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Unambitious 2009 report on NLSIU bashes students for ‘unabashed sex’ & drugs but little else

Report does NOT mention any snakes on NLS Nagarbhavi campus
Report does NOT mention any snakes on NLS Nagarbhavi campus

Justice KT Thomas’ 2009 review of NLSIU Bangalore focused on NLSIU students’ vision and academic issues but stopped short of looking deeper into the books of accounts or administration, unlike the hard-hitting Nalsar Hyderabad judicial inquiry from 2011.

Former Supreme Court judge Thomas headed the three-member School Review Commission (SRC) including professor Virendra Kumar, former law department chairman of the Delhi University law faculty, and former NUJS Kolkata vice-chancellor professor MP Singh.

“The commission decided to focus its concerns principally on three counts: (i) the vision of the persons at the time of their joining the NLSIU; (ii) the extent of realization of that vision; and (iii) the bottlenecks they experienced or encountered in fulfilling that vision,” stated the SRC’s report, a copy of which was published by legal publication Bar & Bench yesterday. [download PDF of full report here]

On 15 January 2011, the Times of India had reported that the “dismal state of affairs” at NLSIU, was evidenced by “just 4-6 hours of classroom teaching a week, rising instances of drug abuse, sex and drinking among students, indifference to plagiarism in student project reports and decline in serious research pursuit and academic rigour.”

Glowing introduction

Pages 4 to 9 of the report are complimentary, describing the phase of “exploration and growth” at the college since its founding, while the section heading “diminution” starts by citing NLSIU’s rank slipping to second spot in India Today’s law college rankings in 2011 behind Nalsar.

The SRC reported that after the founding members left (Professor Madhava Menon had started NLSIU in 1988), administrative and academic affairs began to be taken care of by the next generation. The “level of functioning of the NLSIU is now far from expectation”, stated the report.

The commission was also not impressed with teaching and research output of the faculty, criticising in particular “the extinction of March of the Law and NLSIU Journal” in 1992 and 1999 respectively, as well as faculty indifference to plagiarism in students’ project reports, stating: “The teachers are often ignorant and mostly indifferent.”

The report briefly alleged the college was “dolling [sic] out favours” to “undeserved” retired district judges with no prior academic contributions, who were appointed to academic positions at NLS, but did not name any such appointees.

Distressed

Additionally, the report claimed that the students’ state of affairs had been “distressing”, and it was displeased with one faculty’s account of “resort to drugs and liquors among students” and “unabashed indulgence in sex has been disturbingly on the rise”.

“The rumour mill has it that the preference for NLS is because of its climate of license,” the the committee re-reported the faculty member complaint.

The report concluded: “The young minds, in the absence of beneficent control and interactive relationship with the teachers, have become an easy prey to all sorts of evil practices of smoking, drinking, drug abuse, sex, etc., resulting into terrible stress, dreadful depression, at least two cases of suicides and a dozen of attempted suicides, and even a murder!”.

That murder appears to refer to the year 2007 incident where two youths working as labourers in Nagarbhavi factories were arrested for stabbing to death final year NLS student Alyosha Kumar and injuring his classmate Siddarath on Nagarbhavi main road, reported The Hindu.

The commission report into Nalsar involved four current and former judges investigating the college for four months and 30 days of meetings. Their final report included detailed examination of the financial accounts, a long list of student grievances and even cited complaints of scorpions on campus. Current vice-chancellor Veer Singh has since resigned, Legally India reported today.

Legally India had requested a copy of the NLSIU report and financial accounts and similar reports from six other national law schools under right to information (RTI) laws on Monday (6 February).

Report’s highlights in a nutshell

India Today ranking drop diminutes (sic) NLS (page 9)

“By virtue of its merit and traditional inertia, the NLSIU is still rated as Number One amongst the top 15 Law Colleges in India. This ranking is reported to have been done on the basis of its record in terms of placements, faculty competence, infrastructure, and pedagogic systems (see, Outlook, “India’s Top Professional Colleges,” June 24- 30, 2008, at page 37).

“However, this ranking has slipped to Number Two position during the current year according to India Today. Despite the relative top position of the NLSIU, a certain degree of gradual diminution has started creeping in during the past ten years or so. The decline is in relation to its own high standard that the NLSIU had set in for itself. Such a change […] seemed evident when the responsibility of academic and administrative functioning of the NLSIU passed on from the founding members to the next generation of builders of the school.”

Disarrayed institution (page 10)

“Drawing the detailed rules and regulations, indeed, is an integral part of the process of institutionalization, which has hitherto not taken place unfortunately. In the absence of those rules and regulations, the working of the NLSIU has fallen into disarray.”

