When sanctity trumped sickness
We can start with the timeline. We should start with the timeline. Two weeks ago, the alarm bell rang. The cases had begun their upward stride, and there was imminent danger. Students, professors, their kith and kin, and everyone under the sun was in the radar of the virus. The administration at IITD was under immense pressure, dealing with the double whammy of personal and familial concerns and checking out policies for the students under their cover. On 19th April, the elections were called off, the first signs of the graveness for many who were waiting for the crowns with bated breath. In the span of the next two days, there were multiple emails detailing the gravity of the situation, and how the administration was leaving no stone unturned in tackling the crisis. The interim relaxations soon followed. So far so good, excellent one could argue. We hadn’t seen a prompt and pro-active administration as this. It was an aberration, and the student community steadfastly hoped for it to last longer. Achche Din, however, maintained their trend of turning to be a fluke/bluff, and we were soon privy to the resolutions of the Senate meeting, held in the evening on the 28th. We hope too much too soon.
For the uninitiated, the senate approved the audit of three courses, one core, and two electives, backtracking to the provisions of the fall semester, along with an advisory for the professors to extend the deadlines. The attendance criteria was waived off as well. The proposals on the table ranged from a full audit of the semester to a hiatus for the freshers to allowing two audits of core courses for the senior years. None could stand the ground, however, with professors skeptical about the keenness of students to pursue internships. We doled out a piece on the lacuna between the worldview of a professor and a student earlier in the session. If you can, you must read it now, but let’s cut to chase: were these resolutions in proportion to the requirements? The students say NO.
There is a multitude of concerns. Advisory for one. When the senate ‘recommends’ a solution, it is not ‘binding’ on any professor to put it into practice, and the onus then falls on the student to make a request, which could well be turned down, as has been the case with most courses in the past. The question then becomes the following: who ensures the ‘generous’ conduct of the professors w.r.t to the I grade and the deadlines? Students tell us that there have been cases when the advisories were not followed, and upon raising the request with the concerned deans, it was sent back to the course coordinator. What then remains of an advisory in this case? Will it be possible for the deans to deal with every case individually? Add to that the sheer volume of apprehensions the deans and the professors would be working under, guarding themselves and their families against the infection. The answers then leave little room for speculation. We know you know them.
The now infamous ‘sanctity’ was upheld in the aftermath although, as the proposal to audit two core courses met the ire of professors lamenting the unnecessary extra audits. ‘Ek kaafi toh hai,’ they reasoned. The sensibilities of a student demanding an extra audit in the core category need to be laid bare here, for both our readers and the decision-makers to see: the onset of the wave has hampered learning, the pandemic has for that matter, and a lot of students either due to distress or health issues are unable to cope. It is also impossible to qualify the distress at this point, for the strain is equal if not more if one of your family members contracts the virus, and caregiving is taxing in the least. While the electives can be dispensed with or postponed for later, a similar route can’t be taken with the core category for various reasons. The sophomores are peculiar in this regard, for electives are a no-no for them, and the giveaway of two audits in the elective category is by and largely irrelevant in their case. Hence, the demand. A better way, in any case, would be to check for the preservation index of sanctity if we stick to the decisions, and see how we’ve fared, for going by the sentiment of the times, nothing but misery is preserved.
We cannot but think of the freshers here, who have half a semester to live through, and are left at the mercy of their respective professors. Why could there not be some form of uniform concession for them? Have we forgotten their particular vulnerability in this situation as the college-students-without-ever-being-in-a-college? We do not know the answers to any of this, we might never. We will leave with you another realization for now: the senate felt necessary to advise professors to be more understanding of the situation and give leeways. We need advisory for empathy, yes.