Institute Soapbox: Cultural Affairs Secretary (Literary), Special Elections August 2018

C Gayathri, Naomi Karyamsetty

 

The soapbox for the post of Cultural Affairs Secretary (Literary) took place on the evening of 21st August 2018. This was the only vacant Executive Wing post, due to the resignation of the previous Secretary soon after his election. The culturally active sections of the student body had been eagerly following the three-way contestation between Gear Harshith Srinivas, Anurag Khandelwal, and (now disqualified by the SEC) Jaya Surya A P. However, they were surprised and amused to discover that only Gear intended to participate in the soapbox, and had arrived at the venue prepared to speak and field questions. Chaithra Navada, chairperson of the Student Election Commission (SEC), moderated the soapbox.

 

Jaya Surya was present at the start of the soapbox, but had not submitted a manifesto and feasibility report by the stipulated deadline. He did not make a presentation at the soapbox, declined to cross-question Gear when offered the chance, and left during the Executive Council’s questioning. Anurag Khandelwal had submitted a manifesto (in verse) and a feasibility report, which can be also be accessed (along with Gear’s) after logging in to the DOST portal, under the ‘Elections’ tab. However, Anurag was not present during the soapbox. His election campaign poster had been rejected by the Student Election Commission, and was subsequently seen on online social media platforms.

 

Gear Harshith was given eight minutes to speak, during which he presented his manifesto points and intended vision for Saarang, Sangam & LitSoc, and the Inter-IIT cultural contingent, as well as his credentials and relevant previous experience. The same can be found in his manifesto and feasibility report. In insti’s traditional soapbox format, candidates’ presentations would typically be followed by competing candidates cross-questioning each other on feasibility and other aspects of their manifesto. As the other candidates were not participating in the soapbox, however, this segment was missing.

 

The following questions and answers are edited for clarity and conciseness. To watch the full hour-long proceedings, please visit the video hosted by the SECC YouTube channel.

 

Questions from the Executive Council and SEC:

 

Subba Reddy, Secretary, Cultural Affairs (Arts): Will you have a 6.5 CGPA cut-off for contingent selection?

 

Gear Harshith: I’m sorry, could you speak slower?

 

Subba Reddy: (much slower) Will you have a 6.5 CGPA cut-off for selection of cultural contingents, just like there is in sports?

 

Gear Harshith:  I think I would not want CGPA to play a role in the selection of contingents. But this will not be my decision alone. I will have to discuss it with the administration. I will push for not having CGPA play a role in contingent selection.

 

Subba Reddy: Do you mean that you will not have a cut-off at all or will decrease the cut-off?

 

Gear Harshith: For the inter-IIT contingent, I would rather not have a CGPA cut-off at all, not just decrease it.

 

Nikhil Namburi, SLC Speaker: I have a follow-up question. How do you plan on selecting the contingent? To tell you something, last year, the Students General Secretary Sai Kiran was a part of a contingent that went to Bangalore. He did not participate in a single event.

 

Gear Harshith: If you’d seen the first bubble in my slide on contingents, it talked about formalising the Inter-IIT contingent selection process. Do you know how the Choreo team selections happen?

 

Namburi: I am not talking about Choreo. Apart from Choreo…

 

Gear Harshith: Exactly, I am getting there.  For Choreo, we hire a professional from outside to come inside the institute. We have all the students showcase their performances on the stage. Whatever the judge says is final. The team doesn’t have any say in this decision. So no matter how good a dancer he is, if the judge doesn’t select him, he cannot be a part of the contingent. So by formalising the process, we can bring in professionals to oversee fair try-outs for the contingent.

 

Subba Reddy: What if a drunk guy attends an event in Saarang. An event coordinator calls to inform you about the nuisance he is creating. What’s your plan of action?

 

Gear Harshith: This exact incident took place in my coreship year, with me and Parvathy.

 

Audience: And Coolaj!

