The decision of the University of Kerala Syndicate on Thursday to exonerate 13 students from various colleges in Alappuzha district, who were apprehended by the anti-malpractice squad of the university, triggered a heated debate in the syndicate meeting. Many members opposed the ‘unprecedented recommendation’ to hold a re-examination for these candidates.
Eventually the syndicate decided to conduct a re-examination for these 13 candidates, with at least four syndicate members expressing dissent. At least one member is understood to have given a dissent note. According to sources in the university this was “almost surely” for the first time that the varsity was exonerating at one go these many students charged with examination malpractice.
According to syndicate members who spoke to The Hindu on this issue the ‘offences’ committed by the students include putting a tick mark on the correct answers to multiple choice questions, scribbling points on the question paper, and writing down the derivation of an entire problem on the question paper. While some students are from BA batches and others from the B.Com batches, some were writing the examinations of B.Tech courses.
P.S. Sreekala, the convener of the Student Discipline Committee, which decided to exonerate the students told The Hindu that it was evident ‘prima facie’ that there was no intention on the part of the students to commit examination malpractice. “I felt that these students scribbled things down on the question paper in the heat of the examination. You should have heard them during the hearing we conducted. One or two of them had to be given counselling. I feel that the teachers in the squad should have been more discerning while apprehending these students,” she said.
While admitting that there appears to be no precedence for conducting a re-examination for exonerated students, Dr. Sreekala said that it is unfair on the part of the university to ask students to wait till the next semester examinations to write a paper. Syndicate members who opposed these decisions pointed out to The Hindu that it is clearly stated on the reverse side of the hall ticket that only the name of the candidate and the register number shall be written on the question paper. “We are no strangers to invigilation duty. During each session we ask students not to write anything on the question paper, to switch off mobile phones. So, a student who notes an answer or ticks the correct answer for a multiple choice question on the question paper is committing examination malpractice or has the intention to do so,” a syndicate member said.
Another syndicate member reportedly demanded in the meeting that the teachers in the squad be summoned and heard before a final decision is made on the subject. “By exonerating the students the university is actually saying that the squad members were wrong.
The squad members were on the spot and they saw what happened. The squad will hardly apprehend a student and then report malpractice just for the kick of it,” the syndicate member said. The demand by yet another syndicate member that students apprehended in similar circumstances in the future also be exonerated was not agreed to by the syndicate.
“The malpractice norms were laid down in the examination manual in the 1990s. They have never been revised hence. The SDC has also decided to consider overhauling the malpractice norms and to bring them up to date,” Dr. Sreekala added.