Ahead of the election for the post of Speaker, SLC, we speak to the previous two and the current Speakers of SLC to take a look at the role of Speaker and the challenges posed to SLC next year. Anvitha Reddy reports.
- The Speaker is elected by the Legislators of the Student Legislative Council.
- Link to the report of the Soapbox for the post of Speaker.
Speaker: Responsibilities and Jurisdiction
The duties and powers of a SLC speaker are comprehensively detailed in the Students’ Constitution (Page 14).
Among others, they include the following:
The Speaker shall:
- Convene, conduct, and moderate the meetings of the Student Parliament in an impartial manner.
- Call for agenda points from all members of the GSB before every meeting of the SLC.
- Set the legislative agenda for each meeting of the SLC.
- Be a non-voting member of the Executive Council and facilitate coordination between the Executive and Legislative branches of the Student Government.
- Represent the views of the SLC and the Student Government to the Board of Students and the Senate.
- Appoint Councillors to Parliamentary Committees in case of vacancies, subject to the ratification of the SLC.
The Speaker shall:
- Be the final arbiter in case of disputes related to rules of procedure of the SLC
- Oversee and supervise the work done by members of the SLC Secretariat;
- Appoint student-heads of constitutional bodies in consultation with the outgoing student-heads, subject to ratification by the SLC
- Have the right to censure and suspend Legislators, members of the General Student Body and members of the Executive Council for unparliamentary and unconstitutional behavior in matters related to the functioning of the Student Legislative Council.
Quoting the Students’ Constitution: The Speaker must exercise his/her punitive powers with caution. The Speaker must submit a report to the Student Legislative Council and the Board of Students via the Dean (Students) giving detailed reasons behind the exercise of his/her punitive powers within a reasonably short period of time. Misuse of his/her powers and failure to submit the report on time are grounds for impeachment of the Speaker.
Of the role of the Speaker, Venkatraman Ganesh, Speaker 2016-17 says, “In an ideal situation, the Speaker would have little to do except manage SLC’s functioning. Broadly, this would include administrative affairs (publicity- being the Point of Contact for SLC with all stakeholders, and ensuring that legislators have the necessary resources they need to work well), procedural affairs (convening and moderating SLC, ensuring that the rules and procedures of SLC are being adhered to by legislators, Executive Council and other stakeholders) and monitoring (ensuring that Legislators and the Committees do their jobs properly and on time, and ensuring that laws/resolution passed by SLC are taken by admin).”
“In a nutshell”, Aroon Narayanan, Speaker 2015-16 summarises, “the Speaker primarily needs to be the legislature’s executive. Basically- ensure SLC meetings are conducted regularly, ensure representatives are doing their job of representing student concerns actively, ensure SLC committees take up and complete important tasks, ensure SLC decisions are ratified at Board of Students(BoS) and Senate as soon as possible.”
Nikhil Namburi, presently the interim Speaker, wished to defer the expression of his views on the role till the completion of election for the Speaker post.
Challenges the next Speaker has to face
As for the challenges a Speaker faces, Aroon Narayanan, Speaker 2015-16 says, “Each SLC representative is beholden to his/her constituency (not as much as we’d like them to be, but at least more than they are to anybody else) and not the Speaker, so getting them to do serious legislation is a daunting task.”
Venkatraman Ganesh, Speaker 2016-17 points out the ground reality: “In an ideal situation, the Speaker will not need to get involved in policy making at all, and would not have to break his/her head over filling the gaps and voids left by the legislators/standing committees.
Unfortunately, this is hardly the case. The Speaker faces a lot of challenges. Some of them are: Lack of enthusiastic, ethical, knowledgeable, strong willed Legislators, little to no knowledge about SLC and other student government organizations amongst the GSB and lack of a structured, comprehensive and enthusiastic support from the admin. And because of the late elections [Read Who Moved my Elections?],SLC as a whole gets affected because things like passing budget, ratifying people and taking up serious policy measures suffer. The SLC not functioning as it should, allows for the administration to work with just the few elected secretaries.”
In agreement, Nikhil Namburi, Speaker 2017-18 says problems can be expected from the late elections for Speaker: “It has been two months since the appointment of the T5E Executive Editor and SLC is yet to ratify the person appointed. Another challenge would be getting a good secretariat; most students interested in applying are probably already holding down PoRs. Most budgets including that of sports cannot be undone or modified around this time of the year even though it is the SLC’s duty to represent the student community’s interests in spirit. The new Speaker needs to fulfill their manifesto promises in six months and keep up with the Secretaries’ work which started way earlier.”
Advice to the next Speaker
Venkatraman Ganesh, Speaker 2016-17 chooses to enumerate what he thinks the next Speaker should focus on:
- Creating a vision for student governance in insti and getting the administration to buy into it.
- Publicizing the Students’ Constitution left right and centre – ensuring even the most clueless person has heard of it and knows that it is important by the end of the academic year.
- Setting milestones for SLC for the year and scrupulously ensuring that timelines are adhered to by legislators and others.
- Publicizing SLC and student governance left right and centre – new initiatives, parliament visit trips etc.
- Keeping legislators happy, motivated and enthusiastic.
- Taking the LTAP course he had started – “Introduction to Student Governance” – to a bigger level.
Aroon Narayanan, Speaker 2015-16 quips, “I’m not really up to date on the general scenario, but I definitely know that they would want to ensure smooth implementation of the new Constitution, especially the “Judiciary” section, which is new and needs experienced students to kickstart.”
Major changes and milestones facilitated by the Speaker in the past two years:
Speaker: Aroon Narayanan
- Sharp increase in SAC meetings from just 3 to over 17 in his year.
- The Financial Accountability Commission and the Student Election Commission were set up; Student Election Code was passed.
Speaker: Venkatraman Ganesh
- Streamlined the functioning of the SLC; in-depth report for every agenda point containing its necessity, views of all concerned stakeholders and its feasibility presented to the SLC before taking the final call.
- Secretaries’ and Speaker’s Rule Books created.
- First trip to the Indian Parliament.
- Read Manifesto Reviews 2016-17: Speaker, SLC.
Speaker: Nikhil Namburi
Full Manifesto Review to be made after the Election for Speaker post.