Objection to repeating of Engineering Mathematics IV
Thasigan Naidoo: BTech: Electrical Engineering: Instrumentation
Class Representative of Engineering Mathematics 4:
EMTH402 – Jan – Jun 2011
C/o Durban University of Technology
Steve Biko Campus
Vice-Chancellor: Professor A Bawa
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic: Professor N Gwele
C/o Durban University of Technology
RE: Repeat of Engineering Mathematics IV: EMTH402
This is on behalf of the students of the Engineering Mathematics IV class of Jan-Jun 2011, to detail our concerns on repeating the course in this second semester (Jul-Nov 2011).
We start out by informing you there are numerous issues, questions and concerns arising from this situation and have tried our level best to present the facts in order.
Firstly, on the 21 July 2011 (Thursday), each student of our Maths class received a phone-call stating there would be a meeting with the Dean on Saturday, 23 July 2011, at 11:00, to discuss the Engineering Mathematics IV situation.
As the results were stated as “pending,” which subsequently hampered and created hurdles in our registration process (16 July 2011), students decided to forgo the unofficial notice of meeting and attend.
It is important that we draw attention to the state of mind of the Maths students who, based on the unreleased results, were refused by the registration system to register for any subjects stipulating Mathematics IV as a pre-requisite. Students were frustrated at the lack of assistance and were fast losing faith in the administrative processes of our esteemed University. For many, if not all, it meant a day off work in order to register for these subjects, when/if the results were released. The angst and ire of the students were due to the lack of professionalism displayed by either the administration of DUT, the Engineering Department or the Applied Sciences Department (reasons unknown/unanswered to students at the time). Upon notice of the meeting, these students were to be sadly misled, as you will discover further on.
At the meeting to discuss the Maths results, we were met with sombre news. Professor Theo Andrews and Professor Darren Lortan, together with other respected lecturers from both Engineering and Applied Sciences departments, conveyed in no uncertain terms that as a result of their investigation into our course, several anomalies were uncovered. This investigation, according to both Deans, was spurred by an ‘anonymous’ e-mail received two days before our main examination (written on 26 May 2011).
Further, due to their findings, it was so deemed that our tests, assessments, etc, were tainted and thus were disregarded in totality. It was alleged that we were inadequately tested, not in keeping with our level and that we had failed to complete/cover two sections of vital importance. Here-in lay the crux of the problem. These two sections, Z-Transforms and Fourier Transforms make Mathematics IV a pre-requisite for Digital Signal Processing and Electronic Communications IV. Based on the above, the Deans and lecturers had come to the ‘most morally accepted’ decision of us repeating the entire course (over these six months) and that they would waiver the pre-requisite law and allow students to study the courses concurrently. This would ensure that the Maths course for this semester started off with the two sections and then reverting to the rest of the syllabus as before.
This information de-motivated and disillusioned students to proceed further with the rest of their BTech program. Also, it must be stated on record that Dean Andrews, his patience having waned thin in seconds, very boldly told students they were more than welcome to leave and register at other institutes. This is a gross example of totalitarian and unprofessional behaviour on display.
Another example is the time it took for either Department to step forward and inform students on the audit/investigation occurring and delay in releasing the results. It seems as if the tactics employed were to bide time until it became a hindrance and outright inconvenience to students in a subtle but effective way of de-motivating/de-moralising us.
After having surmised the discussion, we direct your attention firstly, to the behaviour, tactics and manipulation of such senior and respected members as the Deans, as well as prove their allegations baseless and request the release of our results as accepted and valid.
All Students are in agreement that the meeting lacked legitimacy based on a mere phone-call in which to inform students of said discussion taking place. At the outset, this was no discussion but an ambush in which we were first disarmed by the Deans accepting full responsibility for us having being inconvenienced and in-turn intimidated and later patronised students into accepting their will of having us all repeat the entire semester or suffer their wrath. We were falsely lulled into believing Prof Andrew that we had no option but to repeat Mathematics IV and that the Deans and their teams would do their utmost in accommodating and assisting our learning process... something they should have been doing either way.
At the start, Prof Andrew stated we would be given an opportunity to voice out concerns and they would do their best to address these concerns. Again, this was a tactic employed to appease us into accepting their decision, sans proof or evidence, as every question asked was either immediately ‘shot-down’ or trampled upon or just disregarded by Prof Andrew, even when the other Lecturers tried to answer our questions.
The crux of our reasoning is as follows:
We have written legitimate tests and on-line assessments and our main examination, all in keeping with University policy and protocol. Students had access to all necessary supporting documents such as student guide detailing syllabus/course content, past test, examination and supplementary papers and solutions and tutorials and solutions. The Applied Science department could have set any calibre of examination as all of the above were available to all students. Their failure to do so should not be the responsibility of the students.
Our first lecturer, Dr OK Narain (UKZN), abruptly left the course four weeks into the start of the semester (no warning or subsequent explanation was volunteered by either the Engineering or the Applied Science Department).Professor R Naidoo stepped into the course on the day of our first test (set by Dr Narain).
In lieu of disruptions and circumstances beyond our control, we covered the syllabus to the best of our ability and were examined as such (75%), in keeping with University policy/protocol.
