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In conversation with Prof. D.K. Nauriyal, DOSW IIT Roorkee

September 27, 2014

It’s been two months in the Autumn Semester and IITR has already seen a lot of interesting changes on the campus: A new Bhawan allotment policy (that made election candidates cry), the newly elected Students’ Affairs Council and an innovative regime of punishment (read: yoga classes). Watch Out! News Agency thanks Prof. D.K. Nauriyal, the Dean of Students’ Welfare, IIT Roorkee, for sparing some of his precious time and explaining IITR administration’s point of view, pertaining to the much debated topics of this semester.

##On Bhawan allotment And Yoga punishment:

Watch Out: Why was there a departure from the old Bhawan allotment policy?

**DOSW:** During the vacations, all the bhawans were being run, all the messes were operational and we did not have any breathing space. We were not able to restrict the students to one or two bhawans and carry out the repair and maintenance process. We also found that there was very little and unproductive interaction between the B.Tech, M.Tech and the PhD students. Hence we concluded that this arrangement was not academically beneficial for the students. So that’s why we had to go back to the old system. Prior to the time when the University of Roorkee became IIT Roorkee, this system was quite successful.

Watch Out: The students were asked to list down their preferences and they were finally allotted a bhawan. What were the dynamics behind how each and every person was given preference?

**DOSW:** Since, we did not have any time before the holidays started, we had to send e-mails to the students to ask their choice of preference. After getting their preferences we drew lots randomly in the presence of student representatives, the SAC officials and a few more students who were available, and allotted the bhawans. This procedure was only for this time. We’ll try to make it slightly more systematic from now on. Next time, prior to the examinations, we’ll take the order of preference from the students and inform them about their future bhawans.

Watch Out: After the allotment policy, there were many cases of students shifting from one bhawan to another to be with their friends and peer groups, which were mainly their branch mates. Don’t you think the new policy created a lot of chaos?

**DOSW:** The students must understand that apart from their Bhawan room numbers, we simply do not have any way of tracking them. It’s true that they have been allotted bhawans a bit randomly and there have been some issues. What the residents should realize is that their activities put us in a tight position. For instance, if there is a room locked up for three consecutive days and the student doesn’t even turn up for the mess facilities, then what do we presume? These are matters of great concern for us. After all, as the custodians, we must see their well-being and help them out with their problems. But that would be impossible if we do not have any system of knowing where to find them.

Watch Out: Students did change bhawans. Can we conclude that they were not happy with their allotted rooms?

**DOSW:** Some kind of discontentment will always be there. These buildings have come up at different points in time, and have different provisions. The newer constructions are desired more by the students. There’s a possibility that the room allotted to them may not be of their liking and as a result they take such steps. Students should realize that the institute has certain constraints and the rooms are allotted keeping all those in mind. I must add, the students actually cooperated a lot in this whole process. In fact, quite a few came to us with their problems and we did not just chuck them out. We did not agree to the shifting of bhawans but we sat down and discussed it with them. They were eventually convinced.

Watch Out: For the first time, third year girls were allotted twin sharing rooms. What are your views on that?

**DOSW:** There is a shortage of accommodation for girls, we have only two hostels. It is just because of this reason that we had to allot them with twin sharing rooms. A lot of rooms in KB can’t be used due to moisture, etc and the students cannot be allotted those rooms due to their poor conditions. There is a similar case with Sarojini Bhawan.

Watch Out: Could you tell us something about the new regime of punishment which involves morning Yoga classes for students?

**DOSW:** It is very easy to punish the students with the kind of system we have in place. It is easy to suspend students and deduct their marks. But does it really reform them? We discussed a lot on the topic and after that we came around the view that we must give the student an opportunity to mend ways, if something is not desirable. We are also aware that many students on campus indulge in drug and alcohol abuse. Punishing them won’t do them any good and would in-turn jeopardize their career. The most plausible and least undesirable way would be to put them to Yoga classes. The idea is to make them realize that they have to accept the community norms. Yoga would help them gear up for the day as well as teach them better ways to live their lives. Parents have also supported us in this.

##On Academics and Politics in IITR:

Watch Out: How can we develop a friendlier culture like that in foreign universities in terms of Student-Faculty relations?

DOSW: We are going to initiate, on a trial basis, a system of Faculty mentors for a small group of students. A group of 4-5 professors will mentor about 15-20 students each. They would guide them, help them and take their problems to the authorities. Another thing that we have in mind is to come up with a system for academically weak students, especially for those who have an extended stay. We are going to monitor them closely and take weekly reports from the students and faculty about their performance. We will counsel them if they are still on the weaker side. So we’ll have a continuous tracking system. We’re doing this for all the students who have a backlog right now and we’ll be extending this for all academically weak students later.

Watch Out: Especially in first year, students start to feel alienated towards studies. How can their interest be regenerated into the academics?

DOSW: There is discontentment when there’s a gap between expectations and what is actually being done. If you would look closely, then you’ll realize that engineering proceeds at a very gradual pace. Every level of concept is guided by strong fundamentals. The students, in general, study science while preparing for JEE and they feel they are through with them. So they expect us to start teaching them engineering right from the go. Our idea is to make them study sciences because this theoretical foundation will help them learn more about engineering. If we look at the curricula of different institutes all over the world, we’ll see that they lay a good foundation in the basic sciences first and proceed to the core fundamentals of engineering.

Watch Out: What are your expectations from the new SAC?

DOSW: We need good support and cooperation from them. We also need them to come up with innovative ideas for bhawans on how can they be maintained and improved. We also expect them to be a part of us in monitoring the mess facilities. SAC should come up with creative methods and ways to improve the existing system rather than just running it.

Watch Out: Keeping in mind the notice that was issued which restricted students from forming a gathering of more than 5 and coming out of their hostels after 10 pm, What were the challenges you faced while organizing the elections ?

DOSW: We just wanted to ensure a fair and objective kind of election. After all, we are dealing with the most brilliant students of the country and we don’t want them to behave the way average politicians do. The idea was to let all students have their own thinking space rather than being bullied by different kinds of pressures coming from all sides. The notice ensured that no such aforementioned activity took place. We also banned processions this time. The students must acknowledge that these sort of things look very cheap for an institute like IIT. We are the cream of the country and our intellect should get reflected in the innovative ways in which we run our institute.

Watch Out: The students in IITR come from different backgrounds, some of which have a lot of cohesiveness among them. What do you think about the pseudo party system going around in the campus prior to the elections?

DOSW: I personally do not subscribe to those kind of things. The students have to be one community. A community shouldn’t get bifurcated into segments. Truly, our institute has a lot of diversity but it exists everywhere in this world. The students should value their individual judgement over the pressure and representation which these segments have to offer. They must understand and value their identities and make decisions individually rather than going with the flow.