Rules and violations – Frontline

THE Delhi University Act (Sections 7(4) and 30) requires that courses be introduced through ordinances. Further, Section 31(1) of the Act stipulates: The Ordinances of the University may be amended, repealed or added to at any time by the Executive Council: Provided that no Ordinance shall be made affecting any course of study, unless a draft of such an ordinance has been proposed by the Academic Council. Further, Sections 31(4) and (5) state: All Ordinances made by the Executive Council shall be submitted, as soon as may be, to the Visitor and the Visitor may, by order, direct that the operation of any Ordinance shall be suspended until he[/she] has had an opportunity of exercising his[/her] power of disallowance.

Thus, the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) says, the letter of May 25 sent by the university to the colleges on the undergraduate science courses is an irregular and illegal act as the matter had not been placed before the Executive Council, nor had the Academic Council (AC) drafted any such ordinance. In fact, the claimed passage of the courses by the AC is itself highly questionable as the basic departmental procedures seem to have been violated as indicated below.

The following is the sequence of events, for instance, in the department of physics that preceded the apparent approval of the undergraduate course in physics for the proposed semester system:

November 19, 2009: Head of the Department (HOD) D.S. Kulshreshtha called a meeting of the general body of physics teachers from colleges and the university faculty. The majority opined that there were serious limitations in the proposed model, that it failed in all three counts flexibility, interdisciplinarity and mobility touted as key advantages of the semester system, and that the teaching community needed more time to deliberate on the issue and hence its implementation be deferred.

The matter and concerns of teachers were never placed before the Committee of Courses (COC) for the B.Sc (Honours) and B.Sc (Physical Sciences) programme.

April 8, 2010: A meeting of the COC (Physics Honours) was called by the HOD at a short notice of one day to discuss the revised syllabus. Apparently, when some professors asked when and how the revised syllabus was evolved and who the members who took the decision were since the COC had not been involved, the HOD abruptly called off the meeting. The HOD is also stated to have refused to record the professors’ dissent in the minutes, and with the new syllabus not even placed in the meeting for any discussion to take place, the meeting was inconclusive. The COC members also categorically stated that the committee did not take any responsibility for the syllabus prepared by the HOD. Minutes circulated on May 6, however, recorded that the meeting had been disrupted by one Prof. Brajesh Choudhary of the department. In a letter to the HOD, Choudhary calls the statement patently incorrect and seeks to correct the minutes by stating the facts according to him. Several others too sent letters to the HOD on the incorrect minutes circulated.

April 19: A meeting of the Faculty of Science (FOS) was held to consider the draft syllabus. Amidst protests by some professors, the dean, Rup Lal, apparently declared that though he was aware that the syllabus had not been passed by the COC, he was taking it as passed as there was no time to refer it back to the COC. The dissenting opinions were not apparently recorded. The university website claimed that the FOS passed the course on April 19.

On May 7, the HOD called another meeting of the COC at a day’s notice, which was inexplicable if, as claimed, the FOS, a superior body, had already passed the course. Some college teachers recorded their dissent on the wrong recording of the minutes and reiterated that no agenda papers had been circulated for the April 8 meeting. They also recorded their dissent on procedural lapses and pointed out that it was not proper for the HOD to frame a syllabus without involving college teachers. After lengthy discussions, it was agreed that a subcommittee be formed to carry out the exercise with a time frame of six months. The COC did not pass any syllabus this time either and no subcommittee has been formed to date. In a letter addressed to all the members of the COC, Amitabha Mukherjee, professor in the department, sought to set the record straight by stating that it was only on May 7 that a 70-page course document was tabled for the first time. Since there was no time to go through its contents, there was no question of any informed decision on its structure, let alone a detailed discussion on its contents. There should be no claim that the COC had passed the course, he added.

May 8: Another meeting of the FOS with less than a day’s notice that many did not even receive. Despite the quorum not being complete and protests by many present that the COC had not passed the syllabus, it was declared as passed and dissent was not recorded.

Similarly, the COC for B.Sc (Physical Sciences) has not had a meeting until date to revise its syllabus. In spite of that, a draft syllabus’ found its way into the meeting of the Standing Committee (Academic Affairs) on May 11 with the statement that the course was passed on April 19.

The story in every other science department is similar. While mathematics and electronics have rejected the proposed format for the semester system and the associated syllabi, other courses have been passed by highly irregular means with the collusion of the HODs despite rejection by the general body of teachers. Protestations and arguments by teachers in the respective departmental committees about the violations of norms and statutory procedures were of no avail.

As in physics, other revised syllabi too, it is alleged, were bulldozed through in the FOS on April 19 even though they had not been passed by the respective COCs. These syllabi then found their way into the agenda of the meeting of the Standing Committee (Academic Affairs) on May 11 for approval, and were passed. There are also allegations of fabricating minutes of departmental meetings and misuse of teachers’ signatures. Now that electronics has been merged with physical sciences, it is not clear who prepared the electronics course.

However, the following specific incidents need to be noted for the record. Following the failure of the chemistry HOD to convene a general body meeting as requested, the teachers themselves called a GBM on April 22 and informed the HOD. The GBM passed a resolution rejecting the undemocratic imposition of the semester system and the revised chemistry course. Despite the fact that in November 2009 the general body of zoology teachers decided to dissociate themselves from the exercise of revising the syllabus, a meeting of the COC was called on April 15 at the behest of the Vice-Chancellor and the course bulldozed through without allowing any dissent.

The staff council of zoology, in its meeting on April 16, unanimously decided that the semester system was not feasible at present as it had not been made with the participation of the majority of college teachers. The botany teachers met on February 2 and reiterated their stand against the introduction of the semester system. In mathematics, the general body of teachers recorded their view in a resolution that the syllabus on the basis of the proposals of the Empowered Committee would result in a serious reduction in content and in the dilution of the Honours course.

In a joint meeting of the COC and mathematics teachers of colleges and the university called by the HOD on May 10, a resolution was passed rejecting the syllabus for the semester system. A resolution dated May 3, signed by many electronics teachers, rejected the revised syllabus.

R. Ramachandran

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