DU Profs Will Soon Meet on Syllabus That Includes Chetan Bhagat

On Wednesday, the head of Delhi University’s English department, Christel R Devadawson, called a General Body Meeting (GBM) to discuss the modified Choice-Based Credit System (CBCS) syllabus.

The move came in response to a letter sent to Devadawson – and signed by 126 teachers – requesting a meeting on the issue.

The letter, which was circulated in the DU teachers’s email group on April 27, begins: “There is a serious participatory deficit in the process that finalised the proposed syllabus.”

You can find a copy of the letter at the end of the article.

Over a mere 5 days, 126 teachers from 42 colleges signed up. On Wednesday, after the request for the meeting was met, a DU English professor described it with enthusiasm as “a most welcome move!”

But why the interest in holding a meeting on the issue? Why the sudden clamour to get things in order? Could it be the inclusion of mass favourite Chetan Bhagat’s bestselling novel Five Point Someone in the syllabus?

“Chetan Bhagat Has Not Been a Factor”

About 10 days ago, the new syllabus under DU’s two-year-old CBCS was announced. A number of new elective courses were introduced. But the one that created the most controversy? The inclusion of Bhagat’s Five Point Someone in the ‘Popular Fiction’ course. The latter is offered to students of other disciplines (not those studying English honours) – but it still had students and teachers alike in bit of a confused daze. Does Bhagat fit the paradigm of popular fiction? Should he be taught? Why weren’t other choices debated? Etcetera, etcetera.

Which is why the letter now assumes significance.

Also Read: On a Scale of Chetan Bhagat to No Way: What Do DU Professors Say?

But the signatories on the letter are quick to dispel the Chetan Bhagat hype.

Hany Babu MT, Associate Professor, Delhi UniversityThis letter isn’t about any specific course or text. It’s about the general process – nothing specific.

The inclusion of Chetan Bhagat’s bestselling novel Five Point Someone in the ‘Popular Fiction’ course created some hype. (Photo Courtesy: www.chetanbhagat.com)

Reiterates Sachin N, Assistant Professor of English at Dyal Singh College and – according to most of the signatories – one of the most vocal voices in this campaign:

Chetan Bhagat is what the media is after. Yes, he should be debated at the GBM – just like any other text. I would personally like to dissect his phenomenon in class. But he won’t be the only point of discussion. We’ll ask for justifications about why one text has been chosen over another; why one has been excluded at the cost of another.

What, then, is the point of contention for 126 (so far) professors of English in DU?

The CBCS committee that decided the syllabus – we don’t know who was in the committee (although we’ve got some idea), when it was constituted. Normally, syllabus revision is not an everyday exercise, right? So they should’ve given a call to all teachers who teach this syllabus in their colleges. We didn’t know why some teachers were included and some weren’t. They didn’t deem it fit to invite all colleges to have a say.

Sachin calls the CBCS system “bad in conception, practice and execution”, but does add that the response of the HOD so far has been “very positive”.

Also Read: Why Chetan Bhagat’s Inclusion in DU Syllabus Isn’t A Bad Idea

As for Chetan Bhagat, the professors The Quint spoke to have insisted “he’s not been a factor in starting this campaign”, but it will still be interesting to see whether Five Point Someone is tabled or not after the meeting.

Here is the body of the letter that The Quint accessed:

