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Highlights of the Students’ Senate Meeting (held on 17/3/18)

March 26, 2018

The Students’ Senate is the most important instrument for the dissemination of students’ opinion to the administration and to allow the senators to collectively reach a consensus on essential developments affecting students’ campus experience. However, on March 17th 2018, a mockery of this entire system could be witnessed in the Senate Hall with ruckus and confusion ruling the hall. In the words of the DOSW himself, the senators were unable to maintain ‘decorum’, while the senators claimed that the SAC was trying to impose its agendas on the Senate, by resorting to ‘yelling into the mic’. The fact that things even got to this point explains the sheer absurdity with which the discussions were being conducted.

This particular Senate Meeting was conducted with the express purpose of discussing the regulations for the annual student elections for the 2018-19 session. The electoral procedure involved in the selection of the Students’ Affairs Council (SAC) is an extremely integral decision that the student community takes, and the state of the student-administration relations, along with the progress made by the institute depends heavily on this process. As you might have correctly inferred, all the agendas are potentially crucial changes to the election setup, and hence, invited a healthy discussion before being passed in the Students’ Senate. While there was a discussion alright, we would not, however, in any sense of the word, term it as ‘healthy’.

Prof. Joshi (the Dean of Students’ Welfare) emphasized multiple times in the Senate that as students, our main motive is to study here in college and not mimic the Indian democracy. Although Prof. Joshi is extremely right in his concerns and we respect his opinion, but if the changes that are going to impact the entire student community and their progress are being discussed, we expect at least a quorum to be present in the senate. Additionally, it was disheartening to witness arguments by the senators which were heavily injected with personal bias, and had no substantial arguments to back their stance in most cases.

As attendees of the Senate Meeting, we made some observations and had some views on the agendas that we’d be remiss not to share with our audience.

Note:

  1. The ‘SAC’ here means the General Secretaries.

  2. The ‘Bench’ refers to the representatives of the Main Building, i.e. DOSW, ADOSW (B&M), ADOSW (SA) and ADOSW (International Relations)

  3. The Students’ Senate is attended by the elected representatives of every bhawan (referred henceforth as ‘senators’), along with the elected representatives of the SAC, among other people (as relevant).

  4. All the decisions have been passed by the Students’ Senate in the presence of the bench. However, final decisions will be incorporated in the regulations which shall be released soon, prior to the elections, post some more due diligence by relevant authorities.