 

Gear Harshith: And Coolaj. I mean to say that Coolaj was handling a different issue at that time. Parvathy and I had to rush to the venue to calm the atmosphere down. So the first step would be for the cores to try to reason with him and get him out of the event. If he doesn’t coordinate, then the next step would be to call the security team. We will also ensure that no one present is recording the incident, and that no bad PR goes out.

 

Nihal K, Hostel Affairs Secretary: Suppose there is an institute-wide policy stating that students from the institute or outside will not be given accommodation during Saarang. How will you ensure that Saarang sees a minimum level of footfall and the participation in Saarang is not affected?

 

Gear Harshith: So you’re saying during Saarang, people will not be given accommodation…

 

Nihal: In a hypothetical situation…

 

Gear Harshith: In a hypothetical situation, people are not given accommodation, what will I do about it. Is everyone not given accommodation?

 

Nihal: Nobody, none of the participants from outside as well as inside are given accommodation.

 

Gear Harshith: Participants from outside and even institute students are not given…

 

Nihal: …are not given accommodation, if they’ve given Saarang participation as the reason on iKollege.

 

Gear Harshith: Based on the last time I spoke to the Hospitality Core, we get a revenue of 5 lakhs from accommodating non-institute students. We book around 600 rooms in CCW for outsiders’ accommodation. That’s around 2-3 thousand people spread across 4 days. (Long pause) Firstly, I will have to talk to the Dean and ensure that he gives accommodation for the institute students at least. Secondly, since we get a revenue of 5 lakhs from accommodating outsiders, my contingency would be to use the 5-lakh overhead to tie up with a paying-guest accommodation (PG) or small-scale hotel outside the campus to provide large-scale accommodation during Saarang.

 

Nihal: We’re talking at the magnitude of 2-3 thousand. Which hostel or any other arrangement could possibly handle this magnitude?

 

Gear Harshith: Exactly. I will not be talking to only one PG. I will try tying up with multiple PGs and make deals to bring down their costs to the same level as what we pay CCW.

 

Subba: If one of your cores loses valuable equipment, how will you respond to the situation? (laughter and cheers from the audience)

 

Gear Harshith: This situation happened in my core year as well. I think the cores and the cultural secretaries did a very good job of sorting it out. It will not be an individual decision. There will be a committee of cores, the Cultural Advisor, and the other cores, to see what we can do. Are you asking what I’d do if the property is lost or what I’d do to ensure that it is not lost?

 

Subba: The property is already lost.

 

Gear Harshith: So I will try to replicate the actions that were taken last year.  We will constitute a committee to look into this issue as soon as possible. A problem faced last year was that there was no MoU binding [the core]. I will try to ensure that there will be an MoU from this year.

 

Namburi: This is a follow-up question. Are you aware that a long-term Inventory Committee was proposed in the SLC last year? The discussion was not concluded before the Council dissolved. What is your suggestion for this year? Do you want to buy the necessary major equipment, like projectors, or are you only looking at renting them?  

 

Gear Harshith: Can you specify if you are talking about Sangam or Saarang? Would the long term inventory be used only for…

 

Namburi:  …a long term inventory will be used for Sangam, Saarang, Shaastra, and everything, right?

 

Gear Harshith: We have a Sangam budget for buying long-term equipment. The first question that arises is regarding the security of this equipment…

 

Namburi: That is exactly why this committee will be formed.

 

Gear Harshith: Then it depends on the location that will be provided for storing the equipment. If the location is secure enough, I think we should invest in a long term inventory and use it for the club activities.

 

Subba: Last question: What if a sponsor threatens your spons coord?

 

Gear Harshith: What if…?

 

Subba: (slowly) What if a sponsor threatens your spons coord? How would you respond to the situation?

 

Gear Harshith: I will first try to understand why the sponsor is threatening the spons coord. Secondly, I will ask my spons core to be the mediator. I will not pitch in between the spons coord and the sponsor. I will talk to the spons core and try to understand why this situation has arisen. I will ask the core to personally deal with the sponsor instead of the coord.

 

Namburi: Are you aware that the enthusiasm for joining FR team has been decreasing? In 2013, there were 120 applications. It came down to 80, 60 and then 13. Do you know what the number is this time for the 56 member team?  

