'They have blood on their hands': Ex-DU student slams University for mass failure in Sociology exam

Apaar Sharma, a former student of the Shivaji College in Delhi University, has written an open letter on Facebook to "the family and friends of the Sociology professors of Delhi University" vehemently criticising the University and its professors for the mass failure in the Sociology examination which took place last year.

They have blood on their hands: Ex-DU student slams University for mass failure in Sociology exam

Representational image. PTI

In June 2015, at least 410 students of Delhi University colleges had failed in Sociology, triggering protests after which HRD Minister Smriti Irani had intervened and promised an inquiry into the incident.

Sharma is one of the 410 students who had failed.

While 250 out of 260 students from Shivaji college had failed the examination, 102 out of 120 Political (Hons) students at Laxmi Bai college, 38 out of 50 at Janki Devi Memorial college and 20 out of 25 at Keshav Mahavidyalya had also failed to clear the exam, according to a PTI report.

Sharma wrote that after their papers were re-evaluated, only six more students from his batch made the cut. "They had once again failed 85% of the class (sic)," he wrote.

"Some of us were already afraid that it might happen. Earlier, when the results came out for the Geography course, they had failed their entire class (in Shivaji college)," Sharma told Firstpost.

He also said that when he spoke to the Sociology department teachers, they told him that "this happens almost every year and they could not do anything about it."

Sharma claimed that when he finally got to look at his Sociology answer papers three months after the results had been declared, there was nothing in those to indicate why he had been given low marks.

"There were four questions and 75 marks in total. Each question carried 18 to 20 marks. I had filled four or five pages for every answer. They did not mark anything. There were no tick marks, no crosses, no circles. Just at the end of the answer, they put an abysmally low mark...I got 6, 5, 4, 4 marks, respectively, for each of the four questions," Sharma said, adding that the teachers also never gave an indication of the grounds on which they had failed such a large number of students.

Sharma said he was "shocked" after failing to clear Sociology. "I scored very well in my main papers. In my literature paper, I got close to 65 percent."

"I never imagined I will have to go through this. I have never failed in my life," Sharma claimed.

The Shivaji College student has taken the University to court, filing a petition in the Delhi High Court. The next date of hearing is on 26 February.

Here is the full text of Sharma's letter:

Dear all,

In June last year, the newspapers like The Hindu and The Indian Express reported about the mass failure of more than 400 final-year students of Delhi University in an interdisciplinary paper, Sociology. I was one of them.

I was a student of English Literature in Shivaji College and out of 60 students in my batch only 3 had passed in Sociology when the results were declared on 27th June. Ninety-five percent of the students had failed including the toppers of our class.

The three students, who had passed, all scored the minimum passing marks, 30 out of 75.

It was shocking to see so many students failing in a single subject. 260 students of various Honours courses (like: Political Science, Maths, English, Geography) had opted for Sociology in Shivaji College out of which 250 were failed.

Likewise, 102 out of 120 students of Laxmibai College, 38 out of 50 of Janki Devi Memorial College and 20 out of 25 of Keshav Mahavidyalaya were also failed.

Such improbable result implied that either all the students had pre-decided not to study in this subject and fail or that a few professors of the Sociology Department did not want us to pass and failed us on purpose. I don’t need to tell you which one seems more likely in this scenario.

We called our professors in the college and they said they would write to the University about it. We went to the University and were asked to fill the re-evaluation forms.

It was the time of entrance exams and interviews for various post-graduation courses in most universities in India and we urgently needed the revised results in our hands to appear for them.

The re-evaluated result is declared months after filling the form. If we waited for it, we would have jeopardized our admissions in the master’s course.

We went to the Department of Sociology but the Heads of the Department were on vacation. A senior professor in the Department of Sociology advised us to meet the Vice Chancellor. Everyone was making us run from pillar to post without providing any real solution.

We emailed to the Vice Chancellor, the Chief Justice of India and the Prime Minister to take cognizance of this grave injustice but no one extended a helping hand.

We decided to go on a protest seeking the revised results within a week’s time.

