Senate, IIT Bombay – Making the best decision(s)?
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Chief Editors: Anubhav Mangal, Suman Rao
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While many consider summers as a time for interns, projects or just eating ‘maa ke haath ka khaana’, a few people know the summer semester as the additional third semester in which courses are offered at IIT Bombay. A total of 40 and 36 summer courses ran in 2013 and 2012 respectively, providing students the opportunity to clear their backlogs (FR or DX) before the commencement of the regular session in July. Summer semesters have been especially useful for the graduating batch, who get to do the courses required to fulfill their degree requirements so that they can avoid an extension to their term. Traditionally, students who stay in the summers for various other reasons have also been able to register for these courses. However, from next summer onwards, this will not be a possibility.
The modified summer course rules, as approved in the 211th Meeting of the Senate held on the 20th of March, have restricted registration of summer courses to a student who fulfills either of the two following criteria
- earlier received FR grade in the same course OR
- has 3 or more FRs in other courses which are not being offered as summer courses.
These steps therefore, essentially, bar students with DX or no backlogs from taking up summer courses. All of this was informed to the students through a mail by Deputy Registrar, Academic that arrived on the 3rd of May, dangerously close to the beginning of the summer term, considering that initially this rule was supposed to be enforced with immediate effect.
These modifications would have had ramifications for the entire UG student community, especially those who received a DX grade and hoped to clear the course during the summers. Furthermore, the rule would have adversely affected the passing out batch, some of whom, if denied to take a summer course, would have had to bear extension. The GSAA (UG) asked the students to individually submit letters to Dean AP office for re-consideration of the rule. Subsequently, the administration backtracked after a lot of efforts by the academic council. “A one time exception to the new rule, applicable only to final year students, for the conduct of summer course has been approved for the current summer term (Academic Year 2012-13)”, said the Dean AP in a mail on student-notices, approving the exception only for final year students. However, this rule will be implemented next summer onwards.
Whether these modifications are right or wrong is another matter altogether. What is bizarre however is the way in which this rule was framed and enforced, the surprisingly amazing amount of urgency shown by the Senate, for well, not the most important issue in the institute.
UG Academics Rulebook describes the Senate as “a statutory and supreme body that
governs all academic matters of the Institute”. The senate is chaired by the Director, IIT Bombay. All academic programmes of the Institute are governed by rules and regulations approved by the Senate from time to time. The Senate is supposed to continuously assess the academic programmes and make appropriate revisions/ modifications/ improvements as and when required through two Institute level Senate sub-committees: the Under-Graduate Programmes Committee (UGPC) for the undergraduate programmes and the Post-Graduate Programmes Committee (PGPC) for the postgraduate programmes, both of which are convened by the Dean, Academic Programmes (AP). Students are represented in the Senate by the General Secretary Academic Affairs (UG) and Student Mentor Programme Heads (ISMP Mentor Heads). Thus, Senate is the highest academic body of the Institute entrusted with the responsibility of driving improvements in our academic system, opportunities for which as of today exist aplenty.
Senate meetings’ minutes aren’t made available to students. The only way, we as students, get to know about what happened in a senate meeting is via e-mails by the administration informing us about the new rules approved by the Senate. Due to this lack of transparency, there is no way to comprehensively analyze and comment on what the Senate has been up to. Since there isn’t a better way than relying only on mails, the author apologizes if the article doesn’t paint a complete picture of the Senate. Another caveat: This article talks only about UG-centric academic rules and issues and does not address PG related issues.
Recalling , there are three Senate rules that reside in ones recent memory, specifically because of a connecting theme. One of these restricted dropping of courses to only one week after the mid-semester exams. Another one, formulated in the 194th meeting of the Senate, displayed in red on the /asc interface decreed CPI for course credits and the project credits to be separately calculated and to be shown in the semester grade card, along with the course CPI, Project CPI and overall CPI. And the latest one modified the summer course rules. Add to that these the infamous first week compulsory attendance rule.
If you think about it, all of these rules aren’t “constructive” by nature. They intend to prevent possible “misuse” of the system by students, or to paraphrase, make students’ lives more difficult. Moreover, senate decided to enforce these rules with immediate effect without waiting for the next semester or the next batch. Students’ choices at a given time are governed by rules already in place at that particular time. Then, making rules on the run enforcing them without any time lapse isn’t fair, as students who have planned with a certain set of rules suddenly find themselves in no man’s land with the new set.
Furthermore, there is no dearth of problems with the current academic system. One of the most persistent ones is that of lack of a formal system for academically weak students, including IPE (Intensive Program for Entrants) and ARP (Academic Rehabilitation Programme). This has been on the cards for a very long time now, but there hasn’t been a senate rule on the same. Both IPE and ARP have their fair share of troubles and need urgent attention, considering a decision regarding the two will directly affect the incoming batch of JEE entrants. Then, why the senate repeatedly chooses to overlook such pressing issues and instead focuses attention on relatively non-issues is hard to comprehend.
Hopefully, the Senate will pay more attention to issues of greater importance for the student community in the time to come, while providing breathing gap between formation and enforcement of rules and becomes more transparent in its functioning. Furthermore, It should be the responsibility of the student representatives to increase student participation in the Senate by making and publicizing the Senate agendas adequately in advance of the senate meetings so that students can voice their opinions as well as stay updated and informed about relevant issues raised or discussed in Senate meetings.