 

Gear Harshith: The last time I heard, it was around 10 or …

 

Namburi: This time, only 3 people applied for 36 positions. It is not so bad with Shaastra, but it’s still pretty bad. With respect to the SGS committee, all the core and coord positions are vacant. You only have three FR coords now. What is your plan B?

 

Gear Harshith: We faced the problem last year as well and we came up with a system to deal with this. The FR coords will not be those who do the work, but those who know the work. They’ll have to read the FR manuals of each and every location, say OAT, KV or SAC, and have extensive knowledge of each place. The events coordinators and their volunteers will be the ones who do the work. Events has already built a good brand image recruits a lot of people. So they will gather information from the FR coords and do the work. I propose a system from the good old days where there are 12 FR coordinators who will know the details of each and every FR manual of the institute. The Events coordinators and volunteers will take up the work.

 

Nihal: Where do you think the cooking club belongs?  Under the Hostel Affairs Secretary or under the Cultural Secretary? And why?

 

Gear Harshith: I would like to put it under the Hostel Affairs Secretary because the number of contacts with the Hostel Affairs Secretary is huge. I think even the catering team works under you. They will be able to provide contacts or networks outside the institute.

 

Nihal: Which catering team?

 

Gear Harshith: The Saarang catering team. (exclamation of surprise from Nihal)

 

Gear Harshith: (picking up on the hint) I am sorry. It is under the Finance Core. But, you take information from them as well, if I am not wrong.

 

Nihal: We don’t.

 

Gear Harshith: Ashwanth was in the catering team. Abhilash—(interrupted by the audience) The catering team has a lot of contacts and…

 

Nihal: We work more with Nova than with the catering team.

 

Gear Harshith: But I think that the database you have is better. And I think the cooking club should stay under the HAS.

 

(Subba and Namburi discuss amongst themselves for a while)

 

Subba: Last year, the SGS had threatened the Cultural Secretary to not let Saarang be held due to personal issues. If that repeats, what are you planning to do? For that matter, any other secretary.

 

Gear Harshith: If I have personal issues with the secretary, I will go talk to him. I do not understand… He will not have any right to stop Saarang because of personal issues with somebody. (loud cheering from the audience)

 

Vamsi Krishna Mula, Co-Curricular Affairs Secretary: This is the by-election. You had the opportunity of contesting for this post even in the main election. Can you explain why you didn’t contest when you had the chance, and are taking the opportunity now, when the post is vacant?

 

Gear Harshith: Firstly, I had some personal issues regarding my candidature last year. Also, I’d thought that a Saarang experience of 4 years was enough for me. But after seeing the current situation after a series of events, I feel like there is no one else to come pick up the broken pieces and I think that I will be the right person to do this. That is why I filed my nomination. (Cheering by audience)

 

Vamsi: There are a lot of initiatives you’ve proposed in Sangam and LitSoc and unlike Subba Reddy, who wasn’t a core last year, you’d had the same opportunity of making the same impact as an Events Core in the same domains. So, firstly, why wasn’t it done when you had the opportunity? And secondly, why is it coming now? You could’ve done it in your tenure as well, right?

 

If you look at the points in my manifesto, most of them are from my coreship app…

 

Vamsi: Does this mean you didn’t finish implementing the ideas put forth in your core app also? Why weren’t you able to do this?

 

The points I had put forth [in my coreship app] were long term visions. The Sangam website had technical requirements. I was not able to find the right people or the right team to execute it. The second semester of my coreship year was dedicated to looking for the unfinished points from my core app, to see whether I can implement them or not. And, these are the points that I think can be carried out in this one year. That is why I put them in my manifesto.

 

Vamsi: So this means that these were points that you already had in mind, but you tried and couldn’t implement them?

 

No, I couldn’t implement them in that specific year. But, I have already laid the groundwork in my second…

 

Vamsi: So, did you have a time constraint or you weren’t able to execute them because of other constraints?

 

Gear Harshith: I would say it was a mixture of both. There were constraints because of the people working under these initiatives and constraints due to time.

