By Niharika, Harsh, Nihal and Surya
Co-Curricular Affairs Secretary Soapbox
With the election season underway in full swing, Wednesday marked the return of the annual soapboxes, albeit with a slight variation in the format. In this new format, candidates facing a contest would battle it out against one another while unanimous candidates would be engaged in a discussion with the anchor. Questions from the Executive Council Members and the GSB would follow.
The soapbox for this year’s Institute Elections opened to a paltry audience and began with Ramprashanth M, a unanimous contestant for the post of the Co-curricular Affairs Secretary. Currently in his fourth year of Mechanical Engineering, Ramprashanth was the Evolve Core for Shaastra 2017 and has worked on multiple projects in CFI. Ramprashanth’s manifesto revolved around three verticals: CFI, TechSoc and Shaastra.
Ramprashanth stressed on the need to enhance the synergy between Shaastra and CFI. To execute this, he suggested several plans such as merging the back-end teams of Shaastra and CFI to cater to the tech requirements in the institute. He also proposed collaborations between the Sponsorship team of Shaastra along with the CFI Branding team in order to consolidate essential deals. He called for the formation of a branding team to publicise the work done in CFI and increase alumni involvement. In addition, he also discussed remodelling the industry connect in accordance with Shaastra Solutions.
Ramprashanth acknowledged that some areas in TechSoc are not living up to their expectations in terms of the students’ enthusiasm. To counter this problem, he promised to improve the reach of TechSoc by disseminating necessary information about TechSoc events through online as well as offline avenues. Moreover, he also plans to allot participation points hostel-wise. As an added measure, he has also promised incentives apart from TechSoc points to the winners of the competitions.
Ramprashanth’s main focus was Shaastra and he proposed several new initiatives to augment the fest. To improve the social impact of the fest, he suggested that every team in Shaastra would take up a mini-social project centred around relevant themes to increase overall PR. He promised to collaborate with professional design teams to increase the ambience of the fest. To make the experience worthwhile for non-participants as well, he also proposed to add a fun-zone to Shaastra, where a dedicated team would conduct informal activities. In order to publicise the rich culture of research in the institute, he has also suggested guided tours covering the different labs in the institute.
The floor was then opened for questions. The speaker posted the first question, asking what collaborations and activities Ramprashanth planned to focus on as CoCAS to make the institute a better place. The candidate answered stating that this could be done by collaborating with companies and foreign universities for courses and by streamlining projects from the companies. This was immediately followed by another question from the speaker about the rules and responsibilities as a CoCAS, and how the DOMS and HSS departments could be incorporated into the current system. The candidate cited examples of projects that were connected to non-technical departments, and narrated one instance as that being how the students under the HSS department were able to effectively utilize social entrepreneurship better than the technical departments. He further clarified that his vision was to transform Shaastra from a technical festival to a co-curricular festival.
When asked about how there are a lot of bodies trying to connect with the industry and how he plans to deal with this scenario, Ramprashanth responded by proposing that the bodies should focus on different phases of the same work to improve efficiency, so as to maintain a balance. Furthermore, ICT and I&AR could funnel industry related projects and maintain long term relations with the industry. This was followed by a series of questions about the Inter-IIT tech meet and about the impact Shaastra as a techfest can make, which were some of the key points in his manifesto.
A key discussion that followed involved Ramprashanth’s ideas on outsourcing the design part of Shaastra to shift the setting into a more professional approach. Concerns regarding the possibility that this would lead to a trend of ambience also getting outsourced, followed. The concerns were addressed by his clarifying that only a limited part of design would be outsourced and the majority would still be handled by a student team, thus not compromising the student-run stature of Shaastra.
Academic Affairs Secretary Soapbox
The second soapbox of the day was that of YVR SashiSekar, a fourth year pre-final year student from the Department of Civil Engineering and the unopposed candidate for the post of Academic Affairs Secretary. He presented his manifesto in a rather sparsely attended affair at SAC Middle Earth. SashiSekar began his presentation by highlighting the key aspects of his manifesto, and his vision for his tenure as AAS. This spanned four major areas where he targeted improvement: namely Academic Initiatives, Student Support, Higher Education and Placements. Beginning with a list of academic oriented points pertaining to mainly the UG students, SashiSekar proposed to generate more awareness among all stakeholders regarding the new curriculum effective from the batch of 2015.
He repeatedly stressed on the importance of understanding the new curriculum and leveraging the improved flexibility. Some other key points that he mentioned under Academic Initiatives include a revamp of workflow, a larger choice of electives and the automation of bonafide and grade card certificates.
