Watch Out!
Student Media
Body of IITR
About Guide Get Involved


CULTURE VULTURE – An Analysis of the aftermath of the COVID 19 Pandemic on the student culture of IIT Roorkee

May 10, 2022
- Paarangi, Anvita, Vansh, Ayan, Akshara, Kushagra, Sarthak, Pritika

An indispensable part of the education provided in schools and colleges is the culture that one experiences in that institution. What defines this culture cannot be put into writing but the lack of it was definitely experienced. While it is difficult to assess that now, the shift in the campus culture one had to experience, during online mode of operation, is bound to leave us with a lingering, “What if?” in all of our minds.

After slogging for almost two years for JEE prep, instead of the well-rounded IIT dream they wanted to live, the “college life” that most students experienced was forcibly staring at their laptop screens.. Students had to make do with the fact that their college lives have been cut short by almost two years. The newest batches could never associate themselves with the physical spaces on campus, vicariously living through the stories told by their seniors of the glorious olden days. These physical spaces helped plant, foster and nurture the seeds of long-lasting relationships between people and with the institute. It is these places the students associate college with, where ideas emerge and where a complicated mosaic of history is created, one piece at a time. Students in the online semester knew that they were a part of this rich history, yet could never relate to it fully. The sheer newness of who you might bump into in your next trip to Nesci, or the companionship of gym hustlers or the all nighters pulled in MGCL one night before an exam were elements completely missing for a big chunk of our college lives.

Two heavy years of online existence left the campus crumbling and left an irreparable dent on the culture it calls its own. Online mode of operation brought necessary changes to our work habits. The interaction amongst peers needed for the survival of any group experienced a paradigm shift. This transition into the online mode was pretty challenging for some campus groups while it was a blessing in disguise for others. The inheritance of the dedication that groups were associated with, was unable to move down the years leading to inconsistencies in the definition of the corresponding group culture.

With the rage of pandemic calming down, students could finally come back to campus. Those who craved the campus for this long, are now scrambling to make up for the time lost at home and trying to recall and redefine what they want from the campus itself. Groups, relationships, classes: there was a major shift, going from offline to online at the start of the pandemic, and back towards the end of it.

Thus there were two transitions that every person on the campus had to face. Watch Out! reached out to multiple campus groups, understanding the issues they faced and the steps they took. We bring to you a detailed analysis of how campus groups faced these shifts and how they fought for their existence throughout the pandemic.

March 2020- October 2021

The dark, gloomy clouds of CoVID cast its shadow on the campus and everyone was forced to take shelter under the umbrella of online platforms. This period had an air of uncertainty to it. It was as if hope had left the campus premises, just to never return. Let’s revisit those unprecedented times and wrack our brains on how these campus groups tussled to survive and came up with new and innovative ways to continue functioning as normally as possible.

Scheduling Meetings
Attending online meets is just one click away as opposed to leaving your hostel room and walking over to a particular meeting spot in our beautiful campus, thus saving time. However, multiple technical groups like SDS used to have all their members sitting in the same room when working on projects, thus enabling quicker responses to doubts and discussions. With groups shifting online, this bonding was difficult to preserve, as conflicting schedules meant difficult scheduling.

A lesson in dedication
One can gauge a lot about a person from their body language, expression and tone which is missing to some extent in a virtual environment. It isn’t tough to come up with excuses to avoid group meetings or discussions if one isn’t interested in them. One group who pointed this out to us was UBA, where in meetings some faked internet and mic-cam issues. Moreover, the recruitment process in 2020-21 was also conducted online, which affected the credibility and transparency of the process.

Meeting people a person hasn’t seen in over two years, those who were an indispensable part of their day on campus, accounts for the immeasurable pull of campus.
The campus has unsaid location-based dynamics of its own which are non-existent in online meetings. Several groups tend to work late night or past 12. In an offline setting, people from the same bhawans, by the virtue of living and eating together, tend to have a greater bond. Whereas online, there was greater intermingling of people from different bhawans.

Rise of online introversion
Many groups concurred that online meets involved only a couple of people speaking while the rest remained silent. Introverts would not speak up during online meetings, having joined the meet with their mics and cameras off. With a negative reinforcement to talking and no way to recognise people who are inactive, it was difficult to get people to interact.
The online meetings had emphasis on the work at hand. Hence the bonding between group members took a severe hit in several groups.

Efforts taken by some groups for greater bonding
Groups like the Dramatics Section maintained their cohesion despite not meeting each other face-to-face, having successfully pulled off an online play. They conducted interactive sessions amongst the members to build stronger relations. Athletics have also made noteworthy efforts in furthering communication between the different juniors by dividing them into groups and assigning each group a senior. A discord server was also created for the same.

The dwindling sense of community
People are united by the common issues that they face and whine about the workload or the seemingly stupid decisions that some members might make. The reduced interaction between students, however, meant that they could not connect over such issues over online channels, given the lack of trust.

The invaluable words of experienced seniors
The batch of 2020 didn’t get to experience the lively intro chapos and learning about seniors, their personalities and experiences. Talking in online meets can never live up to the same standard as offline ones. Most juniors in campus groups have barely had any real interaction with their seniors during the online phase, thus, missing out on a lot of ‘gyaan’.

Lack in transfer of knowledge
Campus groups add a whole new dimension to our learning experience.Juniors learn a lot by watching their seniors work which didn’t happen online, resulting in a visible lag in proper transfer of knowledge.This was observed in many groups, especially in Robocon, and other groups that required working on hardware.

