Note: this is just a short version of the real thing, which is the Students’ Constitution. Thanks to Arun Sudarsan, alumnus and ex-SAC member, and Pallavi Chakravorty, SAC Speaker 2014-15, for their input.
Crudely put, the SAC is like the parliament of the institute. It’s a student body consisting of around 60 councillors representing the various academic departments and hostels on campus. The SAC has to convene a minimum of 3 times a semester, according to the Constitution. Regular SAC meetings are open — any student can attend them, and even speak at them with prior permission of the Speaker (the Speaker reserves the right to restrict attendance to Special Meetings, however).
What about the Institute Secretaries?
The Executive Wing is the collective term for the institute secretaries who take part in the SAC meetings. As the executive body, they are separate from the SAC and cannot vote at these meetings, though their attendance is compulsory. EW members are responsible for implementing the policies made by SAC (that are approved by the Institute’s official bodies), and are answerable to the SAC. They represent the voice of the GSB (General Student Body) in the respective Institute Boards (see blurb). They also take care of all the student-related decisions that do not come under SAC. For example, if you want a new cycle stand, you don’t speak to the SAC — you go and bug the hostel General Secretary, and get him to do your work.
The Exec Wing
What does the SAC do?
The councillors in the SAC raise points about changes to Institute policies and rules in light of students’ interests and the SAC passes them after discussion, debate and adequate review. It sets up committees to look into agendas and comes up with reports whenever necessary.
The SAC has the responsibility of conveying the students’ problems and opinions to the administration and the Senate. Formally, it has powers to tackle almost every problem that the students face in the institute. Neither are they the highest authority, nor do they have the final say, but the SAC is the highest authority available to students, something that the administrative block sees as the voice of the students. They raise any issues that students face, and put them forward to the higher authority, represented by the Senate and its sub-committees.
SAC and Student Governance at IITM
How exactly do SAC discussions lead to action?
Each SAC meeting is governed by an agenda. The agenda points to be discussed and voted on in the SAC on a particular day is decided by the speaker, who is the convener of all the meetings. If any student wants to raise an agenda point, they can just send a mail to the speaker stating so, and she will add it to the agenda, given the feasibility. Generally, six to eight agenda points are raised in the SAC every meeting, which lasts at least for three hours. These agendas are debated and discussed about, and voted on if the discussion has ended. Otherwise, they are completed in the next SAC meeting.
The points that can be raised in SAC are… almost everything. If you need the permission of the Senate for something, the SAC acts as the students’ voice, presenting formal bills in students’ interests to the Senate for their passage and implementation.
After an agenda point is raised in the SAC, either by the students or the councillors, and after the discussions, they vote. If there is a majority vote, the agenda is passed and becomes a bill. But it does not end there. This agenda then goes on to one of the four Boards. The Speaker and Executive Wing members represent the SAC in the boards, putting forth the agendas, which the boards will consider to pass on to the Senate, where all the full-time professors of the institute (currently around 240) vote on the issue. The membership of the Senate is laid down by the IIT’s Act of the Parliament, and it is in turn answerable to the Board of Governors of IITM.
It might look like a long convoluted pipeline, with chances of the problem being slim, but in reality, it is quite different. The SAC has managed to stop the LAN-ban this semester by putting up the students’ opinion strongly in the BoS, and the administration treated the SAC as the students’ voice.
The Official Bodies of the Institute