Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) administration has announced that a decision regarding the commencement of offline classes will be declared in the next 3 to 4 days after January 20, 2021.
SPPU Senate members debated, heatedly, on Saturday, January 09, 2021, over the delay in the commencement of offline classes for undergraduate, postgraduate, and PhD students when schools have already resumed on-campus classes.
Earlier, on January 04, UniPune released a circular stating that on-campus lectures and functions will resume from January 11. State Higher Education Department issued a show-cause notice to the university demanding an explanation for this decision without prior permission from the government.
The university published another notice on January 07, withdrawing the previous circular, asking affiliated colleges to prepare for the reopening as per the guidelines provided by the University Grants Commission (UGC) while withholding the date.
Contrary to this, Maharashtra State Education Ministry that decision regarding college reopening will be taken only after January 20. State Higher Education Department issued a show-cause notice to the university demanding an explanation for this decision without prior permission from the government.
Senate members, however, criticized the government’s move and said it was an “attack on the autonomy” of the university. These irate members said that this indecision was affecting the students’ mental health.
Bhagyashree Manthalkar, a senate member pointed out that malls, restaurants, bars, and cinema halls have reopened. She asked why there was a resistance against students returning to colleges when they can visit these places easily.
Senate member Mahesh Abale said, “Since January 4, schools have commenced classroom lectures for Classes IX to XII. Schoolchildren are minors but our students are adults. If younger students can return to campus, why not their seniors? Are school students immune to Covid-19?”
While several Senate members pointed out that students and parents alike want offline classes to resume, SPPU Pro-Vice-Chancellor said that with the enforcement of the lockdown since March 2020, the university adapted to disseminating lessons in the online mode. They trained teachers and created extensive e-content.
He said that online lectures are still on, but when the notification was released on January 04, the state government had sent a letter to clarify some technicalities for which UniPune had contacted the state Disaster Management Authority.
“We do understand the impact of online classes on students’ mental health and career prospects, and we need to start on-campus lectures. Within 3-4 days, a decision will be taken in this regard,” he said.
Senate members also questioned the decision about conducting proctored exams, at the debate, following the 16,000 complaints received from the students. Senate member Girish Bhawalkar asked whether the university could publicly declare who had taken the decision to conduct such exams online.
Another member Santosh Dhore questioned the same, while further stating that there were videos online elaborating on how to cheat on such exams.
Senate member Abhishek Boke called these exams “a mockery of the system” pointing out an instance when a test questioned the students’ love life. Despite such concerns, the university did not address these issues at the debate.