Are you a sadist bureaucrat, Mr Vice Chancellor?

By Prabhakar Timble
03 July 2016 21:27 IST

Mr. Vice-Chancellor Sir,

I write this to convey my pain and anguish at the completely rigid and inflexible stand taken by you on the issue of non-declaration of results of a section of students of Dhempe College. There is no such an instance in recent educational history anywhere in the country. This decision of the Vice-Chancellor or under the directions of academic authorities of the University is also not legally tenable as evident from the judgements of the higher judiciary. The examinations once conducted cannot be held to be null and void unless of proven malpractices. Once students are permitted to appear for examinations and they walk the examination mat, results is a fait accompli. A declaration to the Principal of the College that the examinations are null and void without following principles of natural justice is usurpation of powers of the Head of the Institution by the Vice-Chancellor.

I am also deeply shocked and surprised that the academic authorities of the University which consists of teachers and educationists decide without any dissent whatsoever. Absence of dissent means the silence of the graveyard which is disastrous if it comes from body of academicians who are supposed to be quasi-parents and expected to be free thinkers. No protest from teachers and educationists. Not even a murmur. This is also a bad indicator showing that the profession today is totally lacking noble souls.

Mr. Vice-Chancellor Sir, your decision of chopping the intake capacity of students in Govind Ramnath Kare College of Law for some minor misdemeanor on the part of the college is beyond civilized comprehension. If this also has the sanction of the Academic Council of the University, it only shows that the teaching community of Goa in the apex educational body is suffering from mental sickness. This amounts to imposing penalty on future students who are in no way a party to the offence, if at all any major crime has been committed. You have wrongly made retribution as your guide in imposing punishments. Sir, the days of “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, limb for limb” are uncivilized and outdated forms of penology. Even, the Courts today have rejected this approach. As a serious and concerned educationist who has been closely associated with learners, youth and students for over 35 years, I find this atrocious as well as childish.

The Dhempe College accepting the fees and forms of students and allowing them to appear for examinations having set right the deficiency in 75% attendance through extra classes as an alternative to mechanically debarring them was a step to achieve the objectives of the compulsory attendance norms. In fact, such moves need to be welcomed rather than condemned. The earlier deficiency in attendance was due to certain factors which are transparent and visible. The mechanical rejection of the prayer of the students shows that the University and the Vice-Chancellor are bent upon following the letter of the regulations and their claims of maintaining high academic standards sound hollow.

Sir, the Vice-Chancellor is the father figure of the institution and should take a humanitarian and correct perspective. The teachers do have quasi-parental responsibility and need to decide objectively and rationally what serves the interests of students and academic standards in a better way. As an educationist, I do not expect the Principal and the Vice-Chancellor to take a rigid stand in the garb of rules. The Vice-Chancellor should consider the specific circumstances as pleaded by the students coupled with the general conduct of the students. If the student is otherwise disciplined and follows the norms of the college, discretion has to be exercised in favour of the student.

In educational institutions, the penal power should be exercised with abundant care and caution and particularly when such a power leads to disastrous consequences for the career opportunities of the students and mars or even ruins their future.

 

Vice-Chancellor Sir, the higher judiciary has ruled umpteen times that the lack of attendance must not be read as exclusive circumstance for debarring a student from taking his examinations. It is the lack of attendance coupled with other circumstances showing a general derelict behavior could be a proper reason for debarring a student. In the case of Dhempe students, the fact that they attended the extra classes to make good the gaps in attendance is a relevant point which needs to be given the weightage. Hence, the penalty should not be imposed merely because it is lawful to do so. The students have not deliberately defied the law or are not guilty of dishonest conduct. It is actually the rare category of students who could be debarred when institutional interests are at stake.

The teaching community would agree with me that a teacher faces the challenge of shaping the career of students. The job of a teacher is not restricted just to cover the syllabus in classroom instruction. In the Dhempe College as it stands today, the college took the corrective steps and hence the intention is clear.

Sir, the students need to be treated with sensitivity, utmost care and humane approach so that they blossom. Colleges are not supposed to be factories manufacturing students merely with high academic standards. Empowerment comes with education and not denial. Branding regular students as non-regular and thereby denying them the right to take examinations is likely to be a regressive step.

Let me also add that the power to debar a student for shortfall in attendance resulting in a loss of a year cannot stand without a corollary power to condone the shortfall under reasonable circumstances as the capital penalty should be imposed in the rarest of rare cases and after exhausting alternatives. There is no pleasure, pride and pomp in making this penalty as the first and the only choice.

Vice Chancellor Sir, if all this rigidity is only to justify maintenance of high academic standards, I have to state that high standards cannot be preserved by such easy methods i.e. putting the students under the guillotine of loss of year. We need to put benchmarks for faculty assessment along with updated curriculum and innovative learning approaches.

To conclude, I would say that rigidity of the type you have chosen to follow does not fit the coat of an educationist. It best suits an Inspector General of Prisons and the College or University is neither a prison nor meant for prisoners of crime.

Sir, it’s a choice which you have to make in your extended stay as a Vice-Chancellor which stands legalized by a special Ordinance issued by the government superseding the provisions of the Goa University Act. Should you be remembered as rigid, arrogant, inflexible and sadist bureaucrat? Or Should you stay in history as understanding and compassionate educationist? The choice is yours.

It is my love for youth and students that inspires me to pen this open letter. Do not attribute political motives to this sincere interaction.

Sincerely,

Prabhakar Timble

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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