For the last few days, JNU has seen a total strike against compulsory attendance, with classes not being held, on a call given by the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU). Tuesday, however, saw students and teachers getting back to classes — albeit under the open sky.
Stating that their problem was not with attending or taking classes, students and teachers — supported by the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) — gathered at the lawns outside the Convention Centre and the School areas for open-air classes.
Professor Archana Prasad, from the Centre for Informal Sector & Labour Studies, was among the several faculty members who took open air classes on Tuesday. “The idea was to show that students want to attend classes even without attendance. Neither teachers nor students like the way it has been implemented — it is very coercive. We have our own way of ensuring academic excellence.”
JNUSU president Geeta Kumari said classes were being held to clear “public perception” about the concept. “The administration has postponed the Academic Council meeting, where this was to come up for decision, indefinitely. We will continue with the strike in the coming days but we also have to make sure our studies are not impacted. We don’t mind attending classes but the problem is with regimentation; that too for the purpose of victimisation of activists. We are given a certain number of points every semester for class participation, so what was the point of introducing compulsory attendance,” she said.
On Tuesday, four JNUSU office bearers, including Kumari, were fined Rs 10,000 each for trying to meet the V-C over the attendance issue in January. “In the proctorial enquiry, you have been found guilty of leading a protest demonstration (some of these students had put head bands with ‘haazir janab’ written) of a gathering of about 50 persons (including himself) around 11.30 am on January 4 near the staircase leading to the Administrative Block. This is in violation of the order of the Honourable HC,” said the office order signed by the Chief Proctor. The HC order states that “no protest of any sort shall be undertaken by students within 100-mt radius of the Admin Block”.
In a circular on Tuesday, Registrar Pramod Kumar said the protest by the JNUSU and JNUTA was “deplorable”. “Attendance is already compulsory under the UGC rules for research scholars, who get 30 days leave in a year… The rule requires the maintenance of attendance records for official purposes. Secondly, the attendance rule does not prevent scholars from undertaking field research, library visits or other academic and research activities off the JNU campus,” he said.