 

Vamsi: Let time not be a constraint. What plan do you have in mind to overcome those constraints now? Can you tell the GSB why it should trust that though you had not been able to implement these ideas when you’d had the chance, you will be able to do it now?

 

Gear Harshith: About initiator week, last year we held a series initiator events, but not all of them were held in a single week and we felt that the participation suffered because no one was aware of the fact that initiator events were being held. So by terming it an “Initiator Week” where all the events are held in a span of a single week, people will be aware of these activites.

 

Vamsi: My question is: This could have happened last year as well. Why didn’t it happen? And what are you doing to ensure that it happens this time?

 

Gear Harshith: You are saying that these things did not happen last year. But I am saying that these things happened partially last year…

 

Vamsi: Then why is it a part of the…

 

Gear Harshith: Because making it more formalised will put a system in place where I will not have to do any more work and…

 

Vamsi: So, to be clear, you are saying that some of these things are already happening partially?

 

Gear Harshith: Yes

 

Vamsi: What is new that didn’t happen last year?

 

Gear Harshith: The Sangam website is completely new…

 

Vamsi: Then why didn’t you do it as a core?

 

Gear Harshith: While applying for the post of the core, based on the fundaes I took, I was convinced that the WebOps team of Saarang will be able to make a Sangam Website. But, in the first semester, they were preoccupied with the Saarang website. And, as you are aware, the coordinators are new to the team. They are not experts in the field. So, building a Sangam website from scratch takes them a lot of time. After Saarang, we no longer had a team to do that. So, I’ve now shifted the work from the Saarang team to the Institute MobOps team. You can ask Sri Ram. The team works under him. The team has already been instructed on how the Sangam website needs to be made. And, a sample draft of the Sangam website has already been made.

 

Vamsi: This brings me back to the same question. The Insti WebOps team was there last year as well.

 

Gear Harshith: Exactly, so, I am telling you that in working on my core app, I felt that I could do it with the Saarang WebOps team, but in my Core year, I realised that…

 

Vamsi: Fine. Apart from the Sangam website, is there any other new initiative that was not partially done the last year?

 

Gear Harshith: The Initiator Week and Sangam website are the 2 initiatives that were there in my app last year. Professional opportunities and an alumni network is something I am bringing up this year.

 

Vamsi: So it was not a part of your core app? But some of the other points were in your core app, but, you couldn’t do them then and you want to do them now?

 

Gear Harshith: Yes.

 

Vamsi: Fair enough. In your presentation, you also said that shields for MVPs in LitSoc have already been bought. It means that this is something that has already been done. How can you include it in a presentation and say that you will do this the next year when it has already been done?

 

Gear Harshith: Because I am not contesting for an election does not mean that I cannot help my co-cores and my succeeders with Saarang. This is an idea that I had initiated and I’d wanted my team to execute even if was not going to be a part of Saarang. I wanted to do the job right from the time I got the mail about the resignation and not wait for my election. So starting then, I’d sit with my team and do the work. (Loud cheering by audience)

 

Vamsi: This is my final question. This is also not specific to your manifesto, per se. The selection of the cores is done. And, although you might have had a say in the selection of the events cores, you didn’t have a say in the selection of the other cores. Do you have a strategy in mind of how you would go about handling a team in whose selection you didn’t have any say?

 

Gear Harshith: I would be the first Cultural Affairs Secretary to step into a team that has already been selected. I met with a few people personally  and I’ve already done my groundwork in understanding how each and everything works. So, I think I will be able to do a good job with them.

 

Anshuman Karthik, Sangam Events Core: To be frank, this question applies to every Secretary. In the Institute, everyone wants to expand: they want to have bigger teams, they want to have more events, they want to make a bigger impact. But, after a point, there’s just not enough space for it all. I agree that as an Events Core, you might not have been able to do this, as your responsibilities would have been within Sangam, but now, you will potentially be an Executive Wing member. Do you think there is a way to collaborate with the other secretaries to  be sure that everyone benefits from a system that is far more organised?

