Our vice chancellor is becoming more and more of a magician. Over his viceregal lodge hat, he waves his wand and brings forth rabbits out of thin air. His stage assistants, the task-forcers, sway and make every wish of the VC's their ultimate command. They herd the rabbits pulled out of the hat. These rabbits that were once real principals are summoned from their offices and placed in the Viceregal lodge and have secrets whispered to them. Then they are whisked back into their own little holes out of which they emerge, principally hypnotized, to make pronouncements to members of constituted college committees.
The earlier magic show was about how to make the Program courses disappear, resurface as DSI courses and then quickly make posts disappear into thin air by increasing student strength in classrooms. Magic, we must remember, always defies logic. So never mind pedagogical concern that an optimal number of students per classroom is paramount to make classroom teaching effective or viable. The wand has also waved dismissively over shortage of rooms for teaching and tutorials. An increase in the optimal number of students in classrooms and tutorial groups was the next step into magic. After all the trick is to have everything down to the last calculation on paper. Magic has never been about ground realities!
The theme for the current show is the new Indrajal: FYUP foundation courses which promise to enthrall a diverse audience. Eleven compulsory courses, purportedly offering great choice and inter-disciplinary skill are to be studied by students across all disciplines. Hastily and shoddily cobbled, these courses form part of the magician's quick trick repertoire and continue to elude comprehension.
To popularize them principals have been given new magic words: "versatility" and "diversity" in the classroom. This is not to be provided by the courses themselves. Instead, students from three disparate streams are to be bizarrely assembled together in combinations of twenty apiece per section . Since the course content is not challenging, the challenge is to create disparity and distraction and make way for student melees during each lecture period. This student cocktail of three parts will then be served up as starters during Project operation which will be orchestrated by teachers providing special effects in the form of marks. What joy and jollity this proposed event will generate is anybody's guess.
At my college, members of the Academic Planning Committee and Teachers-in -Charge have found this practically unfeasible. Shortage of space has prevented us from including students in the game of musical chairs currently reserved for faculty members in the university curriculum. We recorded the pedagogic non-advisability of such procedure despite our understanding that Magic Shows are about razzle-dazzle and never about good teaching or learning practice.
The grand finale of the magic show is scheduled for July when the latest version of the Great Indian Rope Trick will be staged. Ringside seats will be available in June and laptops will be distributed as gifts at the gala opening. This time V.C. Sorcar will be using the university as a prop in lieu of a rope. The bad news is that instead of the VC's disappearance, as is customary, the finale hinges on obliterating the entire university in the twinkling of an eye. E-classes on laptops will be the only Virtual Reality left.