Institute Soapbox (Day 4): Academic Affairs Secretary, Institute General Elections 2018

by Akash Kumar

The final day of the Institute Soapbox held on March 6 saw the candidates for the positions of Academic Affairs Secretary and Hostel Affairs Secretary present to the student body their vision and mission for their respective positions next academic year. Akash Kumar puts down a brief report of the soapbox for the post of Academic Affairs Secretary in this article. The complete video of the soapbox can be found here.

The unanimous candidate for Academic Affairs Secretary KJ Rahul Reddy is a fourth-year dual degree student from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The candidate started out with briefing the audience on his vision to steer IIT Madras to excellence by establishing a conducive environment for academics, research and placements. He then went on to elaborate on his specific manifesto points.

Internship initiatives

In the context of new policy change allowing Dual Degree/M.Tech students to do a summer internship in their pre-final year, Rahul proposed allowing the Dual Degree students to choose whether to sit for internships on campus in their third or fourth year based on their preference.

He said that he will start on campus internships for M.techs from January. He proposed to start Internship season in the first week of August with a two-day split of Day 0 and 1 which will facilitate the accommodation of more companies. He also assured centralized preparation for internships along the lines of that for placements with the help of Google Classrooms. He added that he would seek new research internship avenues with visiting professors and Office of International Relations. By helping department Branch Councillors contact visiting professors with the help of faculty, the candidate said he would start an on-campus internship process for research internships which can be stepped up to a research internship portal if positive results are achieved.

Placement initiatives

Rahul proposed a pan-IIT student council consisting of placement heads from all the IITs. He also talked about building a fast and secure placement portal with the help of alumni funds or outsourcing it on a subscription basis. He plans to introduce a dream PPO policy wherein students with closed PPOs can also apply for one company during the placement. He also plans to formalize the department level placement and internship structure in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. He seeks to make structural changes in M.Tech & M.Sc placement team to improve department representation for each and every specialization. Also, he expressed his intention to introduce waiting halls in placement venue with easy availability of food and water and also integrate online payments system for internships and placements in the academic portal.

Interdisciplinary Dual Degree

Rahul proposed to change the selection procedure for Interdisciplinary dual degree from only CGPA -based to being based on specific course grade, relevant experience and SoP modes.  He also seeks to introduce minors for high-in-demand specializations and to facilitate industrial projects and internships with companies associated with the course work of the degree.

SEAT Allotment

Rahul proposed to give higher preference in the SEAT allotment to students opting for courses for completing a minor. He said he would like to mandate that prerequisites of a course are taken into consideration before allotting the courses. He plans to make the department legislators a part of the academic council again who can take up various initiatives like starting tutorial sessions for first year students writing supplementary exams through the teaching assistants. Through an academic council, he opines, AAS will make sure that all the academic activities at a departmental level are taken up.

Rahul ended his presentation by acknowledging that the major issues in the placement process remained the use of mobile phones and cheating in placement tests as well as lack of a streamlined walk-in process. He expressed his intention to fix the same by working with company representatives.

Q&A from Executive Council and Core Team

The Question and Answer session was started by the outgoing Academic Affairs Secretary, YVR Sashi Sekhar. Sashi asked Rahul to name the committees that AAS is a part of. Barring a new sub-committee, Rahul was able list down the same. In response to Sashi’s question on there being no manifesto point pertaining to under-utilization of library funds, Rahul said that at the department level, he would make available, e-copies of the books that students need. Sashi followed it up saying that it was not enough and that he should come up with something or alternatively convince the administration to use the rest of that fund for other purposes. In response to Sashi’s next question on the challenges that the next placement season would face, Rahul mentioned that the absence of a gap between end semester exams and placements and bringing companies which did not give any offers and retaining them in the same slot would be major challenges. Rahul proposed to mandate that companies choose their slot in first two weeks of registration or in two parallel slots from the start and also have a test calendar. Sashi responded saying that these measures were tried but they didn’t work out. Rahul then said that common tests across IITs can eliminate a few tests to which Sashi nodded in agreement. Sashi then asked when Director had himself promised the change in selection procedure for interdisciplinary dual degree programs, what is it that the candidate was bringing to the table. Rahul replied that the administration was planning to include just the relevant course grade while he also wanted to add SoP and relevant experience. In response to the next question on prerequisites, the candidate mistakenly referred to slot correction week as slot clash week. Sashi said that the consent of teacher form itself automated the eligibility criteria for the course and Rahul’s proposal was not student friendly and would put those who take NPTEL courses or go on a foreign exchange program at a disadvantage given the fact that those courses will not be counted as a prerequisite. He mentioned that he appreciated Rahul’s manifesto on a few counts in context of internships and placements but pointed out that the point regarding dual degree internship in pre-final year was redundant because a policy regarding the same is already in the pipeline. Sashi then pointed out that DoHSS department placements were already happening to which Rahul said that he wanted to make the HS department placements more targeted in addition to conducting an internship drive.