Agenda Highlights Our Two Cents
A General Secretary shall resign from all other positions of responsibility once elected. Questions raised regarding the vacuum that would be created by such resignation. GS Technical Affairs suggested that reappointments to those posts would be done post resignation. Watch Out suggests it be left at the discretion of the group/sections/clubs involved to decide judiciously and also, at the discretion of person who takes charge of the office. If, at all, there are any concerns with his performance in either of his capacities, decisions with respect to his leftover tenure can be taken up as the case may be.
In case of a single candidate contesting for an institute level position, the candidate shall be voted for ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. This was suggested as a validation by public vote so that in case of an undeserving candidate, an alternative could be chosen by nomination. On nominations being opposed by the senators, the SAC agreed to discuss re-elections. However, it was pointed out that this could be tedious and taxing. A ‘neutral’ option was suggested which could be used to demand more option for the post. Prof. Barua stated that they weren’t the election committee and shouldn’t overcomplicate procedures. Watch Out agrees to the point, but doesn’t support re-elections over nominations, as conducting elections again would be tedious and taxing as mentioned in the highlights. If, however, there is a possibility of conducting elections for the unelected posts along with the bhawan level elections in the Autumn Semester (as discussed over Agenda 6), this can be thought of as an alternative.
Any candidate for the position of General Secretary Cultural Affairs should be a part of Cultural Council. The SAC wanted to institute this agenda so as to ensure a smoother transition to an open group culture which would be made possible by a representative who understands the ins and outs of the council. The senators were not in agreement as this would mean a loss of opportunity for a large number of students and they pointed out that managerial proficiency should not be confused with the possession of a particular skill set. The bench advised the senators to not to look at a post as an opportunity but a responsibility and a compromise was finally reached wherein the rule is applicable only for a certain period of time. There was also a parallel discussion initiated by the SAC about how the decision to have an elected GS Cultural Affairs was ‘unconstitutional’, as it wasn’t discussed in the appropriate channels last year. Hence, to actually make the prior decision, it would be necessary to first resolve this matter. No conclusion, however, was made about this particular point. Additionally, certain students vouched for the inclusion of the members of the team behind Thomso in the eligibility criteria, which was opposed by the SAC. With over seven thousand students paying the Gymkhana Fees, out of which, only a fraction of students make into the Cultural Council including only a handful of PG students, limiting candidature to Council Members seems unjust to an extremely large section of the student community. Competency in a particular cultural section isn’t necessarily a proof of someone’s leadership and management skills which are the key requirements to represent the entire student populace. Watch Out suggests that the position of the GS be contested by anyone irrespective of his/her membership in the Cultural Council, and to facilitate the smooth functioning of the Cultural Council’s activities, the Deputy GS shall be nominated/elected from the council. Also, to cater the larger section of the student community, Bhawan Secy shall be given responsibility to promote cultural activities at Bhawan Level (as advocated by us in the earlier article, ‘Funding Your Extracurriculars’). GS Cultural Affairs shall have a council comprising of Bhawan Secy (Cultural Affairs) to ensure the same.
Any candidate for the position of General Secretary Technical Affairs should be a part of Students’ Technical Council. No discussion took place in this particular regard, since the debate was similar to that of the previous point. Same as above.
The post ‘General Secretary Alumni Affairs’ shall be changed to ‘General Secretary Professional Development’, with modified roles and responsibilities for this position. The point was put forward to ensure that the synergies of the TPO and the newly allotted post would match. The main responsibility of the elected representative would be to make sure that the students become technically competent to sit for placements, in a way helping in terms of career development. A large number of concerns regarding the minute details were raised, which the convenor assured would be raised and cleared in a later discussion after the establishment of the CDC. The CGPA criteria for this post is still unclear. The administration has, however, made it clear that they would vouch for a higher bar for this particular post, with Prof. Barua suggesting a CGPA cutoff of 8.5 for this post. This agenda envisions a Career Development Cell, which shall act as an umbrella organisation for sections like a finance club, a consulting club, etc, and shall have a student representative at the helm. This, ideally, should give our campus a huge boost in terms of our placements. This idea is in an incredibly nascent stage, and invites lot of questions. For example: “Who is eligible to run for this post?”. Or: “What roles and responsibilities should be given to the person in this office?”. Or, most importantly: “Isn’t it very hasty to have such an office without a legitimate finance club or a consulting club even present in the campus?” The suggestions for this agenda from the senators were extremely sarcastic and borderline insincere. The stance of some of the senators compelled one of the members of the SAC to claim that an attempt was being made to make a mockery of the proceedings.
To report the senate that institute-level elections and bhawan-level election shall be conducted on different timelines this year. No discussion took place. Conducting bhawan-level elections (start of the autumn semester) and institute-level elections (end of the spring semester) at two different times seems like the only way to address the fact that students in their first year, for example, find it difficult to contest the elections currently. Additionally, there still is a certain level of obscurity with the bhawan allotment policies, which shall only be resolved later in the semester. While we understand that elections at two different timelines are extremely necessary, we hope that IITR doesn’t get stuck in a vicious cycle of elections, which can prove to be extremely time-consuming.
Only one position of Maintenance Secretary shall be elected, and the Bhawan Secretary shall now be a (separately) elected position. The discussion deviated entirely from the agenda and unrelated (albeit important) points such as the responsibilities of technical and cultural secretary (at the bhawan-level) were deliberated upon. There has been a question about the relevance of two maintenance secretaries for a bhawan, which, we believe, would be addressed to a great extent now that this decision has been taken. Additionally, nominating a Bhawan Secretary out of the elected 7 students merely meant that additional tasks were given on the nominated student. A separate Bhawan Secretary can now deal with administrative functions, while one Maintenance Secretary is more than sufficient to handle the tasks for one bhawan.
The three Deputy General Secretaries under GS Hostel Affairs shall now be elected instead of being nominated. The SAC suggested that the three secretaries be divided as follows: UG Boys, PG Boys and Girls. This would ensure more PG representation and elimination of the communication discomfort between the General Secretary and the girl-community. The post for UG: Boys would be elected among UG students and similar eligibilities would be applicable for the other two posts. No prior experience would be required for this post. Upon being asked as to why the Deputy GSs were not being nominated from amongst the senators, it was clearly stated that multiple responsibilities would not be suitable for a single senator and elected representatives are more approachable than nominated ones. Mr. Karan Desai requested that it be ensured by the SAC that the position of the General Secretary is not diluted to which assurance of proper allocation of responsibilities was given. The very idea of having Deputy General Secretary under any domain, is to offload the unmountable work from the shoulders of the General Secretary and to increase efficiency of outputs. To ensure the same, General Secretary, chooses people with whom he/she is compatible with and he relies on for getting the work done. Because of the aforementioned reason, Watch Out, with its unfortunate and humble lack of knowledge in this domain, believes that the mentioned posts should be nominated by the General Secretary himself.
To relax the CGPA criteria to 6.5 for institute level position except General Secretary Academics (UG/PG both). The senators as well as some members of SAC were in agreement that the CG criteria be relaxed to 6.5. Senators put up the reason that students are involved in multiple activities and CG isn’t an exhaustive measure to decide the calibre of a representative. This was further supported by the SAC which stated that in the transition phase, the criteria should be relaxed. While the bench agreed that imposing such a restriction on GS Tech, GS Cult and GS Sports was unnecessary, considering the pre-existing restrictions on eligible candidates, it found itself in a difficult position for GSHA. The amount of workload for this particular post was, in the view of the DOSW, too high to not affect a student’s grade adversely, which is a problem if they have someone with a low CGPA to begin with. Finally a compromise was reached wherein the criteria is applicable only for a period of 1 year. The bench strictly mentioned that if there is a further drop in the elected GSHA’s CGPA, this rule shall be reconsidered next year. In an institute where CGPA is (fortunately or unfortunately) a measure of excellence, we firmly believe that the students who represent the institute and its students should have at least the grades offered at average scores (i.e. 7). Also, reiterating what the bench said in this matter, the workload shall certainly adversely affect the students’ grades, which is a concern of the administration. Additionally, the final conclusion, we believe, is in no way sustainable. We must mention here that there was an extremely indecent uproar when the rule to allow the students with a grade of more than 6.5 (and not only more than 7) to run for office. Students who wanted this agenda to be passed got up from the seats as soon as they had their way, and did not even wait for the Senate to be officially dispersed.

Closing Notes

Please vote sincerely and seriously. The representatives you send, even through your bhawans, have a huge role to play in the Senate. Look at their credentials. Look at their manifestos. Look at how credible they seem. Take an informed decision.

Also, ‘hope’ is best of all the things. Imposing restrictions on candidatures is a mere proof of lack of hope among the senate that neither the voters, nor the contestants are wise enough to make an informed choice. Progress is gradual but it only happens when people trust in the system and try to change it by taking wise choices. These closing notes might seem utopian and extremely idealistic, but we believe moving in the right direction is extremely crucial for an institute like ours.