From IIT Roorkee: The 71 Expelled May Have Been Taken Back, But The Question Remains

Posted on August 4, 2015

By Abhishek Jha:

Even after the High Court ruled in favour of the institute, IIT Roorkee has decided to revoke the expulsion of the 71 students, who were expelled earlier this summer, for scoring a CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average) below 5. The institute published a press note stating that it will re-admit the students as a “one time measure“, provided they agree in writing to some conditions. The condition includes repeating their first year courses with the same CGPA criterion that had earned criticism and protests from the students. Although the decision has been a relief to the expelled students, important questions remain. The primary argument against the expulsion was the criterion that required students to maintain a CGPA of 5 (while the passing grade point is 4 for each subject) which still exists.

iit roorkee student protest 3

The institute argues that if a student gets a grade point above 5 in some subjects, they will score a cumulative grade above 5. However, this is possible only in an ideal situation where all the students are equal and capable of outdoing one another in one subject or another. In the existing situation, however, students with JEE ranks, varying from hundreds to about 10,100 are admitted to the institute. It is only natural that they will have different scoring abilities. For no student to be expelled under the new regulation, their ability to score has to be non-uniform across subjects which is statistically probable if all students are studying hard and also have lived on the same social and cultural plane for that hard work to be transformed into grades. For example, In each subject someone will end up scoring a 4 in a relative grading system. If the same person scores 4 across subjects , they are out. Because they end up having the lowest CGPA.

The historical hegemony of the upper caste over education, the current social handicap existing for SC/ST/OBC citizens of this country, and the infrastructural handicap existing for the differently abled implies that there are various other issues that make the reserved category students unequal to their peers. That from the low cut-off marks during entrance examination to 90% of the expelled students belonging to the reserved category, it was the reserved category that remained at the bottom of the “merit” ladder says that, “merit” and now CGPA itself, has crystalized the existing social-cultural deficit.

What harms this deficit more is that the institute refuses to acknowledge a real issue plaguing our society. Even a pure academic investigation of an issue on the lines of caste is frowned upon. “We don’t look into the caste or religion. To us, all students are the same”, the Dean of Students’ Welfare told the campus news magazine. There lies a serious problem with this political position of refusing to talk about caste. It is a social reality which has made people socially unequal. Refusing to take this into account is marginalisation in itself. However, if we remember correctly, it is only on the issue of introduction of OBC reservations that the country saw IITians take to the street en masse. Therefore, it would be wrong to think that in IIT, people don’t “look into caste“. They definitely do so and that too without acknowledging their caste privilege.

If the majority of the students with low grades belong to the reserved category, there are other methods by which they are excluded from the IIT Roorkee society. The institute that wants to get rid of its “unmeritorious” students has special provisions to keep them out of any leadership positions too. Election, selection, or nomination as the head of a group or society in campus requires one to have a minimum CGPA of 6.5. If the current statistics are a general trend (something that is independently asserted by those opposed to reservation), the rule is an exclusion by proxy of reserved category students. One of the expelled students, who is differently-abled, recounts that despite the requests he made to his professor and the Dean of Students’ Welfare, nothing was done to address his problem in attending a practical in Civil Department.

At this point, it would benefit if the IITs, and the IIT in question, took inspiration from the MIT, in whose image they were established by the Institute of Technology Act. If they ever looked at MIT’s Institute Community and Equity Office’s programmes, the IITs would be put to shame on how little they do for people from marginalised communities. Re-admitting the students without changing the system is only tokenism aimed at pacifying dissent. It is time all the IIT administrations were asked some tough questions.

This is Part 4 of a series. Read Part I, Part II, and Part III.

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