 

Gear Harshith: In a lot of instances in my presentation, I’ve suggested that some processes be formalised. Let me talk about “Days of the Week”. The people in Insti know that a movie is screened every Saturday. I talked with Mula about holding the LitSoc events on Wednesdays and Thursdays so that he can hold the TechSoc events on the other days. I think that these initiatives will put a system in pace where every secretary and Executive Wing member will have the space to do whatever they want to do. And, with this system in place, people will also know which events are scheduled for which day and this will, in turn, increase participation.

 

Anshuman: Do you think this will be able to avoid people being interested in multiple activities and not being able to participate in a number of them? With everybody wanting to expand can you assure me that there will be no clashes in the events going on?

 

Gear Harshith: Ideally, there should be no clashes. But, the first step here would be to see that things are formalised and organised.

 

Akash Ramdas, Sangam Events Core: I would like to know what kind of system we will have in place next year for tracking the expenses of Sangam.

 

Gear Harshith: Sorry, I did not get the question.

 

Akash Ramdas: I would like to know what kind of system we will have in place next year, in terms of administration to keep track of the expenses of Sangam and LitSoc.

 

Gear Harshith: The Sangam budget for a year is around 26 to 28 lakhs. The fact that we are taking some of this money is, in fact, us applying for temporary advance…

 

Akash Ramdas: No, not that way. I am talking about the amount we are spending. Because, in the past few years, the money we are spending and the numbers in the office, do not seem to tally.  

 

Gear Harshith: The numbers you get are numbers that were not accounted for because IIT Madras conducted Inter IIT for the first time last year and this fact was not known while drafting the budget at the start of the core year. So, no budget was separately allocated to this. Generally, we try to make most use of the budget allocated to Sangam in itself and restrict the spending to what is available. But, the last year was a case where a lot of other events were dumped on us and we had to see that everything was fulfilled.

 

Anshuman: This is a follow-up. To the best of my knowledge, I think we had to cut down on our costs because a few other teams like placement and CFI overshot their budget. Do you think there are two things that can be done from the cultural side? One is to collaborate with other secretaries to make sure this doesn’t happen; and, two, make sure that we are on the same page in administration every single second so that we know what each one of us is spending on so that we can sort the issues in case of any discrepancies?  

 

Gear Harshith: I think you are asking me a question and giving me the answer.

 

Anshuman: I get that. Currently, there is no system for documentation of purchases in place. It’s hard to maintain it when there are 16 clubs. What is an organised structure that you think we can approach this problem with?

 

Gear Harshith: I found out about a finance portal from when I last spoke to the Finance Cores.  I am not sure if it is working. If there is a need for documentation, we will get the QMS team to do this or revamp the finance portal if necessary.

 

Sudharshan R, Research Affairs Secretary: Traditionally, there has been a lack of participation of PG students in the cultural scene, even when we are talking about LitSoc participation and the posts of Literary and Social Secretaries. What do you plan on doing about this, now that PG students constitute more than 50% of the student population?

 

Gear Harshith: From my experience as an Events Core, I will tell you where everyone has gone wrong in terms of PG participation. People look at PG students as a homogenous whole, while in fact there are a number of segregations. Let’s split cultural into 3 parts: Sangam, LitSoc and Saarang.  I cannot force the PG students to come to Saarang. People will have to rely on feels to motivate them. A major problem with LitSoc is that there are no Literary and Social Secretaries from PG hostels. Even if we do, keeping the PG students informed and lack of enthusiasm are the problems we face. This becomes demotivating to the Literary and Social Secretaries. This time, the elections for the literary and social secretaries are happening at the same time as those for the Cultural Secretary. The Literary and Social Secretaries of the UG hostels will be made to work in tandem with the corresponding secretaries of the PG hostels so that they can understand how it works.

 

Sudharshan: Who do you think should organise the PG Freshie Night? The RAS or the CulSec?

