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An IIT Roorkee Student Explains The Injustice Of Expelling 73 Students For Under 5 CGPA

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By Abhishek Jha:

Two things that are to be immediately understood about the expulsion of the 73 students from IIT Roorkee: Firstly, that “merit” is not something objective or set in stone. It is in fact flexible and a meaningless collection of letters that needs to be broken with great exigency. Secondly, it needs to be understood that just fighting against the expulsion of these students or this particular regulation is not enough. A more fundamental change is needed in the very process of regulation making, one which is more democratic and includes students in the decision making process, as one notes from the cases of IIT Jodhpur, CBCS in Delhi University, FTII, etc.

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Undemocratic Mathematics Of The Five Points
IIT Roorkee students are surprised to know that rules were tweaked last yearto include a criterion that makes it mandatory for students to score a minimum CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average) of 5 to remain in the institute, although the administration claims that it had informed the students who have now been expelled. The 2014 ordinances and regulations that were referred to, in the notice informing students of the expulsion isn’t to be found anywhere on the institute website.

This new regulation was made during the last summer vacation by a Senate in the institute (which has no representation from students) without any consultation with students. However, Prashant Garg, the institute registrar told the Times of India that “The IITs are premium institutes and the rules regarding underperformance were clearly notified to students at the time of admission. ” The students have called the rule and the decision unfair because the institute uses a method of awarding grades that is based on a relative, statistical method, where some students are bound to fall below the five point bar. But in what discourse would the decision be unfair? The professors in the Senate understand the grading system fairly well. They know that even if all the students have understood a lesson, some statistical quirk (like most of the students scoring in a narrow bracket of high scores) can make one score below 5. This would be “mathematically unfair” if the Senate thought that leaving some students behind is wrong. But as the decision makes it absolutely clear, the system itself accounts for this unfairness by incorporating within its ideological framework the idea of “performance“.

The Deconstruction of Merit
To be sure, the “vision“, “mission“, and “core values” of IITs- proudly proclaimed on IIT Roorkee’s website – never even comes close to declaring “merit” and “performance” as any criteria for choosing its inmates. Three of its seven core values, in fact, focus on “social responsibilities“, “holistic understanding“, “respect and tolerance“. “Performance” is just what the administration has come to believe, on their own, as valuable.

If merit were to spread itself over all these “core values“, it would reflect the diverse abilities and interests of students. However, the administration chose to solely focus on grade points– necessitating emphasis on the decades old curriculum- to judge merit. This would not even cover the whole spectrum of people involved in technological work, forget about those working outside it. So much for “Holistic understanding, including knowledge of the human sciences”. For instance, if someone with poor grades does well in sports, music or is successful with a startup or heads the Students Affairs Council, they are considered “meritorious” by their peers. Among the various inmates, there appears to be no single metric on which a student’s merit can be judged. This shows how much of an empty signifier ‘merit‘ is.

No Place For Researchers?
It is interesting to note, that it is these professors that rue every year that there aren’t enough students opting for research work. However, did they not bring this upon themselves over the years with the increased emphasis and judging of students on grade points? Right from dorm-room allocations to course allotment, down to this cut-throat rat-race inducing regulation, their judgment is clear. CGPA is the only criteria which the institute cares for. In the packaged semester system, courses are declared redundant unless a minimum number of students opt for it. The students obviously opt for electives that are scoring, irrespective of what they would like to learn or what interests them, because ultimately it is the score that is going to make them market-worthy products of the institute machinery. Without any remedial classes or ones that enable students educated in vernacular languages to cope with the English medium of instruction, this machinery has chosen to just get rid of those who cannot or do not want to participate in the mad race. Mad precisely because this single minded obsession with the race does not allow for exploration or innovation but, to invoke a popular image, mandates following the crowd like sheep.

There is obviously a lot more at stake here than all those 73 students who have been dispensed like “collateral damage” in the churning of this machine that finds its undemocratic elitism almost enjoyable. An examination of the same is much needed.

This is Part I of a series. Part II discusses the caste statistics of the expelled students in the larger context of merit in IITs.

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  1. Raghav

    Okay, let’s admit it, it doesn’t take extraordinary merit or extraordinary hard work to score a 5 GPA. (And yes, I know course work is rigorous for so-called prestigious institutions, but then again, I’m from a more “prestigious” institution that IIT-Roorkee and still I’m saying this.)

    You can score a sub-5 GPA only if you are not putting any effort in your studies, and/or are extremely incompetent compared to your fellow. Turns out 66 of these 73 students belong to reserved categories. Isn’t it obvious that our undemocratic reservation system automatically makes the privileged ones incompetent? Most of them, not all, take the system for granted – they will qualify no matter how they perform. Consequently, they stop studying. Is it okay to keep these lazy people in a heavily subsidized institute? I think, no. You are welcome to use the tax-payers’ money only if you work hard and at least try to pay back in kind to the country. If you take everything for granted just because you were born to a rich family backed-up with undue reservation privileges, please leave.

    It’s high time we reconsidered caste-based reservation system.

