Admission season has begun at Delhi University (DU) but amid the ‘new normal’ triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic and without the usual campus buzz.
The crowds are missing, so are tents, special seating arrangements for students and parents and food stalls outside. And minimal staff is present as the admissions for undergraduate courses have gone completely online this year.
On the first day of the admission process on Monday, the usually busy roads of DU’s north campus were deserted and the colleges remained usually silent.
Quite a few colleges put up posters outside their gates, advising students to stay at home. A poster outside Ramjas College read, “Students and parents are not allowed in college premises due to pandemic”.
Principal Manoj Khanna said, “Earlier you would not even get a space to stand in our corridors on the first day of admissions. But things are different this year. It looks very different but it’s the only way to conduct the admission process safely amid the pandemic,” he said.
Ramjas has set up 22 rooms, each for every department, for admission work. Every time a student applies for any course as per the cut-off, the teachers on duty would get a notification on the portal. They would take out printouts of the application to calculate the ‘best of four’ and verify the documents.
“We have set-up a four-step document verification process. Once the teachers-in charge of the department clear the admission, it goes to the co-convenor. Next it goes to the convenor and finally to the principal for the final approval,” Khanna said.
Other colleges set up “online control rooms” to coordinate with teachers and administrative officials. The three-tier document verification process at Hindu, for instance, has more than 85 teachers and officials working together.
“Generally, we would counsel non-eligible students who came to the college and ask them to try in the subsequent cutoffs or guide them accordingly. This time, we received applications with much lower cut-offs.Teachers are not very happy about using strong words like “rejected” for students who have scored as high as 93-94%,” principal Anju Shrivastava said.
Jayesh Solanki, 18, who applied for the BA programme at Hindu College, said, “I had submitted my applications by 11.30 am today and the status is still pending. I called college officials who assured me my application would be processed and the delay was due to the load on the server.”
According to the data provided by the DU administration, as many as 19,086 students had applied for around 70,000 undergraduate seats available in over 60 colleges by 8 pm on Monday. Of them, 1,628 applications were approved by the admission committees of the colleges and 920 of them completed the admission process after paying the fees.
Miranda House set up a “virtual control room” to address real-time queries of parents and students between 10 am and 5 pm through video conferencing. A panel of four college officials were available throughout the day on zoom call. The meeting ID and password were displayed on the college website and at a huge banner outside the college gate beforehand.
“We have been receiving queries from parents and students who are applying to other colleges as well,” the college’s acting principal, Bijayalaxmi Nanda, said.
A “virtual tour” was organised for students who would have visited the campus had it not been the pandemic. “We are getting calls from several parents asking details about the campus. The Covid-19 pandemic has made everyone anxious. We thought it would help the parents if they could know the college a bit more, even if it was through a virtual medium,” Nanda said.
Every year, student outfits would set up help desks across the campus to help new students and introduce them to their political groups. This year, however, very few people were physically present at the camps organised by the DU students’ union (DUSU) office. “We have set up online assistance desks with volunteers to help students. Other than that, we set up a control room at the DUSU office to help those students who may not have smooth internet facilities,” said DUSU president Akshit Dahiya.
The online admission process and the pandemic left another set of people unhappy — street vendors, photocopy shop owners, and rickshaw pullers, who would otherwise look forward to this time of the year to cater to students and earn some extra bucks.
Naveen Kumar, who sells tea and snacks at a small kiosk near Hansraj College, said, “We would get the maximum sales during the admission process when hundreds of students and parents visited the campus. This time we hardly have any.”
Sunil, a rickshaw-puller, said he would easily make 30-35 rounds a day from Vishwavidyalaya metro station to colleges during admissions. “I hardly get 6-7 rides a day now. I was looking forward to getting some work during the admissions. It broke my heart when I got to know everything will be done through the computer now,” he said