The Deans mentioned receipt of an ‘anonymous’ e-mail two days prior to the main examination, apparently alerting them to anomalies in the course. They chose not to postpone the examination in order to investigate further. It was their prerogative to act on this information at the time, but chose not to.
It was also mentioned that the examination paper itself had been late in getting to the respective authority. As students, this excuse is inconsequential as we do not take responsibility for the running of the Applied Sciences Department and as such, should not be held accountable for said misdemeanour. We felt that we were being given petty/feeble excuses by authority and are being made to bear the brunt of the Applied Sciences Department and the Staff frustrations for the crumbling and lack of adherence of their own processes and protocol. Such irresponsibility should be dealt with as a separate issue entirely.
Another example is, when asked the question of the moderator’s report, we were once again stone-walled and then side-tracked by a double-talking Dean Andrew. Even Dean Lortan could not answer as to why, if there were discrepancies in the standard of the paper, was the moderator not forthcoming with these concerns. Again, this is the responsibility of the Applied Sciences Department and students should not have to answer for the calibre of the paper as it is beyond our control.
- In lieu of the examination paper being handed passed the due date, it seems strange that no one in the Department thought to question this tardiness. As we were told of the late handing in of the examination paper, students naturally thought to question the lack of concern and investigation. As now became the norm, we were quickly deterred by Professor Andrew, and he went as far as stating it was none of our concern. Then why, knowing it’s none of the concern of the students, were the students told of this anomaly and being added to the Deans’ defence/argument for us to repeat the subject? It became apparent that the Deans’ were presenting a flawed case that was nothing short of deviating off a beaten track.
- After many such attempts at quashing our queries, we concluded that the reasons given by the senior council lacked integrity, justification and respect. The open policy abided by the University should have given students the right to demand full disclosure on the investigations and subsequent conclusions, but again Dean Andrew sought to drive his decision home by intimating threateningly that his decision was law and we had no right to question or be disclosed of any further information. Basically, we were not provided with legitimate answers or evidence to prove “tainting” of our results. Stated clearly at the outset of the discussion/meeting/ambush, the Deans’ had decided upon our class repeating the entire semester. This in itself had many contradictions as we were lead to believe it was a discussion.
- Our last point (but not final...): One of the tactics employed by Dean Andrew to break our resolve and further lull us into agreeing to repeat the semester was the statement that as we had inadequately covered only part of the course, Dean Andrew, in all his good faith and conscience, would be obliged to inform ECSA of the anomalies in our Maths course. Based on his testimony, students would then face the problem of having to repeat Mathematics IV four years down the line. He insisted we repeat it now as there were many concessions for students such as the waiver and to concurrently register for the subjects that required Maths as a pre-requisite, etc.
In addition, Dean Lortan stated (in response to a student’s question) that protocol demanded that questions were not allowed to be repeated as is, in tests and examinations, for five years.
We once again draw your attention to the contradiction and desperation of the Deans by stating the supporting evidence (two issues are raised):
The first being ECSA has their own criteria, in addition to the formal Diploma/BTech, etc, to award their certification. Having already been at the University last year, they have, in effect, given their stamp of approval for all our courses, etc.
Our examination contained questions from past papers as well as ‘new’ questions. ECSA’s approval last year automatically validates our examination, tests and assessments, as they contained examples from past papers etc.
Secondly, investigating past examinations, tests and tutorials, reveals many instances of repeat questions, sans amendments, which contradicts Dean Lortan's claims. These lead students to the conclusion that the Applied Science Department fully supported Dr OK Narain’s (UKZN) repetition of questions directly from the prescribed texts, etc, but consider it a discrepancy, irregularity and outright unacceptable whence Professor R Naidoo (DUT) subscribed to same methods of testing and examining. It makes one wonder that this issue to repeat Mathematics IV is more about targeting and discrediting a single lecturer and ‘someone’s’ personal gain, than for both Departments acting in the students’ best interests.
Statements such as the above necessitate physical evidence but have been concluded from students’ intuition on the behaviour of our Deans towards us and their lack of forthcoming evidence and disclosure of same.
We should not be held accountable for the internal underlying issues of the Departments.
The time, energy, determination and sheer hard-work put into achieving the credit for Mathematics IV is our proof. Our tests, assessments, tutorials and examination results are our evidence. Please, we appeal to you to not let our efforts be declared void and tainted.
It must be said that never before in the history of our esteemed University has students been forced to repeat an entire semester, sans evidence of discrepancies, paper-leaks, copying, etc.
If there was a shortcoming on the part of DUT or the Applied Sciences Department in particular, the benefit of doubt should be given to students, who would otherwise suffer tremendous loss in the form of time, financially and emotionally. Ultimately, it would be a poor reflection on the University and past, present and future students would be victimised and held accountable unfairly.
In lieu of all of the above, we appeal to you to have our results validated and released as such.
It is of the utmost urgency that this is resolved before students resume lectures as most are de-motivated and disappointed by the behaviour of the Dean of Engineering and consequently, other subjects would suffer.
Lastly, we shall continue to hold Dean Andrew in high esteem and respect as before, as we understand that even Presidents are not beyond reproach.
Thank you in advance for your tireless, unwavering efforts. We look forward to your correspondence.
Students of Engineering Mathematics IV
NB: Our petition has been digitally signed to ensure consensus to not repeating Mathematics IV, either in part or entirely.
T. Naidoo Contact the author of the petition
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