Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Story of 'Rampant Copying'

Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, Eklavya, JEE, 2006, IIT, RTI, Right To Information, Act, Ethical, Journalism, Rampant Copying, Cheating

Hindustan Times
1st December, 2010

Hindustan Times, Mumbai Edition

2nd December, 2011

Hindustan Times (Internet Edition) 
2nd December, 2010

'Crowded IIT helps cheats'  

Seating Problem : Kharagpur professor writes to authorities, pointing out rampant copying during tests
Charu Sudan Kasturi, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, December 01, 2010
Crowded classes at the oldest Indian Institute of Technology, in Kharagpur, may have spawned an unexpected problem - increased copying among students in crucial tests that determine their overall performance at the premier engineering school. Senior IIT Kharagpur computer science professor Rajeev Kumar has written to top Institute authorities pointing out "rampant copying" among students, especially in subject examinations held by specific departments.  
This cheating is a result of improper seating arrangements, Kumar has written to Director Damodar Acharya and Institute examinations in-charge B Maiti, requesting a special meeting of the IIT Senate to discuss the problem.
But senior IIT Kharagpur officials blame the space crunch caused by the massive 54 per cent increase in total student intake following the implementation of the OBC quota law, to explain their inability to space student test-takers better. The hike in total student intake -- across categories -- means that the IIT is currently faced with a space shortage in classes, hostels and in examination halls.
This space shortage forces the IIT to seat students appearing for the same subject next to each other, facilitating cheating, the officials argued.
But while curbing any copying is a priority, ensuring students appearing for the same subject test do not sit next to each other will not be easy, they said.
"We have 1400 first year students who appear for the same subjects. We are struggling for space. Fancy seating arrangements are something we cannot afford at the moment," a senior administrator said.
Scores in the IIT examinations all contribute to the cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of students at the end of their course. The CGPA plays a key role in determining eligibility of students in the eyes of companies that come for on-campus placements, and higher educational institutions.
Kumar has suggested mapping the student seating to the subject they appear for, and then ensuring that no two subjects are close to each other. He has argued that this system of seating was followed earlier based on his proposal and had proved successful.
"Kumar's argument appears justified, and his suggestion should be followed. But if space is indeed a barrier in implementing Kumar's solution, the institute's position must also be understood," another senior IIT Kharagpur professor said.
Kumar is arguing that his seating suggestion can be followed despite the space constraints but IIT authorities argue they need an upcoming new academic block to be ready for seating problems to be sorted out.

Kumar’s View
-  ‘Rampant copying’ among students, especially in subject examinations held by specific departments.
-   This cheating is a result of improper seating arrangements.
-   Need an upcoming new academic block to be ready for seating problems to be sorted out.
-  Kumar has suggested mapping the student seating to the subject they appear for, and then ensuring that no two subjects are close to each other.
Administration’s Defence
-   Blame the space crunch caused by the massive 54 percent increase in total student intake following the implementation of OBC quota law.
-   This space shortage forces the IIT to seat students appearing for the same subject next to each other, facilitating cheating.
-   Have 1400 first year students who appear for the same subjects. Fancy seating arrangements are something we cannot afford at this moment
Kumar’s argument appears justified, and his suggestion should be followed.
-- an administrator
If space is indeed a barrier, . . . the institute’s position must also be understood.
-- a professor

Review of the Allegations / Claims

  1. In IIT Kharagpur, examination invigilation is performed by faculty members of the institute.
  1. Cases of examination malpractice, as reported by the teachers, are taken up by the Examination Malpractice Committee and subsequently the punishment is meted out as per norms.
  1. This is ratified by the Undergraduate Program Evaluation Committee (UGPEC) and Postgraduate Program Evaluation Committee (PGPEC) and then by the Senate.
  1. The UGPEC and PGPEC have representatives from all departments. [Professor Rajeev Kumar is the UGPEC representative from CSE Department for several years’]
  1. The Senate, consisting of all Professors and some other nominated members forms the highest academic body of the Institute. [Professor Rajeev Kumar is a member of the Senate.]
  1. The allegation of ‘rampant copying’ was discussed at length in the 296th Senate Meeting held on December 27, 2010. It was attended by more than hundred  Senate Members. 


Discussions Related to the Senate Meeting:
  1. In connection with his claim of ‘rampant copying’, several Professors, Heads of Departments, etc stated to / asked Professor Rajeev Kumar the following:

    1. What is the percentage of students who were copying? Professor Rajeev Kumar gave no reply. [It is observed from the reports of the malpractice committee reports, the percentage was less than 0.1%]

    1. What is the material evidence Professor Rajeev Kumar has of ‘rampant copying’? Is there any documented evidence he has of ‘rampant copying’? Prof Kumar stated two cases. [No evidence was provided by Professor Kumar other than his claim to have reported two to four cases in the last ten years.]
    1. How many departments has he visited when examinations were conducted in various departments and what evidence he has of ‘rampant copying’ in department examinations? Professor Kumar gave no reply. [Prof Kumar has provided no data on ‘rampant copying’ in department examinations.]

    1. Heads of several departments as well as members of his own department refuted the claim of ‘rampant copying’ in department examinations.

    1. Professor Rajeev Kumar is the CSE Department’s representative in UGPEC for the last several years. Prior to writing to Chairman Senate he has not reported cases of ‘rampant copying’ in examinations either in the CSE department or in the UGPEC.

    1. Many Senate members unequivocally stated that, based on their experience in invigilation, they could vouch that there was no ‘rampant copying’ in examinations.    

