Between catering to the demands of the students and patiently working with a bureaucracy that comes with its own share of rigidities and delays, it takes a lot more to be a hostel council member than is commonly expected. As nominated candidates gear themselves up for the soapboxes and the approaching elections, Sruthi Ranjani and Tejas S bring to you this guide detailing the various powers and responsibilities of secretaries elected to the Hostel Council, coupled with valuable insights and advice from current secretaries on how to successfully pull through these demanding positions of responsibility.
General Secretary (Gen Sec)
The General Secretary is the head (or the Secretary) of the Hostel Council. This Secretary works to ensure proper maintenance of the hostel and its precincts. He/she coordinates the activities of the other hostel secretaries and ensures that everyone is on the same page. Hostel General Body Meetings are called and conducted by the Gen Sec. In addition to this, the Gen Sec also looks after the security arrangements for the hostel and takes care of furniture requirements and maintenance along with the Assistant Warden and the Warden.
Mahesh Rao, the Gen Sec for Cauvery Hostel 2017-18, talks about the challenges he faced:
“Cauvery hostel in the recent three years had undergone a transition from full single occupancy to full double occupancy for which almost all the capacity had to be doubled. Metro Water, Sanitation, Earthing capacity, Common rooms, light and LAN port inside rooms, all had to be doubled. So far we were successful in doubling everything with the help of the administration,except the LAN ports. One LAN port is shared by two residents in double occupancy rooms. We have raised this issue with the administration several times, yet there is no positive response. We are trying to tackle this problem this semester by giving hostel-wide Wi-Fi which will lead to cuts on other spending. This is one area where intervention might be required.
Apart from this, intervention in fire safety is also needed. We have been pressurizing the administration for enough number of fire extinguishers for last two years and we are yet to see results. Such grave problems should be addressed as soon as possible without too much bureaucracy.”
Hostel Legislator (HL)
As the only prominent link between the Hostel Council and the Student Legislative Council (SLC), the hostel legislator’s post is quite important in the Council. A legislator has the potential to change or influence policy decisions made in the SLC. Apart from raising concerns about the hostel at the SLC and proposing policy changes, it falls on hostel legislator to convene and chair Hostel Council meetings in the absence of the Warden or Assistant Warden, and circulate the Minutes of the Meeting to the students of the hostel through email. The legislator can also advise the Hostel Council secretaries in their work and see to it that proper initiatives are being taken to ensure the smooth running of the hostel.
Avantika Singh, previously the hostel legislator of Sharavati, feels that a requisite trait of a legislator is the courage to voice opinions and express dissent. A homogenous SLC in which everyone agrees upon everything without debate and discussion hampers the idea of a democratic legislative process. It is thus important that hostel council legislators are unafraid of voicing their opinion in favour of their hostels and guarantee that differing ideas are not suppressed in the SLC.
Health and Hygiene Secretary (HHS)
The Health and Hygiene Secretary is a replacement of the now defunct post of Garden Secretary, with additional responsibilities such as housekeeping and maintaining the cleanliness of hostel premises. The HHS is to be a part of the Institute-wide Disaster Management Committee, and also the Mess Monitoring and Control Committee. He/she shall be the point of contact for any complaint from his/her electorate.
It is the responsibility of the HHS to make sure that the hostel residents are protected against diseases, especially in the monsoon, when dengue is prevalent. Fumigation, removal of stagnant water, and so on needs to be taken care of.
Pulkit Goel, HHS of Pampa hostel for 2017-18, says: “At my time I always took care about fogging, so that the chance of disease spreading will be very less. In this, my Gen Sec and hostel staff helped me quite a bit, so that fogging was always done on time. For our hostel, we have a medicine box, so even if late at night someone feels that they have fever, or are coughing a lot, they can take it from the hostel guard.”
Sports Secretary (Sports Sec)
It is the job of the Sports Sec to buy and maintain sports equipment for use by hostel residents. The hostel sports calendar and the sports budget is their responsibility. They also decide on the captains for various sports. They can also conduct various intra-hostel sports activities for their students, in addition to coordinating hostel teams for inter-hostel activities organised by the Institute Sports Sec.
