The Senate Hall on Monday, played host to a first of its kind, open for all General Body Meeting organised by the Student Affairs Council. The event aimed at giving the student body a chance to voice their concerns regarding their issues at IITR and to communicate them directly to the General Secretaries. It also gave the appointed secretaries an opportunity to share their contributions and policies with the student populace.
The meeting started off with an information dissemination session, with all the General Secretaries providing a brief insight on the various projects proposed and passed under them.
The meet was started by the GS Hostel Affairs and Convenor of the SAC, who updated the attendees on various future projects like the provision of Wi-Fi in the Lecture Hall Complex. Taking inspiration from other IITs in developing a strong Bhawan culture, IITR will be holding Inter Bhawan Cultural, Sports and Technical trophies. Adding to that, a proposal regarding the entry of boys in the girls’ hostels till the canteen and the garden had been approved, subject to the condition that a maximum of three boys can be accompanied by a girl in the bhawan. In further developments, talks were in place for an extended break during Holi and Diwali. An interesting insight was the breakup of the Rs. 6000 charged by the institute towards extracurricular activities. It was clarified that this is the only fund at the DoSW’s disposal and it is divided in the following fashion:
Some changes relating to technical, academic and alumni affairs were intimated by the respective secretaries. To the relief of many students, an update on the attendance rule was given, stating that the proposal to increase the attendance to 90% was rejected by 14 of the 21 head of departments, with 3 HOD’s still undecided. Talks for a Q&A BOT, that can answer any question any student has, are ongoing. To ease the process of sharing current institute affairs, a Media Cell in association with Watch Out! and a Broadcasting Channel are to be set up. A temporary Alumni Connect on Request portal will be set up which will enable crowdfunding by multiple alumni along with internship opportunities, all through a single channel.
The meeting was then opened up for the general populace, who spoke up about their concerns regarding the biggest issues plaguing the campus, specifically the unpleasant experiences of students at the institute hospital, the nonchalance of the administration to address the issue of the girls timings, and the difficulties arising due to cultural gap faced by the international students during their stay on campus. Here are some issues covered in the meeting :
Representation of international students in the decision making: International Students who attended this meeting proposed two suggestions which they felt sorely needed to be implemented. They requested that there be an “International Student’s Day”, as well as demanded student representation at the institute level. The members of the SAC promised to raise this issue in the next senate meeting.
Induction Period: To better help the new students adapt to the shift in culture, as well as allow the non-english speakers to gain equal footing, a 3 week induction programme is being proposed. Also, an elective induction program is being planned for the students in the higher years, letting them explore their interests, before finally deciding their electives. We should see results at the beginning of the next semester.
Branch change: One of the most pressing issues throughout the meet was a call for an increase in the number of seats available to branch-changers. An increase of seats to the proposed 10% is not feasible because of a lack of funds. It was clarified that most IITs keep a certain number of seats vacant to accommodate branch changes in the future. This being a toll on the institute’s fund, is not a viable solution for IITR. However, plans to increase this number from 2% to 7% are already underway. Also, the authenticity of having branch changes after the 1st sem was questioned, to which the SAC befittingly replied that the current system is actually more beneficial for the students and for once, the other IITs may follow in IITR’s steps.
The counselling cell: An Increase in the number of counsellors to three from a current situation of only one has been proposed. The last time the suggestion was rejected because, according to the DoSW, there is a reluctance by students to utilise it.
SAC Website: SAC has plans to release a website of their own, within the next 5-6 days, with the aim of improving the depth of penetration of any new information, and letting all students access the most important information, neatly compiled, at their fingertips.
Alumni Connect: A Connect on Request platform has been announced, which will be functional from the 2nd week of February. Also, an Alumni Internship program has been proposed, which will allow alumni to directly recruit students for their summer/winter internships.
Alumni Funding: This portal will allow students to seek guidance from alumni who have gone down the same road, as well as allow groups to raise crowdfunding requests where in teams participating in competitions may receive financial support from their alumnus. In the interest of transparency such alumni funding requests will involve the following stakeholders:
Feedback Forms: Students demanded transparency in the results of the feedback that professors got for teaching a course, and asked the SAC why no action was taken against the professors even though the course was deemed unsatisfactory. The SAC promised to push for the transparency of these feedback forms in the next senate meeting.
Foreign MoUs: When the topic of foreign exchange programs (rather, the lack thereof) was raised, the GS Alumni Affairs agreed that having just 14 MOU’s was not up to the mark of an institution at this level. He has agreed to work with the Dean, International Relations to increase the number of MOU’s with other universities exponentially, and says we may reach 50-60 MOU’s by next year. Also, the topic of a summer school was raised, with the response being that it was already being considered by the Dean of Alumni Affairs and International Relations.
Clashes between minor and departmental course examinations: We have a Dean of Planning whose sole role is ensuring the preparation of the examination calendar after holding meetings with the HODs of each and every department. Earlier, departments had an option to recommend to the administration about the scheduling of their courses but from next semester onwards, it has been made compulsory for them. So, it is expected that this problem will be resolved now.
IITR Hospital: The unfortunate experiences of many students at the campus hospital has led the SAC to develop a rulebook for defining each and every aspect of the administration and the employee structure of the hospital. The SAC has promised to release this within the next 15-20 days.
Heaters and Coolers: The plea of students to allow the use of heaters and blowers in the hostel rooms have been heard by the Administration, with plans of having a common room in each bhawan with 2 AC’s, for the convenience of the students. Also, the general secretaries will question the rationale behind coolers only being allowed in the top floors of each bhawan in the next senate meeting.
11pm curfew of girls: The inaction of the SAC and the Administration to resolve the issue of the girls hostel timing was raised, with the reply from the SAC being that there were complications that had not yet been resolved, like the reluctance of the PhD and MTech students to opt for increased timings, citing the harassment that they face working under certain guides in the night. The questions were also quelled citing the inability of the students to put forward a perceptible demand in front of the administration as one of the reasons. With the hue and cry that occurred last semester, such a claim can barely be justified.The SAC representatives said that they have to resolve this issue before they could propose a change in the restrictions imposed by the administration. In a meeting with the Director, earlier today, it was principally agreed to permit entry into hostels for the opposite sexes. The catch there being that this will be implemented in stages.
The sister IITs are no stranger to such General Body Meetings. IIT Bombay has a very organized idea of GBMs where the Gymkhana President - a faculty-in charge of the Student’s Gymkhana - chairs the meeting, and aims at reviewing the performance of the Office Bearers. All students can attend the meeting but only members of the General Body present can vote. The meeting is conducted once a semester and the quorum is 50% of the members.
Being a first in IITR, the meeting set up a good precedent for the next batches of representatives to follow. However, the success of such a meeting heavily depends on an informed and strong response from the students themselves. The scant numbers at the senate hall on Monday is a lamentable manifestation of the enthusiasm that such discussions see on the SAC facebook group. The other factor defining such a meet is how the students’ questions are met. While most responses offered adequate justification and logical arguments, few failed to be satisfactory. A few discussions were concluded with the promise to put forward a solution. Promising it may seem, but whether the word is backed up by work remains to be seen.
IITR has had an appalling record when it comes to tangible action on the part of its student representatives. The earlier executive committees have had a track record of passivity, with only a few coming off as outliers. This SAC has clearly differentiated itself in this regard. In the short span of time afforded to them, there has been laudable work done. However, much needs to be done as IITR can be seen to finally wake from its slumber. Promising it may seem, but whether all the words are backed up by work remains to be seen.