27/04/2017 Dear Prof. Christel R. Devadawson, We, as teachers of English Literature in the University of Delhi and as your colleagues, would like to request you to call a General Body Meeting of the department in the context of Modified CBCS syllabus. Wittingly or unwittingly, there is a serious participatory deficit in the process that finalised the proposed syllabus. As an eminent academic and a long serving teacher of this University, you will concur with us that a wider consultation with intensive workshops and brainstorming will only enhance the academic quality of any syllabus. While proposing a more democratic, transparent, accountable and participatory process of the GBM, we would like to impress upon the following points. 1. Post the introduction of CBCS, many other departments of the University like History undertook syllabus modification through open calls of GBM, and subsequent subcommittees for each paper. You would agree with us that it would only be beneficial if we also follow this enabling example. 2. The Modified syllabus is guided by the understanding that "under existing UGC guidelines, only 10% revision was permissible": We believe, on the basis of documented fact at the UGC and at the University level, that this is not true. Up to 30% changes are permissible and it was approved by our own University in 2016. To propose modifications within a self-limited, self-imposed scope of 10% is not at all justifiable. 3. The proposed syllabus before us has of course emerged out of consultation among teachers but it has been limited to 30 among at least 800 teachers of this department. We acknowledge and appreciate the hard work put in by the colleagues who were part of this exercise but there is a greater need to expand on their work. This will also be in line with our earlier traditions (although abandoned in the interim) of syllabus formation. 4. No formal feedback was sought by the Core Committee/department from the College teachers. If there was one, as claimed, none of us received any such communication. Please also consider the fact that there is no reason for us to boycott or keep ourselves out of this exercise to better the imposed CBCS mess in our colleges. There could have been some unofficial feedback with the colleagues of the committee but as there was no official process of seeking feedback it can only be considered partial and non-exhaustive. 5. When one seeks responses at this stage from colleges and states that "no further changes possible in core papers of the BA Hons & BCom Hons", it really disenfranchises the majority from becoming part of the academic decision making process. As teachers engaged in classroom pedagogy, we look forward to occasions where our expertise and understanding can be put to use at the institutional level for the benefit of all. Syllabus revision is not an everyday process, and instead of extending this opportunity to all the teachers of the discipline, we are now asked post-facto to ratify these proposals. This has only disheartened us by affecting our collective morale and motivation towards our work place in a negative way. The decreasing number of department GBMs in the recent past, ever since the imposition of semester system, makes it imperative that we need one urgently to look into the CBCS syllabus and proposed modifications. We need to reconsider and reconceptualise the syllabus through a departmental GBM, a more democratic and participatory body. The Modifications should be pressed only after all teachers of the department are given an opportunity to come together and look at the pros and cons of the system and the syllabus, in entirety and specifically. We are aware that you also share the academic, procedural and democratic concerns we have brought to your notice. We also believe that you will provide the necessary corrective and immediately organise a GBM of all teachers of our department. Sincerely, (sd) Names in alphabetic order, and affiliation of teachers who have endorsed the call for a GBM electronically: 1. Aateka Khan, Bharati College 2. Abdul Hameed P A, Zakir Husain College 3. Abbasuddin Tapadar, Shyam Lal College 4. Ajanta Dutt, Deshbandhu College 5. Alka Sharma, Dyal Singh