We marched to the Dean’s office which had been cordoned off by the police, shouting slogans at the top of our voices and sat outside it for hours, in the afternoons even as the temperature reached as high as 40 °C, when in fact we should have been preparing for the entrance tests and interviews.

In the evenings, I returned to my room, exhausted from taking part in the protests. My throat hurt and my voice became hoarse from shouting slogans all day. My body ached and I wanted to cry because a feeling of despair consumed me that nothing right was happening.

After three days of continuous protests failed to make the Dean come out of his office, we hindered the process of new admissions in the University by blocking the way of the applicants who wanted to go inside his office and only then the Dean emerged.

Malay Neerav, the Joint Dean of the Student’s Welfare and Media Co-ordinator of Delhi University, assured us that the results will be re-evaluated on the priority basis within a week. This happened in the evening of 30th June.

He also said that the University will provide a letter saying that the revised results are in the process to anyone who needs it to secure admission in a post-graduation course in some other university.

We heaved a sigh of relief after days of nightmare. A little hope awakened in us again.

But a week went by and the University did not roll out the revised results. We realized that the University had made a fool of us and had curbed the protest so it could carry out the admission process without any hassle from us.

A friend, who had aced her written examination and interview for a post-graduation course in National Institute of Fashion Technology, approached Malay Neerav for the University letter which would explain that the revised results are still in the process but she was denied this letter.

She couldn’t help but cry in the Dean’s office as the man before her refused to give her the letter he had promised a week ago. She had to withdraw her admission from NIFT as she couldn’t produce the revised result during the verification process at NIFT.

The University finally rolled out the revised results two weeks after the Dean’s declaration on 30th June. They had passed only 6 more students from my batch, so the final result was 9 passed out of 60. They had once again failed 85% of the class.

The media wasn’t following the case anymore; the protests were long annihilated by the false promises and the University formally ended the case with this re-evaluation.

Many of my friends who had cherished the dream of becoming professors and who had burned the midnight oil studying the bulky books of The History of English Literature weren’t even eligible to write the entrance test for the master’s degree. They had to take up jobs in call centres and start-ups.

I got admission in Asian College of Journalism in Chennai on the condition that I provide the graduation degree before mid-February. I filed a petition in the Delhi High Court against the University and joined the college in July last year.

My dad calls me every night and in the last eight months, he hasn’t talked about anything much except the case – how he has filed another RTI, what did the University reply to his last RTI, how my lawyer is arguing well in the court, when is the next date of hearing of my case and so on.

The next hearing of my case is on 12th February and if it is not resolved in this hearing, I will not be entitled to get my degree in journalism. In April, when my classmates will dress in formals for their interviews for the placement, I will stay behind in my hostel room because I will not be allowed to sit for it.

I cannot even explain how frustrating it is that our lives have shrunken around a single issue and now it has begun to define us.

I haven’t written any poetry or a piece of fiction since I came to Chennai.

One of my friends, who was a regular on the social media, has not uploaded a single status or photo on Facebook in these eight months. It may seem innocuous or even ludicrous but it has deeper psychological implications.

Another friend has hidden her profile photo and status on Whatsapp, as though she’s trying to vanish herself.

Social media is used as a medium of self-expression and my friends have lost this ability. They are insecure and lack confidence.

In December last year, I was back in Delhi for my holidays and was meeting my friends in a cafe, we were talking about college and suddenly we were reminded of the bitter ending. All our reunions and celebrations are marred by disappointment now.

One student got so tired of this strife that they attempted suicide and was in ICU for almost a week.

I’m telling you all this because you should know that the examiners who checked our copies and failed us even though we had written ample to pass, are not just respectable professors in an elite university - they are also murderers of our careers, our ambitions and our dreams.

They have blood on their hands. They are responsible for a 21-year-old who tried to kill self and struggled between life and death in a hospital ward.

They are responsible for hundreds of students who stayed out of college this year and for the depression that many of us are dealing with every single day for the last eight months.

I am telling you all this because this discourse should also reach your breakfast tables and dinner-time conversations. You should ask them, on our behalf, why did they do this?

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,
Apaar Sharma

(With inputs from PTI)

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Updated Date: Feb 15, 2016 22:31:02 IST

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