 

Gear Harshith: In terms of operational efficiency, I will be able to do it. Like I said before, if the LitSecs and SocSecs of the UG and PG hostels are put together, the PG hostels will get a better idea of the working. Similarly, the CulSec can take care of the operational efficiency and RAS can take responsibility for organising it, publicising it and getting people  to attend. This way RAS will get a better idea of how it works and take a step further to be included in the scene.

 

Sudharshan: To clarify, the PG freshie night is not the responsibility of the RAS. But, it is being conducted by the RAS because the common freshie night sees minimal participation by PG students.  Since there is a need for a separate freshie nite, don’t you think the CulSec should take up responsibility for the PG Freshie Nite?

Gear Harshith: There will be no problem in including it in the budget if the Cultural Affairs Secretary. For the PG students to be included in the cultural scene, they should understand everything even in terms of organisational efficiency. So, if the budget comes from RAS, then they will understand how the financial modelling of an event works and they will be able to involve themselves more in the cultural scene. So, I think that the budget should come from RAS.

 

Chaitra Navada, SECC Chairperson: We know that there are 17 hostels and 7 posts in each hostel. There are applicants for the post of Literary Secretary only in 10 hostels and in 13 or 14 hostels for Social Secretary . The events you listed will have to start immediately after the elections in September. What do you plan to do if the vacancies are not filled?

 

Gear Harshith: The first step when I become the Cultural Secretary would be to identify the students who have been actively involved in the cultural scene and push them to stand for these posts during the by-elections. Convenors and similar people could guide them in this direction.

 

Sudharshan: We know that, unlike in the case of UG students, the hostel fees of the PG students does not include money for Proshows and t-shirts. How do you plan on selling these to them?

 

Gear Harshith: I was not aware of the fact that PG students’ fees were cut down because of this. But, we were presented with a similar problem in my core year to the marketing and Proshows cores. We were told that CCW would not offer services from next year. This meant that we will have to take T-shirts and Pro-shows tickets through on-ground sales. So the marketing and Proshows cores have already built many models around this.

 

Namburi:  In your core year, in one of the event interviews that took place in the first floor of CRC. There were complaints about indecent behaviour. What will you do if such an incident repeats? The reason you gave the last time was that a lot of events get planned in the last moment and that is why it is not always possible to get the concept of the event ratified by the cultural advisor. What is your plan of action?

 

Gear Harshith: The duty of ensuring that this doesn’t repeat will fall on the QMS coordinators. The QMS coordinators who are in touch with the events coordinators will be asked to check for any new events that are being put up. In case of new events, it will be ensured that the events cores personally talk to the convenors about the structure of the event and make sure that what happened last year is not repeated.

 

Questions from T5E Correspondents

 

Gayathri, T5E correspondent: You talked about providing professional opportunities through clubs. How many students have the required skill set to benefit from this opportunity, and how many of them are willing to take it up seriously?

 

Gear Harshith: From my experience as a core, I’ve seen a few people who want to take up at a professional level whatever they’re doing in the cultural club. We have alumni in the professional fields of these clubs. With this network, I think it will be easy for us to provide professional opportunities to them. This is not something that will be taken up only after college life, but also during it: things like freelancing or gigs, where people want to try out things and see whether they can perform well in the professional field. It is not something that will be forced upon them.

 

Gayathri: I’m sure you’d agree that all this would take manpower, time and resources. Do you think this exercise is worth the effort?

 

Gear Harshith: Manpower, time and resources—manpower being our convenors, who are already selected. Time, I think, is zero, because we already have a network outside, we just have to see which clubs don’t have a professional network outside, and try to build up on that. I don’t think resources will be a problem, because with the said network, it’s just like a person applying for an off-campus job, where you send in your resume and see whether it can happen or not. We give the student the opportunity, whether he wants to take it or not.

 

Gayathri: Can you also elaborate on your plan of action for this?

 

Gear Harshith: I plan on doing this in the even semester, after Saarang, when most of the cultural club convenors will be free of their Saarang responsibilities and can focus more on Sangam. First, we will find out which clubs have an outside professional network, and which don’t. We’ll try to build on these networks, and see if it’s possible to. I think that explains the groundwork needed.