The outgoing sports secretary Dhyaneshwaran C. asked what the candidate would do with regards to the fact that IIT Madras remained the only IIT where there is a CGPA criteria of 6.5 to represent the institute in sports. Rahul responded by saying that he was in favour of getting it removed and will take it forward with the DoST and subsequently with Senate. Dhyanesh followed up asking for his decision if the DoST doesn’t agree. Rahul said that he would try to give better arguments which Dhyanash repudiated and suggested that going through the SLC would be a feasible option. Dhyanesh’s next question was about the lack of any points in the candidate’s manifesto regarding the welfare of students with extension issues. Rahul responded by saying that related problems usually start in the first year and his point regarding tutorial sessions for the freshmen is in line with that. The outgoing Speaker of SLC, Namburi Nikhil Bharadwaj followed up on the last question by asking if the candidate met extension students and members of the extension welfare committee. Rahul responded that although he didn’t meet any extension students, he had met members of the extension welfare committee. Dhyanesh’s last question was that while he, Dhyanesh was interested in civil core, he had to go for a non-core company because core companies were slotted from third day onwards only. The candidate said that it was based on student demand but he could look into the possibility of having a dream core company concept and could push PSUs to come before December. The outgoing Students’ General Secretary Sai Kiran G L mentioned that the two qualities students expected from an Academic Affairs Secretary were ethics and standing for them when a company does something wrong before following up with his question. Sai Kiran asked Rahul about what he had done regarding cheating in the capacity of a placement core and what he was going to do regarding the same next year. Rahul said that when he got to know about the incidents of cheating, he discussed it with the placement advisor and one student was debarred from the portal for a week. He further said that he would sensitize coordinators and ask company representatives to come for the tests. He also mentioned asking third party vendors to include roll numbers to avoid impersonation and to keep track of how many times a person had switched the tab. Sai Kiran’s next question was about referral policy in placements which he deemed unfair. Rahul responded that it was at the discretion of the company and if there was something unfair happening, the placement team could inform the company. Rahul responded to Sai Kiran’s apprehensions about the buddy programs of various companies being made officially evaluative perhaps causing other companies to also include it. He said that if a buddy was not good, then the company could be informed. Sai Kiran suggested making the whole process transparent at the pan IIT level. The next couple of questions were asked by the outgoing placement cores.

Placement Core Archana Nori made a correction to what Rahul had said earlier regarding the civil core companies placements. She asked about his plan of action for core company outreach and regarding lack of enthusiasm among students to join the placement team in few departments. The candidate said that he wanted to capitalise on the use of LinkedIn to do the same. The outgoing AAS replied saying that he was supposed to discuss initiatives and not what had already been done in the previous year. The moderator asked the candidate to move on to the next question if he didn’t have an answer. The candidate reiterated that the use of department LinkedIn accounts will work to which Archana responded in negative. In the response to her second question, the candidate said that distributing non-core companies to departments would make the DPC position more attractive. When asked to do a stakeholder analysis for dream PPO policy, Rahul said that the students having PPO with a day 2 company might want to apply for a day 1 company thus benefit from it.

 

Q&A from the GSB

The first question was that despite the fact that policy stated that all companies must give the first round of interview to all those shortlisted, it was not followed in Auctus both last year and this year. While the candidate agreed that it wasn’t followed last year, he stressed that it was not so this year and everyone who was there till the evening got at least one interview. On the follow-up question on why Auctus was not demoted, Rahul replied that they were given the slot at the very last and demoting their slot would have hurt the students given that there is already a lack of consult companies which come for placements. There was another follow up question on why there was a lack of consult companies which come for placements. The candidate said that the location of insti is not favourable to which the questioner replied that even IITs at remote locations like Kharagpur had better consult and finance companies like JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, and Deloitte etc. The candidate replied that it takes time to attract consult and finance companies and they had already started doing extensive outreach for the same. He added that they had been partly successful with A&M and P&G turning up.

On another question regarding how the companies were approached, he said that this was done through alumni preferably at Partner/AVP/VP stage and also mentioned that LinkedIn has been of great use. He also mentioned that despite the fact that many companies go to other IITs but don’t come to IIT Madras, the institute had still beaten other IITs in the number of students getting placed. Responding to another question on CS and EE losing out on companies offering internships, the candidate mentioned that his manifesto point of two-day split for opening internship season would solve precisely the same issue. The next question from the GSB was that why cheating and walk-ins did not find any mention in the manifesto despite being major challenges. The candidate said that the walk-in process was adhoc and there was no need to mention the same in the manifesto. He added that half of the placements take place through walk-ins and if student coordinators don’t handle the walk-ins, such incidents would not happen. He said that he would try to have a criterion wherein the sorting of resumes for the walk-ins is done by the company and not the student coordinator.  In answer to another question highlighting the fact that by accepting publicly that cheating happens in IITM placements he might lead the companies to decide not to come, the candidate said that acknowledging the problem was the first step in the right direction.

The next GSB question was that whether the candidate had an SoP format related to his manifesto point of interdisciplinary degree programs, to which he said it was yet to be decided and would be done by the departments. Another GSB member asked why the Career Development Cell (CDC) was not under the AAS. Rahul replied saying that there was a need of alumni help and the aspect of international relations was also present in relation to CDC though he didn’t deny the possibility of the same in the future. A GSB member asked about the need of a pan IIT student council to which Rahul replied that it would create a synergy which all IITs would be able to leverage on. There was another question that queried that while given that in principle AAS is only one post, it was his responsibility to choose a placement head under him while usually members who occupy the post get the certificates for both AAS and Placement Head separately. Rahul replied that such a move would be redundant. Addressing the concern of a GSB member that the dream PPO policy would end up harming most students for the benefit of a few students, the candidate replied that those having PPOs with a day 2 company will seek a day 1 company for placement. He said that the fact is when someone does not take a particular job, the move to let companies hire other students gives more incentive to them to recruit on campus. Here a GSB member brought an example of IIT Delhi mentioning that P&G gave a student there a PPO which she rejected resulting in the company deciding not to participate in IITD placements. The candidate said that it could not be looked at a case-to-case basis but he was sure that it would benefit the students as a whole. The last question was by the Cultural Affairs Secretary (Literary) Srikanth Musti who asked if the placement team could reach out to companies in unconventional careers like journalism, music and theatre etc. to come for the placements. Rahul replied that it was not possible given the large scale recruitment that placements stand for.

With this, the moderator dissolved the session concluding the first soapbox of Day 4.

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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 Second 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.