A proposal was made to gain feedback regarding the demand of various courses offered by the institute and thus, request the respective departments to offer those courses at a higher frequency or offer them on NPTEL. SashiSekar also proposed to facilitate registration for credited UG research projects in addition to a more hassle free slot correction system. On the same note, he also mentioned automating manual processes such as generation of transcripts and bonafide certificates and thus providing these facilities via Workflow.
He moved on to discuss his views on Student Support in insti. Coming to curriculum related affairs, SashiSekar proposed to create a system wherein the respective CRs of every class could pass on information regarding a possible lack of textbooks, which after passing through adequate channels, would be brought to the notice of the Library. In addition to this, he also put forward a plan to conduct mid-semester course review/feedback via an ‘Academic’ tab (proposed) in the IITM Students app.
Here, SashiSekar stressed the importance of cultivating research interests amongst undergraduates. A proposal was put forward to set up department-wise UG research awards to encourage the spirit of research among the UGs. He proposed to create a UG Research Guideline book, wherein the details of all the research projects (of the professors ready to work with students) in the institute would be mentioned along with the details of courses relevant to said projects.
He noted that the Placements team was a student run organisation, thus ensuring that initiatives were easily implemented. Some of his key proposals included the introduction of Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) weekends, streamlined placement test allotment and an increased emphasis on soft-skills preparation.
Specifically, he proposed to set up a Quality System Manual in which the duties and responsibilities of all the stakeholders of the placement season were to be clearly defined. He also brought to light the fact that henceforth, the student placement team of each year would be put together by the members of the previous year’s team.
SashiSekar spoke about how it was relatively simpler to realize his vision regarding placements as opposed to academics. He elaborated on how placements are handled by an almost entirely student-run body, whereas academics involved many more stakeholders: students, branch councillors, faculty, and the administration and that he could only push for any changes in academics if it follows a proper channel via the branch councillors at the DCC and the SLC.
He advocated having a single forum by which the various student bodies could get in touch with industry, as companies prefer to have a single point of contact. The presentation was heavily B. Tech and Dual Degree oriented.
SashiSekar was first faced with questions from the anchor, SLC speaker Venkataraman Ganesh. The first question dealt with the differences between his role as AAS and head of placements. SashiSekar responded by noting that academic initiatives required the approval of the administration while placements were student run. He suggested that a common forum would be created for all branch councillors, thus making it easier to discuss academic proposals. Another issue that was raised was regarding the creation of a single forum to connect with industries. SashiSekar was in favour of such a forum and also suggested that it would be in the best interests of the companies.
He was also posed questions by the current AAS. The first question was to enquire the finer details of the proposed ‘slot correction’ system, since course registrations are now being done earlier than before. SashiSekar replied that he did realize that there could be many delays in the process and proposed that the slot listing of the various courses could be shown a week before the course registration. Also at present, the new curriculum has about 40-50% electives which are being managed by the seat allocation software, a software which he now proposed to be extended to the slot allotment of all the courses. Though his response suggested that a better software ought to be developed, he was unsure of the time-frame required for implementation.
The next question was regarding the proposal of PSU weekends and the opportune time to schedule them. The candidate elaborated that the main reason why the relationship with PSUs is sour owes to the fact that many students apply for these jobs and later withdraw owing to better offers elsewhere. SashiSekar stated that the PSU participation was good nonetheless and stressed, on the same note, that a slight conflict of interest would always exist. However, he noted that the PSU weekends could be held in the month of November. The conversion of PSU’s has improved over the past placement season and SashiSekar said he believes that this is a sign of growing interest in PSU jobs.
The floor was then yielded to the audience for asking questions. One of the questions was regarding SashiSekar’s proposals to ensure uniformity in the profiles offered across IITs and enquired what he would do to break the trend of high paying private companies preferring the other IITs when it comes to placements. To this he replied that it was mainly due to regional proximities and limited vacancies in their organization and since most companies are headquartered at Mumbai it is not a surprise that the best profiles go to IITB. He also added that the long term solution to this was to improve the branding of the institute.
An important issue that was brought up was regarding the schedule of placement tests. The current schedule was reported to be gruelling, with tests being scheduled from 6 a.m to 1 a.m at times. Several students believe that this could negatively impact preparation for the placement interviews. SashiSekar agreed that changes were essential. His proposals include a standard test for coding and aptitude exams as well as a limit on the slots available to companies which register late.
Another question was raised suggesting the exclusion of placements from the domain of the AAS, citing that the AAS’ main duty was to manage affairs related to academics. To this the candidate responded that placement work was at the core of the responsibilities of an AAS, and that devoid of it, it didn’t make sense to have a secretary post to manage just academic affairs.
Finally, when a student raised a sharp question on how the appointment of future placement teams by their predecessors may lead to unethical appointment based on ‘deals’ made during the election, the candidate replied with a quip, saying that ‘the placement team does not run with deals but feels’, and was received with applause.