    1. Dashdikpal Nandeshwar

      Hello Raghav,
      I request you to look deeply into meaning of ‘Democracy’ & understand it first. The undemocratic reservation isnt really the way it looks to you, but the essence of Reservation truly lies in addressing the ‘under-representation’ of certain sect of people so that they are not kept aloof of the best of facilities of the country, which makes Reservation as “Representative” in a wider sense, hence making it Democratic. Yes there are people from rich families, getting the benefits, but then this need to be addressed.
      The point being discussed here is about the expulsion of the students, please try to understand the gravity of the situation & be of some help if possible rather than looking the issue from the spectacles of Caste based reservation biasness.
      The students have been contacted by their seniors & when asked for the reason, they said that They have so far studied in Hindi & are from rural backgrounds with insufficient facilities, so they could not cope up with the studies in English.
      Thanks to ‘Reservation system’ that they at least got a chance to be at an IIT. They also said that they didnt involve much in “other activities” as such. The students could have & do cope up with studies(from my personal experience) eventually. Judging the students on 1 st year performance is not fair at all.
      There are certain students who have passed in all the subjects but still expelled because their over-all CGPA is less than 5. How do you justify that? I hope you understand the problem. 🙂

      The article written by Abhishek Jha rightly points out the ill-factors related with the IITR grading system & administration. The students must be taken back at any cost!!
      I hope Youth ki Awaaz takes some concrete steps in helping the students

      Thank you,

    2. Pritesh

      I study at IIT MADRAS. Me and many of my friends didn’t pay attention in most of the classes and never made notes.
      We have passed all our courses by just studying a night before exam. Most of us are either 7 or 8 pointers. Any idiot with a
      few hours of study and clear courses here. I think below 5 CGPA can be achieved only by those who didn’t even study as
      little as we do. The institute is right in eliminating such lazy, uncompetitive lot. I repeat, anybody can clear courses with
      just few hours of study before exam. Guess they didn’t even do that.

    3. Parvathy

      It’s brilliant that you market your institute, which I’m led to believe touts itself as one of India’s premiere institutes, in such an interesting way. But like the article hints at, and will possibily address in the next part, “a few hours of study” is relative to how privileged you were through your pre-iit days. Questions like whether you studied in an English medium private school, whether you are from an urban, semi-urban or rural background, whether you went through coaching- all of this factor into your performance. And its downright inhuman to except a universal level of performance when you know the ground reality will not allow it.
      On the other hand, does anyone actively address these issues among even among the students who so happily require only a few hours study? You could be saving a lot of students from suffering from a less than 5 CGPA

    4. Avinesh Saini

      I am not sure people here appreciated you speaking the truth man.

    5. Avinesh Saini

      In my B.Tech days in IIT Roorkee, most in my batch were from vernacular background. They studied harder than me and scored better. No one ever complained about their knowledge of English. They just mugged it up valiently. They only scored low in the courses taken by the humanities dept. I am guessing that there are refresher courses in English made available at IIT Roorkee. The students should have availed those.

    6. Avinesh Saini

      Well said. Also, we need to remember that coming up with start up ideas has got nothing to do with your academic merit. There is noo need for people excelling in sports to take up rigorous streams like Engineering in case they do not care about devoting enough time to their studies.
      Only the very weak students get6 CGPA of less than 5 in spite of the relative grading procedure followed.

  2. Pritesh

    Trust me if the grading was absolute, they probably would have scored below 3.


    Are teachers failed to teach properly keeping in mind the back ground of the students ? Do the teachers have capacity to teach student from socially weaker section ? Student who have enough potential but teachers are fail to nurture them. Who is more responsible ? Why not to punish teachers too ?

    1. Ayush

      Are we talking about a School? Or a world class institute?
      The are professers comeon, not english teacher.
      The one to blame is the one who made reservation criteria (whose base was to get votes to get high power), but didnt thought of further consequences…
      Now dont say they provided services to make them excel after coming into the institution. We all know with how much priority they are enforced in contrast to enforcing at time of admission.

  4. Karthik

    The authors claims about research is utter nonsense. I assure you that someone getting a CGPA of 5 is definitely incompetent of doing research. Anyone who has studied and graduated form an IIT knows how hard it is to screw up and get below a 5. Like Pretesh says, all you need to do is attend 70% of the classes and spend 4-5 hours before an exam to get a 5. And please, all grading is not relative- its a combination of relative and absolute grading only. There have been so many classes where 30% of the students get a 10 and classes where no one gets a 10.
    All I would like the institute to do is provide optional English language classes that weaker students can enroll in.

    I am also surprised that the Senate has no student member. Is it even factually correct? As far s I know, all IITs have the members of the student council, or at least the Academic affairs secretary (or its equivalent) present in Senate meetings.

  5. pas

    Great article, an eye opener for students and clearly we need to stop the mad race our generation is heading towards!!

  6. Vikas

    Dear Jha ji,
    I think you will also agree that a student scoring less than 5 CGPA knows very little about his subject (even though in 1st year, most of the courses are common and not related to specific engineering really). However, would you like to be working in a building designed by a civil engineer with CGPA<5 or traveling in a car at 100 kmph in a car modeled by a mechanical engineer with CGPA<5.
    However, I think that expulsion is a bit harsh penalty. Even in lower classes, if a student fails, he is supposed to repeat the class and not thrown out of school. IIT roorkee should look into that.

  7. Venkat Sundaram

    “For instance, if someone with poor grades does well in sports, music or is successful with a startup or heads the Students Affairs Council, they are considered “meritorious” by their peers.” That’s like saying Sachin who excelled at cricket also an excellent MP.However his attendance record suggests otherwise in a place where attendance is of paramount importance and is costly.If a person with poor marks excels in sports then he should go to a sports academy and not become a civil engineer and build wobbly bridges.Even the author’s 2nd part in this series is even more laughable where he suggests 64 students expelled are from reserved category hence the entire episode is vindictive.
    Disclaimer : I am a fan of the Sachin, the God of cricket not of Sachin the MP.

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