“Yaar medical mil gaya! Abb hostel jaakar araam se sounga," said a student outside the hospital with a newfound hope of an innocent child in their eyes. In the past one week, many students could be seen lining outside the doctor's door with the most trivial excuses, hoping to secure a medical which they could put in their I-grade application. The I grade policy was introduced to give students a fair chance of evaluation in case of a medical emergency. However, this isn't the first time our college has witnessed a sudden increase in the number of people getting ill during the majors' season and taking an I grade in certain courses. Last semester, when it was announced that the majors will be held in an offline mode for the onboarded students, whispers could be heard throughout the crowded library about taking an I grade and hoping for an online remajor. As fate would have it, the remajors had to be conducted online due to the unexpected third wave of Covid-19. The most obvious question to ask would be, Are all these cases genuine? Does this happen every year, or is this a new post-Covid phenomenon? To dig deeper into this issue, BSP reached out to the doctors, the staff of the IIT Delhi hospital as well as the students seeking an I grade.
"It is almost funny how they act all sick while making their entry and feel all good again until they reach the doctor's room, and then the drama starts again", responded the receptionist at the hospital when asked if she feels these cases are genuine. On the evening of 12th April, the last day of applying for an I grade, 404 people checked in at the hospital, with nearly 250 of them being UG students. While it is possible that a proportion of them were genuine cases, it seemed apparent to the staff and the doctors that most students were there to get a signed excuse to "bunk their exams." The records at the reception suggest that the distribution of the students reaching out to the hospital from the different years is more or less uniform, with the newer batches appearing slightly more than the previous ones. After a brief analysis of the queue standing outside room no. 5 and 8 and spotting their batchmates, our reporters concluded that many students showed up after skipping their exams that very morning.
What is the illness that a large group of UG students seemingly acquired?
When we asked the doctors, we got a list of the four most frequently cited diseases by the students to get a medical certificate in the past week - fever, stomachache, headache, and nausea. For a reason unknown, "loose motion" was at the top of the list, with almost every student coming to the hospital suffering from it. The doctor found it particularly annoying how generic and non-specific the students were about their ailments - with failing to provide any details about their "fever" or "pain" when asked more about it.
When asked, if these cases aren’t genuine, why the hospital provided the fake medical certificates, the doctors expressed their annoyance and helplessness at the whole situation. They tried to point out to many students that they are healthy and do not need any medication but only to be rudely shouted back at. In some cases, the students even threatened the doctor saying, "It would be your fault if we fail our exams. Just give us any sort of prescription." Overall, the doctors described the experience as exhausting and 'nothing short of a torture.' The staff at the hospital described that they have to go through the same ordeal every exam season. However, they also maintained that the size of the student crowd was significantly larger this year than the ones during the pre-covid times, estimating it to be around 40% more.
To understand the reason behind taking an I grade by faking an illness, we talked to a few students standing in the queue outside the doctor's office. For most students we spoke to, it simply seemed like a matter of being underprepared for the exams or a strategy to reduce their workload by taking an I grade for a couple of majors. Courses like MTL106 and SBL100 also saw many people applying for I grade. At the same time, professors from the Textile department said they had been conducting the major exam for the last 30 years but had never seen such mass absenteeism.
The situation isn't just about academic laxity. It compromises the treatment of genuine cases by increasing the hospital's waiting time and crowd. The staff reported arguing with students over not wearing masks even after being informed about the two potential Covid cases at the hospital. The crowding by the students also created issues for the employees and older people visiting the hospital, who decided it is better to leave considering the waiting time caused by the crowd. The increase in the crowd was so evident that the faculty visiting the hospital for their check-ups were very curious and concerned about the sudden spike. Some students had reportedly overeaten intentionally one day before their majors in order to get an upset stomach which would get them an I grade.
Exams were always a part of our lives. However, stories of mass cheating and unethical means to avoid evaluation have grown exponentially since the pandemic struck. While students do want offline classes like the "Pre-Covid" era, they do not wish assessments from the same. It seems as though students have grown too comfortable with the new normal. What remains to be seen is whether the students would continue finding ways to hold the status quo or accept the new-old normal.