Five point nothing

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Vicious circle IIT-R students agitated against the expulsions, 90 percent of which were of students in the reserved categories
Vicious circle IIT-R students agitated against the expulsions, 90 percent of which were of students in the reserved categories

When 73 first-year students of the Indian Institute of Technology- Roorkee (IIT-R) were expelled, it lead to an uproar both on and off the campus. Their crime? Scoring less than 5.0 CGPA (cumulative grade point average), thereby facing the axe under a new rule. It’s a situation that would have made Three Idiots’ Ranchordas Shamaldas Chanchad explode in anger.

The students’ biggest grouse against the rule is that it is logically flawed. The grading system is relative and since the minimum grade awarded in a subject is 4, it is possible that even students who have passed all exams do not tot up the required 5.0 CGPA. In this case, 22 of the 73 expelled had passed in all subjects. “If students are expelled each year, someone getting average grade in the first year might be expelled in the last,” Punit,* formerly associated with the student affairs body of IIT-R, tells Tehelka. “If this rate of expulsion holds steady, 30 percent of students will be asked to leave before a batch completes the course.”

A similar grading system is followed in other iits as well but this Uttarakhand campus is only the second one to actually expel students. In 2009, IIT-Delhi had expelled some SC/ST students but the Supreme Court in the Avinash Singh Bagri & Ors vs Registrar IIT-Delhi case nullified the order, saying, “We are of the view that ends of justice would be fully met by giving one more opportunity to them”.

Students are also angry about the timing, saying the administration introduced this new rule on 10 July 2014, when two rounds of counselling were over. Denying this, Dean of Student Welfare, Prof Dinesh K Nauriyal says, “We had repeatedly made it clear during the four-day orientation in July 2014 that the rule will be applicable from first year itself. This was also mentioned in the rule book given to the students.” Samit,* a fresher, retorts, “Only a few students received the rule book, the rest got it toward the end of the first year.”

Established in 1847 as the Thomason College of Civil Engineering, this premier engineering college was renamed University of Roorkee in 1996 and became an iit in 2001. Those getting admission rank between 300 and 10,000 in the All India Joint Engineering Entrance (JEE) exam. With such wide variance, there is bound to be disparity in performance. “Expulsion has been made a rule in the first year itself, when students are struggling to adjust to the system. This leaves them helpless,” says Rahul,* a senior student.

The administration avers the rule will benefit students, as those who score below 5.0 find it difficult to get jobs. “We want our students to perform excellently wherever they go after passing out from the institute,” Nauriyal tells Tehelka. “With a vanilla degree, they would not have any place to go in this highly dynamic, competitive world. Keep in mind that they are pitted against the best in the world.”

It was also observed by faculty that such students fail to make the grade even till the last year. “The main idea behind the rule was to contain dropouts occurring even after six years,” says MK Barua, staff advisor on SC/ST issues. “What is the point in wasting years? It is better that students who are unable to cope with the system look for other educational options.”

The expelled students took recourse to legal action, but the high court ruled in favour of IIT-R’s right to make decisions and implement them. To its credit, the institute did relent, calling back 66 of the 73 expelled — seven were not reinstated due to low credits.

“While the matter was subjudice, we could not have taken any decision,” says Nauriyal. “At the same time, we wanted to send a strong message to students that they must work hard. This is just a onetime opportunity.”

However, a source tells Tehelka that the institute was forced to take back the students following a directive from the HRD ministry. They are to be re-admitted, repeat their first year and sign a document saying if they fail to score 5.0, they will be expelled. The rule, clearly, stands.

“They should do away with this system of relative grading in the first place,” says Udit Raj, the bjp mp who raised the issue in the Lok Sabha.

The administration, however, is adamant. “We stand by our rules. We have already clarified our stand,” said Registrar Prashant Garg.

*Names have been changed to protect identities

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