Presidency students protesting poor Part I results squat and chat in vice-chancellor Amita Chatterjee’s office room as if it were a canteen, treading the path of disruption patented by the political class. Picture by Anindya Shankar Ray
Students of Presidency University held vice-chancellor Amita Chatterjee to ransom for three-and-a-half hours on Tuesday, proving that the propensity to disrupt isn’t the preserve of the political class that paralysed the heart of the city yet again.
A month into her new job, Presidency’s “opening bat” found herself on a sticky wicket when a gaggle of students crying conspiracy over their “poor” Part I results demanded an assurance from her to take it up with Calcutta University.
The students, who were supposed to only submit a memorandum, ended up squatting inside Chatterjee’s well-appointed office room and showing scant respect for the vice-chancellor whose appointment they had hailed barely two months ago.
“We went in with our demands around 12.30pm, but she declined to officially accept our memorandum and seek a clarification from Calcutta University on our exam performance. She also refused to speak on our behalf. So we had little option but to stay put in the room (till around 4.15pm),” a second-year student of history told Metro.
The demands include a re-evaluation of both honours papers, which would violate the Calcutta University rule that stipulates a single-paper review in Part I. The students also want CU to show them their evaluated answer scripts under the Right to Information Act.
“We insist on a written assurance from the vice-chancellor that she would negotiate with the CU authorities on our behalf,” said a second-year student of English.
The agitation ended only after Chatterjee, a former Presidency student, promised to take up the students’ grievances with the CU syndicate.
The arm-twisting witnessed on Tuesday is not what chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee would have had in mind when he tried to fast-track Presidency’s progress to a unitary university.
The overall success rate in what could be the final Part I exam conducted by Calcutta University for Presidency students isn’t flattering either.
Around 500 Presidency students had written the Part I exams, of whom 18 failed overall, 12 failed to clear their honours papers and 14 scored the minimum pass marks but failed to retain the honours tag. The last 14 students would now need to shift to another college because Presidency does not offer general courses.
“The Part I results are shocking. The number of failures is a cause for worry. Our vice-chancellor should immediately find out why so many students have failed this time,” said a professor.
Many teachers, present and former, blamed the institution’s declining academic standards and “polluted” ambience for the poor performance. “Presidency has taken a steep fall. The results are a disgrace,” said a senior official who did not wish to be named.
“Lack of discipline on the campus, both academic and administrative, is to be blamed for the decline,” he added.
But who do the students blame for their below-par performance? “We have been noticing over the past few years that our students are victimised in alternate years. Awarding different average marks for girls and boys has been the practice year after year. We need to protest these irregularities,” a student screamed, standing outside the vice-chancellor’s office.
Nobody admitted that mediocrity might have seeped into Presidency.
Chatterjee, who later called up CU vice-chancellor Suranjan Das to request him to look into the demands, declined comment on her first gherao at Presidency.
Does she think there is merit in the students’ conspiracy theory? She wouldn’t say. Did she buckle under pressure? No answer.
“We will look into the complaints and do the needful if we detect any irregularity. As of now, we haven’t noticed anything unusual in the results,” the pro-vice-chancellor of academic affairs at CU, Dhrubojyoti Chatterjee, said.