 

Naomi, T5E correspondent: With respect to the formalisation of contingent selection, I understand that there is a need for it, as it can easily be taken advantage of otherwise. But this might reduce the flexibility of participation, because another of your manifesto points is treating clubs as interest groups, making it easier for people to participate. How do you balance these two?

 

Gear Harshith: [The intended system] is similar to what the insti sports team currently does: They have a Team A and a Team B. Team A is basically a group of individuals who are selected through a rigorous process, and Team B is a group of people who are interested in that field, even if they aren’t experts in it. They are allowed into all practice sessions, and are sent to fests at slightly lower levels, which helps them gain experience, confidence and enthusiasm to encourage their efforts to come into Team A. So in my cultural contingent model, I would not fix the team at a group of only 20 people at the start of the year, who would be going to every college festival throughout the year. There’ll be a group of 20 people, along with a group of another 20-30 people who will be encouraged to go to the college festivals which we feel they can be sent to. I feel they would gain a lot of experience from that particular journey.

 

Naomi: My last question is on the involvement of professional organisations with the contingent selection. To what level will this involvement be? Because this could result in the organisation having control over club activities, such as not allowing clubs to participate in certain fests or events.

 

Gear Harshith: The involvement of professional organisations is not something fixed to one organisation, but something that will be cycled before every fest we send our contingent to. Our main purpose of sending a contingent to a festival is to see that they win. So according to the particular requirements of the fest, we will try to bring down professionals from the applicable fields to train, to see that our contingent is perfect in whatever the fest requires.

 

Questions from the GSB

 

GSB Member #1: I have two questions. My first question: Saarang’s Rock Show has been operating at a loss for the past four-five years, irrespective of the artist. Say your cores present you with a two-option scenario. One option is to secure an Indian artist for 5-6 lakh [rupees] and at a guaranteed profit of 2 lakhs, which can be invested into a hugely successful and city-wide popular event such as Silent Disco. The other option is an international rock show, which would go into loss. Would you sacrifice Proshows’ brand value for Events’ brand value?

 

Gear Harshith: I think the question here is not about sacrificing Proshows’ brand value. My stance is that we should carry on with the International Rock Show, because even if it goes into loss, there are a set group of people who come to Saarang specifically for that show. Saarang carries an established brand of being the only South Indian college festival to have an international rock show, and I do not want to give that away. (applause from the audience) Secondly, I feel that every other Saarang department is given more than enough funds. I agree that Silent Disco was a huge hit, but transferring an amount such as two lakhs to Events would be cutting down on Proshows’s brand. In an either-or scenario, I would not transfer the money to Events, but would keep the International Rock Show with Saarang.

 

GSB Member #1: My second question: Shaastra EDM [Night], which happened for the first time last year, was a huge hit. This year, students know it is going to be there, and this is definitely going to affect [Saarang’s] EDM sales. How would you tackle this?

 

Gear Harshith: Let’s split [this problem into] its stakeholders: the Shaastra team; the Saarang team; and the people coming to both fests. I cannot force the Shaastra team not to have an EDM fest; this is completely dependent on the CoCAS and the [Shaastra] Shows & Exhibitions core. If they decided to conduct an EDM night, so be it; I will try to put forward my case of the resultant impact on Saarang, but if they feel it is a necessary value-addition to their fest, I think they should go forward with it. Assuming that a decision to conduct Shaastra EDM is arrived at, my plan would be with respect to the third group of stakeholders. As you mentioned, people know that Shaastra’s EDM is free and Saarang’s has a ticket cost. As a CulSec, I can sit with the CoCAS and the Shows & Exhibitions team, understand what they want to offer for their EDM night, and then sit with the Professional Shows cores and see how we can offer a completely different experience at our EDM night.

 

Hathim Syed Mohamed, former Sangam club convenor: Some clubs, like the Oratory club, are using lakhs for events like MUN (Model United Nations). We don’t know where this money is going. Can you do anything from your end to ensure that anyone can access the spending and other financial proceedings of cultural clubs?

