I am writing this, along with many other students as news of a new Vice Chancellor taking charge in the University of Kashmir breaks in. Awaiting in anticipation, of a much required reform in the university, I write this letter to you with hope.
I’m an ordinary student revealing my ordeal, not just to express my plight but also to raise the very important question of the missing accountability. I write this letter with the expectation that the plea would be heard and necessary measures would be taken accordingly.
While another session is likely to come to an end and most of my batchmates prepare for a research degree, I await here in this deplorable and pathetic system prevailing in Kashmir University to take the final exams and get my degree.
Being the only state-level university in Kashmir, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Kashmir University is just another dismayed reflection of the state. But to what extent is it really viable for a university to function like that?
To what extent is it acceptable when an educational institution deviates from its purpose and functions like a prison?
My very introduction to this university was on the day I took my entrance exam for a Masters degree in 2016. I sat in a corner beside a broken window trying to solve the paper while the invigilators sat right behind me gossiping about their domestic affairs without the slightest consideration for anybody who was taking the exam, and could be disturbed from the echoing gossip.
But then that was just the beginning. There was more to come.
The admission process turned out to be an introduction of the red-tapism prevalent in the university. One is made to run from pillar to post for completion of the formalities and avoidable procedures for the admission.
The lower rung officials play a dominant role in the administration imposing their will with impunity, while at the same time enjoying impunity. I therefore ask, why is there no accountability for exploitation by the officials for the inconvenience, harassment and mental agony they cause to the students?
Next comes the phase of finally joining the university. I would have anticipated things to be not so good or even bad, but to my utter dismay, it turned out to be worse than i had imagined. The classes almost never started on time and the session was delayed.
In a place like Kashmir, where conflict takes its toll over most activities, I wonder how the university could afford such delay in addition to unavoidable circumstances, but then I discovered that unnecessary deferrals were a routine tradition in the university.
While other universities like IUST, CUK and SKUAST would be able to complete their session on time, Kashmir University would still be behind, citing reasons like turmoil, or any other natural calamity to hide its sluggish administration.
In a class that could barely accommodate 30–40 students, the number exceeded far beyond, in violation of the UGC guidelines that prescribes a class limit of 60. Is the university even well equipped in its infrastructure to accommodate such a vast number of students?
The introduction of payment seats and second shifts only compliments this fact. In order to accommodate more students, quality of education is compromised over quantity, which also puts more burden on the faculty.
Classes are irregular, exams don’t happen on time and this only leads to delay in graduating and issuances of degrees. With such shortcomings at its end, how does the administration even manage to make a fuss over attendance?
What motivation would a student have to go to such a place everyday. But then again, I suppose in Kashmir, it’s possibly acceptable because systems are less concerned with learning and more obsessed with futile and frivolous rules.
The result is ofcourse a deteriorated education system. And if this wasn’t enough, one is then left to cope with the recurrent and overhauling dominance of nepotism.
There is an overriding effect of personally held biases and prejudices within the system that one feels left behind and discriminated against, as these biases don’t just determine the behaviour of certain professors but also reflect in the marking.
The examination results are not merely a reflection of students’ performance but also of the impression held by certain professors.
Sycophancy plays a vital role in scoring as well as in awarding degrees, especially research awards. This has been a practice in the university since long. Students are often exploited to the extent of being threatened with delay in their degrees in case they raise voices against the unfair treatment and injustice prevalent in the campus.
And if the quality of education wasn’t poor already, it is then accompanied by an additional dose of religious counselling. I have often wondered whether I was studying religion or my original course. Are there no professional ethics? There has been a decline in a lot of cultural activities due to the fact that they are looked down upon by a certain section of the faculty.
In 2016, the UGC introduced a feedback system wherein students upto the attendance of 75% and beyond could evaluate the teachers and rate their performance. This, till date, remains unimplemented in the university.
What cannot be ignored is the introduction of compulsory uniform for various courses which has only become a tool for moral policing and harassment of students.
As a university student and an adult, my dignity is subjected to an everyday insult by the self-proclaimed morality police who feel they have a right to decide what I can wear. Where does this fall in the ambit of a university’s rules and regulations to impose a dress code at the university level, that merely follows the ideologies of the some minds, only to disrupt a healthy atmosphere in the university.
Under what system is gender discrimination allowed on campuses enabling male students to use the university facilities like the Library indefinitely while girls are expected to leave at 6?
What really allows the practice of coercion to be implemented for post-graduate students at the university level? Aren’t they entitled to due respect as students of the campus?
With such a failing system in place, I ask where and to whom do we as students go to for help?
In such instances, student unions could have played an important role, to act as a bridge between the aggrieved students and the university administration. However the student union stands banned in the university and rising voices are incessantly suppressed through ‘disciplinary action’.
In absence of a student union, a properly functioning grievance cell with student representatives could have been an alternative. But even this is not available. This only leads to further alienation among the students.
Is there no accountability for the authorities? The university has turned into a dictatorial prison and has repeatedly crushed spaces for dissent leading to a choked life in the campus.
Does this really suit a premier institution meant to impart education and teach questioning instead of being obedient slaves?
I hope that these questions and concerns will be taken into consideration and solutions to these problems will be found within your tenure as the premier of this Institution.
The author is a student at the University of Kashmir and desires to remain anonymous. A copy of this letter has been sent to various media outlets.