Ansh Goyal and Arya Shukla, UG 23
In a rather controversial decision, the Vice Chancellor, the Board of Management and the faculty decided to allot the ICT foundation course to only half the fresher’s batch of ’23 in the first semester and make the CT seminars completely optional. Rumour of this spread on the student groups in early August but there was no concrete source of information and no one knew what to believe. However, as soon as this was confirmed by the OAA, panic set in amongst the incoming batch.
When asked about the allotment of the Introduction to Critical Thinking course, the Office of Academic Affairs simply stated that the allotment was based on pseudo-random computer generated selections. While this may seem to be the fairest method of allotting the course; many factors need to be considered. The primary assumption of such allotments would be that all students comprising the incoming student body possessed similar skills that were at par with dealing with Ashoka’s academically rigorous curriculum. Moreover, considering the nature of Ashokan applications, the OAA had ample knowledge of the prior skills sets of each student in the batch of 2023.
Despite repeated assurances made by the OAA regarding this discrepancy in allotment, students who were alloted the ICT course reported feeling better suited for the nature of academic writing and thinking expected of them. When asked, students from the Batch of 2023 told the Edict that they found ‘analysing academic articles’, ‘summarising large pieces of texts’ and ‘engaging in spontaneous discussions’ easier. Meanwhile, students who have not been allotted an ICT course this semester reported entering every assignment with uncertainty regarding what was being demanded of them. Students who have been allotted the course claimed that they felt the course offers them a focused development of critically reading, writing and thinking.
Shubhashree Jha, Deputy Minister of Academic Affairs, told The Edict that they were not even informed about this decision and found out purely by accident when one of their members was attending a town hall around mid-June. A meeting was set up with the Vice Chancellor on the 22nd June and the reason given for making the CT seminars optional was that the batch of ’23 already had more Foundation Courses (nine) than any of the other preceding ones and accommodating a tenth course would not be feasible. Students still have the opportunity to take the course in their 2nd semester if they can fit it in their schedule. Professor Raja Rosenhagen, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, additionally informed the Ministry that the reason why ICT was given as a foundation course to only half the incoming batch was to safeguard the jobs of the ICT faculty, who are contractually employed, in the next semester (Spring 2021). The Ministry reiterates that the ICT is not merely a writing course, the critical thinking skills are applicable to all other FCs as well. To bridge any consequent gaps of not having a proper critical thinking course, the Ministry urges students to attend the plagiarism and writing workshops being conducted jointly by the CWC and the Undergraduate Writing Program. They also advise students to get in touch with the CWC and Professors Aditi Sriram and Devapriya Roy for any individual concerns.
These decisions taken at the administrative level discounted student’s needs. Student’s belonging to different educational backgrounds based on various education boards taught within and outside the country are equipped with different skill sets. Moreover, the OAA’s decision to intimate the incoming student body at Ashoka through an online orientation the night before the FC allocation began did little to assuage the many anxieties that arose with regard to this decision. This debacle further addled the new batch of students with stress, making their first online semester even more confusing.