‘Academic pressure’ led to five suicides in three years in IIT Kanpur

June 8th, 2008 - 12:29 pm ICT by IANS  

By Asit Srivastava
Lucknow, June 8 (IANS) The suicide by Ritika Toya Chatterjee, a B.Tech final year student of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-K), is the fifth in three years that is being blamed on a “hush-hush grading system” and a “poor grievance redressal mechanism”. Ritika killed herself May 30 after she failed in two of her final semester exams, despite having offers to join any of the six Indian Institutes of Management she wanted to. Ritika’s suicide was nothing new for IIT-K. It was the second in 45 days and seventh in three years. Five of the seven suicides were due to failure in exams.

Now the IIT-K alumni association is up in arms against the institute’s administration over the evaluation of answer scripts.

“Primarily, the hush-hush evaluation and grading system in exams, besides the poor grievance redressal mechanism for students and unfriendly nature of some teachers, has been taking a heavy toll on the students of IIT-K,” founder member of IIT-K alumni association Omendra Bharat told IANS.

He said Ritika’s suicide had once again put the institute’s evaluation system under the scanner.

“If a student like Ritika, who had cleared the written exams and the interviews of all the six IIMs can fail, you need not look for more evidence to expose the irregularities in IIT-K’s evaluation and grading system,” reasoned Bharat.

An angry alumni association has sought Ritika’s results from the institute under the Right To Information (RTI) Act.

The association has also sought results of all the students who had committed suicide after failing the exams.

“We have learnt that 11 out of 14 students of the Biology Science and Bio-Engineering (BSBE) Department, where Ritika studied, failed this year despite many of them getting over 56 percent,” said Bharat.

He asserted that the information that would be available thanks to the RTI Act would show that IIT-K had been despotic in giving “F” (Fail) grades to students who score even 60 percent and not giving any reason for the failure.

Meanwhile, speaking to IANS, IIT-K students also attributed the suicides to the “unnecessary academic pressure being created by a few professors” of the institute.

“Some teachers tend to create pressure on students by giving them last-minute assignments before the exams,” said Akshat Chandra, a former student.

Akshat, who took admission to IIT-K about three years ago in a five-year integrated M.Sc course, dropped out in his second year as he was not able to cope with the pressure.

“I was not able to cope with the pressure delivered by the assignments and projects and ultimately decided to quit,” said Akshat, who is now studying for his MBA from an institute in Gurgaon, Haryana.

Citing another example, the students said that some professors were in the habit of warning students that they will fail in the exams.

“In fact, a few months back, a professor of the civil engineering department had sent an e-mail to the students that contained names of the students who were likely to get `F’ (Fail) grade in the exams,” said B.Tech third year student Sarthak Kumar.

A batch-mate of Ritika who did not want to be identified said that students lost faith in themselves due to regular taunts by the teachers.

“Because of the repeated threats, the same students who qualified for one of the country’s toughest exams tend to doubt their abilities and after frustration they take the extreme step,” he added.

The students suggested the institute make changes in the present grading pattern and scrap the `F’ grade. Moreover, they said IIT-K needed to strengthen its counselling centres set up for the students.

“At present, professors are the only members of the counselling panel. The panel needs to have ex-students of IITs as students are hesitant to approach the faculty members for counselling,” a student pointed out.

Asked about the suicides, IIT-K director Sanjay Govind Dhande told IANS: “At this stage we definitely need to have an academic introspection to see what is ailing our students.”

He said the institute had decided to hold yoga sessions and art-of-living workshops regularly on the campus for the benefit of students.

(Some students’ names have been changed to protect their identities)

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