the Academic Council and Executive Council held on December 24 and 26, 2012, the majority (barring a few dissenting members), with virtually no discussion, abandoned their academic responsibility and empowered the Vice-Chancellor to unilaterally implement all decisions on the framing of the four-year programme.
The letter sent to the Heads of Departments by the Dean of Colleges, Sudhish Pachauri, dated March 5, 2013, stipulating a time frame of barely two weeks, and “imperative measures that must be adhered to” in the making of new courses, is proof of the shape of things to come. Steps such as these make a mockery of departmental autonomy and the responsibility that underwrite carefully planned and detailed syllabi structuring.
Across departments, syllabi are being framed in a shamefully constrained and coerced time frame by a small number of teachers without the discussion or deliberation that such an ambitious overhauling demands. Ironically even the teachers involved with syllabus-making have no clarity about the structure since there are no clear published guidelines on the number of papers, the nature of internal assessment and the examination scheme.
Under these circumstances any syllabus-formation is bound to be negatively impacted by the very nature of the haste and ad hocism on which it is founded.
There have been widespread protests by teachers and students across the University. They have been raising concerns regarding dilution of academic content, the undermining of the Honours and degree programme due to multiple exit points, scrapping of B.A. Programme, B.Com. Programme and B.Sc. Programme courses and lack of any substantive rationale for an additional fourth year. The added unjustified financial burden, pressure on already limited infrastructure, the impact on students from vulnerable social bacgrounds, on workload and the likely negative implications for terms of employment have also been repeatedly raised.
Finally, teachers and students have been consistently protesting the authoritarian political culture that has come to inform DU, threatening its existence as a place of free discussion, patient deliberation and debate, in the wake of the hurry and coercive tactics and injunctions under which changes have been sought to be implemented over the last three years.
Everyone has already suffered greatly due to the ill-planned and hasty imposition of the semester system. Such hardships must not be repeated and the thoughtless and hasty implementation of the four-year programme be brought to an immediate halt.
A thorough, University-wide discussion on all aspects of the proposed changes, including the rationale and need for the same, must take place before any new system is brought in. We argued earlier and we are arguing now that any major academic restructuring and reform, impacting as this will, the delicate world of minds, students’ futures and the fragile fabric of freedoms, among other things, must proceed patiently and thoughtfully, respecting and deepening democratic participation rather than deliberately excluding and alienating the larger body of teachers, students and karamcharis in and from this process.”
(Signed by teachers from Ramjas, Khalsa, Lady Sri Ram, Indraprastha, Kirori Mal, St. Stephen’s, Kamla Nehru and Sri Venkateswara College: Mukul Mangalik, Vinita Chandra, Sanam Khanna, Shanaha Bhattacharya, Amrapali Basumatary, Mihir Pandey, Rina Ramdev, Geeti Chandra, Madhvi Zutshi, N. A. Jacob, Pankaj Jha, Chitra Joshi and Naveen Chander)