Institute Soapbox (Day 3): Cultural Affairs Secretary (Lit)

By Akash Kumar and Surya Suresh

The soapbox season is well and truly underway and we have been treated to some fascinating debates and meticulously prepared presentations. The last soapbox of Day 3 was no different, hardly a surprise given the glamour and respect associated with the posts of Cultural Affairs Secretary (Literary).

The candidates contesting for the post of Cultural Affairs Secretary ( Literary) are Ferril Samal, a 4th year student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Srikanth Musti, a 3rd year student in the Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering. Both candidates were welcomed with rapturous applause by their set of supporters. As per standard Soapbox procedure, the candidates started out by presenting their manifestos and corresponding visions for their roles as Cultural Secretary (Lit).

 

FERRIL SAMAL – Presentation

Ferril began proceedings by discussing his proposals regarding Saarang. He stressed the importance of anchoring Saarang’s cultural presence in Chennai. One of his main selling points was that of affordable proshows. He sought to reduce the price of tickets and provide free gallery tickets for EDM Night. He also proposed to introduce redeemable vouchers for the pro-shows. He envisioned to improve Saarang’s fest value by instituting a Saarang Overall Challenge. Some of his other proposals included a cashless Saarang and improving brand value.

The candidate went on to discuss his proposals for cultural clubs in insti. He stressed on the importance of cultural clubs and emphasised the need to involve everyone. His proposals included a classical dance club and conducting events closer to the hostel zone. Ferril proposed the introduction of a Freshie Litsoc League to encourage freshie participation. He also stressed on the importance of normalizing points across Litsoc to ensure that cultural activity is evenly spread.

 

SRIKANTH MUSTI – Presentation

Srikanth began his presentation by recalling his journey from a naive freshie to contesting in insti elections. His main concern was the reluctance of students to participate in events where they had no background and he seeks to change this. Srikanth engaged with the audience throughout the presentation. He began his presentation by discussing his proposals for Saarang.

Stressing on the importance of sustainable growth, he noted that future generations needed to enjoy Saarang as much as we do. Moving on to cultural clubs, the candidate proposed to conduct more initiator sessions and restructure the club events. His main ambition is to provide a comfortable environment for all to participate in club events. Srikanth also discussed his proposals pertaining to PG students. He proposed to conduct a separate orientation session for PG freshies during the Saathi orientation besides promising support to Litsoc Secretaries.

Srikanth spoke about the importance of brand value and marketing. He proposed to introduce Saarang Exhibits which would consist of events like Flash Mobs, skits and impromptu musical jams. He sought to replicate insti’s night atmosphere in Saarang through events like Wolf. He also mentioned the importance of taking up a long-term social cause which could lead to better impact, legitimate PR and more sponsorship money.

 

Q&A Between the Candidates

The floor then turned to cross questioning between the candidates, roughly following an alternate questioning pattern. Ferril began by asking Srikanth as to how many events required previous background and questioned the necessity for new initiator events. Srikanth responded by saying that around half of the club events require some background. Further, he responded by saying that initiator events need to be marketed better. Ferril disagreed with Srikanth and noted that only one or two club events required some background. Further, he argued that Srikanth was only concerned about the marketing aspect of the events. Srikanth countered this by noting that he proposed to conduct repeat sessions and with an example of Stagecoach explained that non-competitive events did not mean that beginners would feel comfortable in going for them. He proposed to have guided performances wherein beginners would be able to start off well. Ferril then questioned the role of the Club Outreach Committee in Srikanth’s proposals. Srikanth responded by saying that the COC would continue as earlier but proposed greater accountability by including Litsoc Secretaries and clubs.