College 6. Alka Tyagi, Dyal Singh College (Evening) 7. Akhilesh Kumar, SGTB Khalsa College 8. Amrapali Basumatary, Kirori Mal College 9. Anjana Srivastava, Kamala Nehru College 10. Anshuman Singh, Dyal Singh College 11. Anubha Mukherji Sen, DDUC 12. Anuradha Marwah, Zakir Husain Delhi College 13. B. Mangalam, Aryabhatta college 14. Baidik Bhattacharya, Department of English 15. Bithika Ghosh 16. BR Alamelu, IP College 17. Chakpram Priyanka, Shivaji College 18. Deb Dulal Halder, KMC 19. Debjani Sengupta, IP College 20. Debraj Mukherjee, Ramjas College 21. Deeba Zafir, Lakshmi Bai College 22. Deepika Tandon, Miranda House 23. Deepti Bharadwaj, Ram Lal Anand College 24. Dhananjay Kapse, Kirori Mal College 25. Dinesh Panwar, Dyal Singh College 26. Elizabeth Thomas, Deshbandhu College 27. Gitarani, Shivaji College 28. Hany Babu, Department of English 29. Indira Prasad, Miranda 30. Ira Singh, Miranda House 31. Jayini Adhyapak, DDU 32. Jenny Rowena, Miranda House 33. Jobin Thomas, Jesus and Mary College 34. Jyotishman Kalita, DDU College 35. Karen Gabriel, St. Stephen's 36. Keval Arora, KMC 37. Konika Kwatra, ARSD College 38. Krishnan Unni P., Deshbandhu College 39. Kuntal Tamang, Motilal Nehru College 40. Madhvi Zutshi, SGTB Khalsa College 41. Manisha Sagar, Deshbandhu College 42. Manpreet Kaur, SPM College 43. Meenakshi Bharat, Sri Venkateswara College 44. Meenakshi Malhotra, Hansraj college 45. Meera Sagar, Miranda House 46. Mereleen Blah, Dyal Singh College 47. Mithuraaj Dhusiya, Hansraj College 48. Monica Zutshi, Kalindi College 49. Mudita Mohile, Gargi College 50. Munish Tamang, Motilal Nehru College 51. NA Jacob, Ramjas College 52. Namrata Chaturvedi, Zakir Husain Delhi College 53. Nandini C Sen, Bharati College 54. Nandini Chandra, Department of English 55. Neelima Luthra, Indraprastha College 56. Neenu Kumar, Aditi Mahavidyalaya 57. Neerja Nagpal, Aditi Mahavidyalaya 58. Nilofer Kaul, Hansraj College 59. Nitoo Das, Indraprastha College for Women 60. Nivedita Sen, Hansraj College 61. NP Ashley, St. Stephen's College 62. P K Vijayan, Hindu College 63. Parul Bhardwaj, Miranda House 64. Pema Yolmo, Dyal Singh College 65. Poonam Kaul, Zakir Husain Delhi College Evening 66. Prachee Dewri, Hansraj College 67. Pradip Sharan, Motilal Nehru College (Evening) 68. Pramesh Ratnakar, DDU College 69. Prasanta Chakravarty, Department of English 70. Pravakar Palaka, Swami Shradhanand College 71. Pravin Kumar, Satyawati College 72. Preeti Gupta Dewan, Deshbandhu 73. Priyanka Srivastava, Dev Nagar Khalsa College 74. Rajarshi Kalita, Shyam Lal College 75. Rajendra Parihar, Ramjas College 76. Ratna Raman, Sri Venkateswara College 77. Ravneet Kaur Grover, Ramanujan College 78. Reetu Raj Ekka, Indraprastha College for Women 79. Renu Kapoor, PGDAV College 80. Renu Mehta, SPM College 81. Rina Ramdev, Sri Venkateswara College 82. Rohith P., Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College 83. Roopa Dhawan, Ramjas College 84. Sachin N, Dyal Singh College 85. Saikat Ghosh, SGTB Khalsa College 86. Sanam Khanna, Kamala Nehru college 87. Sandhya Devesan Nambiar, JMC 88. Sanjay Kumar, Hansraj College 89. Saumya Jaipuriar, Kirorimal College 90. Sharon Pillai, Jesus and Mary College 91. Sherina Joshi, Deshbandhu College 92. Shivranjani Singh Yadav, Dyal Singh College 93. Shweta Sachdeva Jha, Miranda House 94. Shyista Aamir Khan, Dyal Singh College 95. Sonya Ghosh, CVS 96. Sunil Dua, Hindu College 97. Suresh P., Dyal Singh College 98. Suroopa Mukherjee, Hindu College 99. Taha Yasin, RLA College 100. Themeem T., St. Stephen's College 101. Vandana Agrawal, PGDAV College 102. Vandita Gautam, Motilal Nehru College 103. Veio Pou, Shaheed Bhagat Singh College 104. Vidya Das Arora, Gargi College 105. Vinita Chandra, Ramjas College 106. Viraj Kafle, Dyal Singh College 107. Yamini, Dyal Singh College 108. Yashpal Singh, Dyal Singh College These endorsements were received after the submission of the letter: 109. Ayesha Irfan, Dyal Singh College 110. Achinglieu Kamei, ARSD College 111. Rudrashish Chakravarty, KMC 112. Naghma Zafir, Zakir Husain Delhi College 113. Sakshi Singh, MLN 114. Manisha, Maitreyi College 115. Parul Batra, MLN Evening 116. Shradha A. Singh, Zakir Husain Delhi College