Lack of motivation
Working on any project, isolated at home, is not a very thrilling experience. Due to the pandemic, all the group work had to be performed in isolation. This could be frustrating at times. The all important fun of offline meetings in SAC or solving problems together was missing. Discord and GMeets being lifesavers on one hand could never live up to the glorious standards of offline meetings. This led to a lack of motivation in members of various groups. Campus groups like Robocon, Athletics, etc which required offline presence for their work felt a severe dip in motivation amongst the newly recruited and the seniors.

Greater Reach of new groups in the online mode:
However the online mode did serve to help increase the reach of new groups like Biotech Student Society (BSS), IRMUN, BlocSoc, etc. It helped new groups establish their presence and their goals among people using social media, which was one of the major hangouts for a campus-deprived college student.

After a couple of online years, however, students were called back to the campus, and groups had to deal with another issue. Calling over an unmotivated crowd to continue working on the rigorous schedules they had in their first years. We take up the problems of returning to an offline working mode in the next section.

November 2021-Present

It was now that the campus junta could finally break out of their shells, exploring the humble abode of R in its full glory. The crazy Diwali on campus; the lights over at the Thomason Building, the late-night walks around campus, not leaving any rooftop unexplored; each brought new experiences for everyone. It was a ride for the sophomores, while a familiar nostalgic return for their seniors.

As the second yearites compensated for the lack of “actual” social interaction in the past one and a half years, the pressure of the daunting intern season was always at the back of their minds.

Work habits and productivity
A lot of tech groups benefited by switching to offline after this huge break. Groups like DSG felt a tremendous increase in their work outputs and productivity as there was a great deal of enthusiasm in students after coming on campus. While the online mode of operation may not have been effective enough, it did inspire all members to work harder after their return. Many believe that the productivity of the group now goes beyond what was before the pandemic.
Groups like SDS enjoyed sitting and working together, which was possible only if they returned. Thus with offline operations underway, they observed a similar boost in work output.
However, the online mode did create a dent in the work culture of many groups. Slacking off was easy enough when online, aided by the excuses of ‘bad connection’. These habits acquired in the online mode made their way to the offline mode as well. In some groups, it was seen that punctuality to meetings, seriousness towards deadlines, and sincerity towards group traditions was reduced in the second-year students. Many grew aloof to the repeated reminders and tagged WhatsApp messages, thus reducing the work outputs of the groups they were in.
Some groups, which employed practices to ensure participation in the online mode, weren’t affected by this transition. Groups like Dramatics society and Athletics successfully surpassed the hurdles due to regular meets and excellent interaction in the online mode. Coming offline actually served to excite them into working hard and made it easy to conduct ‘Khamosh! Aadalat Jaari Hai’ and the Freshers’ Athletics Meet with enthusiasm.

Time management and commitment
Joining numerous groups in the online mode was easy but devoting time to each and every one of them in the offline mode was hectic and tiresome. It wasn’t easy to slack off in the offline mode and hence it was observed that many second-year students began leaving groups when they came offline. This served to increase the time they devoted to any single group.
Many group members believed that the decrease in productivity due to campus-craze and being in multiple groups is just a problem for a few months until the juniors set their priorities straight and remain in only those groups which they truly care about.

All campus groups, be it technical or cultural, bring a very significant perk with them: the interaction one has with the people in their own year along with other years. The transition from online communication to this havoc-stated mixture of online and offline mode was distinct for each campus group.

The online mode affected a lot of the interactions negatively, whether they be within groups, within friends, within classmates or within lovers.
“Not being together for such a long time, people have developed their own personal interests. Had we been on campus, everyone would have known about each other’s interests and the progress they’ve made in their fields. People now have become more intern and work-oriented.”

When we look at groups like Watch Out!, NSO, Robocon, and ACM ,they’ve benefited a lot from returning to campus. In the online mode they were suffering from ignored messages and lack of sincerity from the juniors. In the offline mode however, seniors seldom leave chances to be ignored. While this might be a nightmare for the not-so-sincere students for a while, many started to show much higher dedication towards their work as well as the interaction improved tremendously.

The much-awaited chapos could finally happen in the offline mode. These chapos have been a great way for the juniors to connect with their seniors. Having had less of these chapos in the online mode, juniors now spent more time with their seniors, sitting in their hostel rooms, getting the much-needed gyaan along with free maggi.

While amidst these negative and positive influences of the online sem, some groups like Drams and Choreo made sure that the interaction and connection between the members is not lost in the transitions. These groups maintained a family-like atmosphere and never failed to keep up their traditions. Thus an online sem didn’t affect these groups in terms of interaction.

There is nothing that leads to a better interaction than sports. While getting into a sport was always the first thing on any fresher’s list of “Things to do in college, that I couldn’t do in school”, the excitement wasn’t the same when second-year students came to college. They were more interested in exploring other aspects of college and friendships or had started preparing for their intern season and hence lacked the “bonding through sports” aspect.

These massive shifts in group dynamics are bound to have a permanent impact on the groups. The arc of emergence of these groups from this fix will be an interesting story crafted for each group. Some might see what they call the “glory days” while others might finally get a chance to break free from the rigid dogma which had been lingering and become more accessible and engaging.

Now most of us are back in campus and we have seen offline events like Cognizance, FOS, Colors Trophy unfold, it seems that every campus group is finally reinstating its original self along with some positive changes, learnt through several hard lessons in the last two years.