Srikanth started off by questioning Ferril’s proposal of reduced ticket prices. Both candidates came prepared with financial statements and there was extensive debate on the feasibility of Ferril’s plan. Srikanth argued that Ferril’s model was not sustainable and showed that this model would result in a huge deficit that Saarang is not in a position to bear. Ferril countered this point by bringing up his own financial statements. The main point of debate was that Ferril’s proposal to bring in better artists could not be compensated by a larger audience. The moderator, SLC speaker Venkataraman Ganesh asked the candidates to move on to the next issue. Both candidates would be permitted to send a mail to the student community regarding their financial proposals.

Ferril proceeded to ask Srikanth whether he had any new proposals for PG students. Srikanth responded in the affirmative by saying that UG and PG secretaries would be in direct contact. Further, he said that he was thinking about the possibility of joint teams. Srikanth proceeded to question Ferril about the feasibility of a cashless Saarang. He argued that participants refuse to take PayTm cash and pro show artists required to be paid immediately. Ferril responded by saying that it was possible to organise a cashless Saarang and that it would be beneficial. Further, he noted that this would simplify the job for the finance team. This was followed by a brief discussion of Srikanth’s plan for the adventure events.

 

Open Q&A

After the completion of the cross-questioning session, the floor was opened to questions from first the Executive Wing Members and then the General Student Body.

Both candidates were questioned by Shreyas Harish, the current Cultural Secretary (Lit) about their short term plans for Saarang’s social campaign. Both candidates agreed that they would take up the same social cause as Saarang 2017. Ferril noted that he would try to involve multiple NGO’s to create a larger impact. Srikanth proposed to engage with the same NGO, namely Engineers without Borders. Shreyas proceeded to ask the candidates about their proposals to tackle PR damages. Srikanth responded by saying that his coordinators would be well prepared. Further, he would immediately release a statement explaining their stance on the issue. Ferril agreed with Srikanth and added that he would strive to make scoring transparent. The outgoing secretary then posed a ‘case question’ to each of the candidates.Srikanth was asked to tackle a situation in which a curfew had been initiated in Chennai whereby everyone needed to be in their homes before 8 p.m. Srikanth noted that pro-shows being the highlight of Saarang, he would propose to reschedule them in such a scenario. He would ensure that the artists were contacted well in advance and cut other time slots when necessary. Ferril was asked to handle a situation in which state-wide protests were being held during Saarang. Ferril noted that he would work to mitigate the problem of footfall and hence proposed to increase insti participation. Further, he proposed to cancel some of the proshows and reduce prize money.

The floor was now open for question from the student body. Ferril was questioned regarding his proposals for the allocation of the Sangam budget. He responded by noting that only Rs 12 Lakh had been spent out of Rs 30 Lakh which had been allocated. Hence, he believed that his proposal would work. Srikanth was then questioned regarding his proposal for online engagement. Srikanth was not sure about the number of online competitions conducted in Saarang 2017. His proposal was to increase the money spent on promoting the Facebook page. Further, he sought to boost prize money. Both candidates were then questioned about the lack of events in the even semester. Ferril proposed to ensure a uniform spread of events throughout the odd semester so that the coordinators did not burn out after Saarang. Srikanth agreed with Ferril’s idea.

Both candidates were asked to elaborate on their plans for regional bodies. Ferril noted that not all regional bodies currently have the required funds and he sought to change this. He proposed that they would get support and would be able to leverage the publicity. Srikanth said that there was no synergy between sabhas and cultural clubs. He proposed to take assistance from the sabhas to reach out to the PG students. The final question posed to both candidates was regarding their lack of facilities background. Both candidates agreed that this was a valid point. Ferril noted that he enjoyed a good working relationship with the facilities super coords and said that he would strive to integrate the backend teams. Srikanth proposed  to give increased importance to the facilities team.
This concluded the final soapbox on Day 3. The moderator dissolved the session by noting that this was one of the most competitive and technical soapboxes during his time in the institute.

Disclaimer: The views are not to be construed in any manner as the official views of IIT Madras.
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Akash Kumar

Akash Kumar is a First Year Undergraduate at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. He is passionate about books, politics and good conversation. Loves to hang out with people who buy him coffee at CCD.