    1. No other Senate member supported Professor Rajeev Kumar’s claim of ‘rampant copying’.

  1. Referring to Professor Rajeev Kumar’s claim that he had proposed the ABCD seating arrangements in 2001/2,
    1. The then Professor-in-Charge of Examinations, who was present, said that it was developed by the then Dean (Academic) and himself and he had no inputs from Professor Rajeev Kumar in this matter.
    1. He also stated that the system was implemented for resolving the problem of seating arrangements in elective subject examinations and not because the students were copying.
    1. Professor Rajeev Kumar stated that he had given this input to the then Dean (Academic), who was not in IIT Kharagpur now.
    1. The then Dean (Academic), when contacted later by other faculty members, refuted the claim of Professor Rajeev Kumar, saying that this arrangement was not done because of any input from Professor Rajeev Kumar.
  1. Impact of widespread publication of the allegations:
    1. The Professor-in-Charge of Placement has said that this sort of baseless allegations widely published in media in such an irresponsible fashion would have a serious effect on placement of students. Companies were already asking questions.
    1. The Dean (Alumni and International Affairs) stated that this was casting aspersions on the Alumni and many have expressed their anguish and dismay at spreading of such news.
    1. Other faculty members stated that earning a reputation takes years and such reports bring a bad name in no time. Everyone was faced defending this wherever he or she went.
    1. All were very anguished as to how established media could publish such an article, which can cause damage that is very hard to repair, without proper facts and research.


Aspects related to Transparency, Accountability, RTI

  1. [Transparency, Accountability]

    1. Professor Kumar claimed that the information was not sent to the media by him, but may have gone to media from the receivers end, obviously referring to the Institute Academic Administrators, namely Chairman Senate, Dean (Academic), Deans (Post-Graduate Studies & Research), etc.

    1. But data shows otherwise. For example, it has been found that, prior to the Senate Meeting, an email (obviously privileged communication) sent by Professor Rajeev Kumar to the Director and Chairman Senate was circulated by Professor Rajeev Kumar from his known google (gmail) account to hundreds of people in blind carbon copy (bcc) mode. Copies of this mail have also been received by a large section of faculty members of IIT Kharagpur. So, in spite of his assertion, he is clearly responsible for its wide circulation. Professor Kumar has not responded to requests to provide details of whom he has circulated the mail to.

    1. Professor Rajeev Kumar has publicly refuted claims that he gave an interview to a local Kharagpur newspaper in this matter. However, when asked specifically whether he discussed this with the Hindustan Times or not, he has kept silent. When a pointed question as why he did not refute the claims of Hindustan Times when he himself said that he has not made any comments on the CSE Department, he has refused to respond.

  1. [Post-facto RTI Application]
After making allegations of rampant copying, Professor Rajeev Kumar filed an RTI application in IIT Kharagpur, asking for minute details of examination schedule, seating arrangements, room dimensions, etc including his own department. This was filed after the Senate Meeting, after he failed to provide any evidence to his allegations in the Senate. This raises several issues.

    1. Firstly, he already had most of the relevant information as the examination schedule and room allocation is provided to all departments and circulated in the internal mail prior to examinations. Why did he ask for it by including peculiar details like actual room dimensions (length, width), size of each seat, does the room have a staircase, etc, which he knows are quite time consuming and possibly not really important, except for causing trouble to every department.

    1. Secondly, at least he could have spared his own department because that information was surely available with him or could have been easily collected by himself. One of his colleagues had to collate it for him, ask Prof Kumar to verify his own course and invigilation data. Professor Kumar did not even have the basic etiquette to save his colleague from the trouble. When people of the department asked who wanted this data, Prof Rajeev Kumar did not even have the courage to state that it was he who had filed the RTI. Is this how a ‘self proclaimed courageous activist’ works?

    1. Thirdly and most importantly, why was he trying to develop evidence now – post-facto - after making his allegations and spreading it all over? Why did he file it after it became clear in the Senate Meeting that he had no evidence to show on that day? Should he not have done this research much earlier?


Questions / Issues

  1. Why did Professor Rajeev Kumar make such a claim of ‘rampant copying’ to denigrate his own institution without placing any facts or data. Why did he work assiduously towards its wide circulation? Will his intentions not be considered malicious, especially when he is a member of the administration of the process, being a member of UGPEC for many years?

  1. Being a person who preaches transparency, accountability, right to information, why is he circulating confidential and privileged information in bcc all over the world, prior to the Senate Meeting? Afterwards, when IIT people want to know whom he has sent the mails, he refuses to divulge. Do the rules of transparency, accountability and right to information not apply to him? Is this not hypocrisy? Does the RTI Community approve of this?

  1. Should he not be labeled as a false whistle-blower who tries to defame others without evidence and with malicious personal interests? Is this not a blot on the illustrious ‘rights activists’ who fight for public good, including many who have graduated from IIT Kharagpur and have dedicated their lives to the cause without any personal interest? While the nation needs true whistle-blowers, do the acts of Professor Rajeev Kumar not harm the cause to a great extent? Is this proper activism?

  1. Should the media not be more responsible in publishing such sensational news? Why did the media not perform detailed research before trying to sensationalize the matter which spread like wild-fire all over the world and is seen in hundreds of sites? Isn’t the specific media person and Professor Rajeev Kumar connection in false reporting not becoming repetitive? Is this ethical journalism?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Dronacharya for bringing in the open the whole issue.

    As a student of IIT, be it KGP or any, we pride of being honest when it comes to our work. But thanks to our own Prof Rajeev Kumar, today we get labelled as 'cheaters'. If he felt there was so much rampant copying what was he doing these past 10 yrs. He seem to get 'enlightenment' after his son failed to get thru JEE.

    Besides this as student of KGP I wanna ask the authorities too what steps are being taken on the issue? This is no joke respected Sirs. Its a matter of our career. And we request, no sir not demand, that you guys take appropriate actions against this prof and also do address the issue in the media. This needs to be refuted publicly for the sake of students.