 

Gear Harshith: I think this is on the lines of a similar question that [the events cores] Anshuman and Akash Ramdas asked earlier, i.e. where the budget goes and how it is being spent. …

 

Hathim: Yes, but that’s for the information of the events cores. Can any student know what’s happening?

 

Gear Harshith: The finance portal will have [a record of] the series of transactions…

 

Hathim: Money in the SLC budget is allocated towards something, but then used for something else. This is wrong, according to some people. Do you have any comments on this?

 

Gear Harshith: This is something that I’d have to consult with the current Events cores about. Firstly, I feel that club convenors are responsible enough not to misuse the budget given to them. You, as a convenor, might know that there are Finance coordinators allocated to each club, who are also answerable to the Events cores. If you allege a misuse of budget, Events cores will keep track of how the budget is being used, and I think they can present its use to the public if the SLC so agrees.

 

GSB Member #2: How do you plan on handling a situation where a major Saarang sponsor backs out at the last minute? (mild laughter) How would it affect each individual team and each Proshows night?

 

Gear Harshith: Firstly, Saarang [has not been getting this amount of money for the past five years]. The money Saarang is receiving, and the scale of the fest, have been gradually increasing. The Sponsorship cores are equipped enough, and in possession of adequate external contacts, to ensure that if a major part of their spons is not being retained, whatever amount is lost will be retracted. Assuming the next Saarang’s budget is less than last year’s, team budgets will be cut down at the beginning of the planning process, and activities will be slightly scaled down without losing the Saarang brand.

 

GSB Member #2: How do you plan on avoiding this kind of situation in future?

 

Gear Harshith: This depends on why the sponsor has backed out. If it’s because of a PR problem on our side, that is something we can change. Sponsors are essentially companies who follow certain policies, [as a result of which] sponsor college festivals. If the cause is a change in their guidelines, we cannot ask them to change them back. In the former case, issues with the spons team can be fixed, but in the latter case, we can only try our best to bring in more, new sponsors.

 

GSB Member #3: You mentioned in an earlier answer that you would try to retain the brand value of Saarang. What is the brand value of Saarang, according to you?

 

Gear Harshith: Saarang has specific peaks like, as he mentioned, the International Rock Show. There are a few Saarang competitive events. To put two things forward, it’s Proshows and Events which are pitched to the general public audience. In terms of competitive events, I will not cut down on the number of events, but will try to reduce the cash prize offered. Removing an event would be taking away from brand value, but scaling it down would not.

 

Namburi: Are Proshows artists allowed to drink in the institute?

 

Gear Harshith: No one is allowed to drink in the institute. (cheers from the audience)

 

Namburi: Did these things happen in the past?

 

Gear Harshith: Yes. There are scenarios where the Proshows artists have…

 

Namburi: Your clause with the Proshows clearly states that they will not be served alcohol, at least within the institute. So how do you plan to not violate it this time?

 

Gear Harshith: As you have already mentioned, we try our best, mentioning it in a clause. Additionally, when the deal is being made, we try to emphasise that this shouldn’t be done. But even if, in spite of all this, it happens, as it happened this year, we… (pauses, and is prompted by Namburi to continue) there is a set system in place, which will be followed.

 

As there were no further questions, the soapbox was ended. The audience was reminded that in addition to Gear, there were two other candidates (Anurag Khandelwal and Sri Jaya Surya) contesting for the CulSec (Lit) post, one of whose manifestos and feasibility reports was available on the manifesto portal.

 

__________________________

*Update:

“He did not speak on his own behalf, declined to cross-question Gear when offered the chance, and left during the Executive Council’s questioning.” was changed to “He did not make a presentation at the soapbox,  declined to cross-question Gear when offered the chance, and left during the Executive Council’s questioning.”

“Gear Harshith was thus the only candidate who followed all of the candidate requirements.” was removed after being notified by the SEC that there are no “candidate requirements”, specified by the SEC.

“That is not as bad as it is with Shaastra” was replaced with the verbatim “It is not so bad with Shaastra”. The error in interpretation has been rectified.

Any inconvenience caused is regretted.

 

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