We asked Saswat Mishra, Ganga Sports Sec for 2017-18, about the challenges of managing the post. “The biggest challenge I faced as Sports Sec of Ganga was the management of the budget for sports equipment as several teams wanted to shoot over their allotted amount. Equipment is a vital resource and hence this is somewhere that I, as a Sports Sec, did my best to provide. People would be unhappy if they didn’t have the required equipment to play their sport considering fees are paid for the provision of such things. This made it very difficult to act on the infrastructural changes I had planned for the Hostel, as I ran out of budget. Now that durable equipment of a certain quality is available at Ganga, the future Sports Secs can focus on infrastructural changes (new goalposts, set up of gym room) and other incentives (like Swimming Cards for Water Polo/Swimming Team).”
Technical Secretary (Tech Sec)
Among the Technical Secretary’s responsibilities, the most important is to conduct various co-curricular activities at the hostel level and mobilise teams for participating in intra-hostel, inter-hostel and other technical events, all in coordination with the Co-Curricular Affairs Secretary. He/she is also responsible for maintaining technical equipment in the hostel (Hostel Computer, Equipment Ledger etc) and repair or replace faulty equipment. Assisting the Election Officer in conducting elections within the hostel falls within the ambit of the Technical Secretary’s duties.
Among the girls’ hostels, the most common problem encountered by the Tech Sec is the lack of participation in TechSoc events. On being asked what measures a Tech Sec needs to take in order to integrate more girls in TechSoc, Mounika, the current Tech Sec of Sharavati, replied that it is important to conduct introductory sessions to TechSoc for freshers and amply publicise the incentives of participating in technical events. Further, a possible collaboration between the TechSoc and CFI could bring participants from the latter to the former. This would bridge the gap between the two platforms. However, the onus of creating the necessary hostel spirit to increase enthusiastic participation would still lie on the Tech Sec.
Social Secretary (Soc Sec)
The Social Secretary needs to work with the Literary Secretary in organising and conducting various social and cultural activities in the hostel and coordinate the participation of hostel teams in the inter-hostel competitions like LitSoc. Arranging food during social activities and festivals, maintaining musical instruments in the hostel, accounting for these through the Hostel Musical Instruments Ledger are the other responsibilities of a Soc Sec. Any faulty video/audio equipment in the hostel that is in need of repair or replacement warrants the Soc Sec’s attention.
To be a successful SocSec, says Naomi Karyamsetty (Soc Sec of Sharavati), one needs to reach out well in advance to the students and make sure there is enough representation of the hostel in various social and cultural events. Concerning the nature of any secretarial post that requires skilful coordination between the administration and the students, she believes that providing more transparency is the secretary’s duty – if there’s a delay in some problem being solved or some concern being addressed, the students need to know what exactly the reason is behind the delay. Else, it can lead to unnecessary frustration among both the students and the Council members. Naomi also laments on how, unlike a few years back, LitSoc is no more witness to the same amount of lively and enthusiastic participation. This, she believes, deserves special attention from the Cultural Secretary and even from the members of the Hostel Council.
Literary Secretary (Lit Sec)
The Literary Secretary, along with the Social Secretary, is primarily responsible for identifying suitable talent and mobilising students to represent their hostel in cultural events in and outside insti, primarily in the LitSoc events. Some of of his/her other duties include maintaining the Hostel library, procuring magazines and newspapers for the Hostel Common Rooms, and ensuring that they are maintained well and kept within easy reach of all residents and visitors of the hostel.
A great deal of effort on the part of the LitSoc secretaries surely goes a long way in ensuring that the prestigious LitSoc trophy is clinched. Ranjani Srinivasan, the outgoing Literary Secretary of Sharavati, believes that a good rapport between the Literary and Social secretaries is essential to make both jobs easier and much more fulfilling. On being asked what the single most important quality of any incoming Lit Sec has to be, she promptly says ‘perseverance’. While it might be easy to start off on a good note, the enthusiasm can mellow down during the second semester of the tenure. Therefore, despite encountering inevitable rough times, it is important for the Literary Secretary to keep the enthusiasm up and focus on doing a good job as the Lit Sec rather than winning or landing a position in LitSoc.