Show me the hours (page 10-11)

“Some teachers, especially amongst the younger members of the faculty, have been assigned courses to teach in which they hardly had any prior requisite in-depth exposure.”

“Workload of class-room teaching has been reduced from 14-16 hours to 4-6 hours per week for all.”

“Cancellation of the scheduled class owing to the non-availability of the teacher concerned at the last moment has become rather a common practice.” “Teaching of courses has become a matter of whims and fancies of each teacher.”

No March of Law (page 12)

“It is a pity to learn that the publication of March of the Law was stopped after 1992, whereas NLSIU Journal did not see the light of the day after 1998-99.”

Ignorant, indifferent, undeserved teachers (page 12)

“The teachers are often ignorant and mostly indifferent to the menace of plagiarism in the project reports submitted by the students.

“The pivotal appointments on the academic side, say, to the post of Adjunct Professor carrying the honorarium of Rs. 35,000 per month, are being made from amongst the non-academic persons, like the retired District Judges with no prior academic contribution. This amounts to dolling out favours amongst the undeserved ones, and thereby diluting the academic standards.”

Drastic decline (page 13)

“The overall emerging picture on the basis of totality of circumstances reveals that there is drastic decline in discipline and dilution of academic standard. The rigorous work culture and singular commitment, which used to be the hallmark of the NLSIU during the first decade of its existence, is on the wane.

“Despite the fact that the NLSIU still continues to hold the premier position amongst the law schools in India, the common entrenched feeling that the SRC has gathered from diverse sources is that of extreme ‘dissatisfaction’: the level of functioning of the NLSIU is now far from expectation.”

Knowledgeable circle elite come, grab desk jobs only (page 27)

“Impression has gone around in knowledgeable circles that the NLSIU is meant only for the elite or upper classes to serve the corporate world. Such impression is reinforced by the fact that only those students could afford to study in the prestigious law school, who are in a position to meet the high expenditure to the tune of about one lakh twenty-five thousand rupees per annum on account of tuition fees, hostel, mess and other infrastructure charges.”

“If the other charges, such as the cost of books, stationery, computer software and hardware, travel and personal upkeep are included, the yearly expenditure further rises to in the proximity of about two lakhs of rupees. Despite the heavy expenditure, the NLSIU is still the preferred place to study, but only for those who could afford to invest, say, around 10 lakhs of rupees for the graduation course of five years.”

Teacher leave them kids alone (page 33)

“To begin with it is not essentially the students who are problematic. Nor it is the problem of students versus teachers. It is the problem of teachers themselves. It is they who require an effective code of conduct in the first instance.”

Teachers bunking school (page 34)

“The deviating direction is evident from the fact that a senior faculty member, reflecting upon the present scenario, is compelled to share with the SRC that sincerity and commitment amongst the teachers, which used be the trade marks of the NLSIU, are now conspicuous by their absence, and that it is now highly impossible to get the work done by the faculty members. Absenteeism is common among faculty members, and that there is no accountability for the faculty, stated another senior faculty member.”

Drugs, sex and dhokha (page 34)

“If the controlling characters, the teachers, themselves become uncontrollable, the character of the controlled ones, the students, could be anybody’s guess. Distressing picture of the students’ state of affairs emerges from the following cryptic account of a senior faculty member before the SRC:

“‘Resort to drugs and liquors among students have been on the rise. Drugs have been discovered near hostel premises and reported on. Empty liquor bottles bear mute witness to the consumption of liquor by the students. There is no visible change for the better.

“‘Unabashed indulgence in sex has been disturbingly on the rise. Public display of affection both inside college premises and outside has become routine. At an open meeting of the faculty and students a first year girl student even asked the Vice-Chancellor why the college has not provided space for sex. The rumour mill has it that the preference for NLS is because of its climate of license.’”

‘Easy prey’ don’t need no thought control (page 35)

“The permissive atmosphere of the school has emboldened the students to ask for more release or liberation. A presentation was made by a senior student requesting the SRC to restrain the NLSIU from resorting to “pervasive surveillance and censorship actions on the NLSIU Computer network with respect to communication and speech both made and accessed by members of the student community,” for it seriously affects “student’s everyday civil liberties concerning speech and expression.

“The young minds, in the absence of beneficent control and interactive relationship with the teachers, have become an easy prey to all sorts of evil practices of smoking, drinking, drug abuse, sex, etc., resulting into terrible stress, dreadful depression, at least two cases of suicides and a dozen of attempted suicides, and even a murder!”

Full NLSIU 2009 report (PDF)

Photo by Mark Robinson

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