DISCLAIMER: The authors and editors of this article have tried to be as objective as possible in the following representation of the events of the soapbox. For the sake of brevity, we have discussed, what in our opinion, constitute the most relevant points of the debate. For more details, watch the video at the end of each section.
We present summaries of the soapboxes of the following three unopposed candidates: Saketh Shiva, Poojan Patel and Animesh Bagora contesting for the posts of AAS, IAR Secretary and CoCAS respectively. Probably because these posts were being contested by only one candidate each, the turnout was quite low. It consisted mainly of close supporters of each candidate, the previous secretaries and of course us T5E correspondents, who were there to cover it for you.
Co-Curricular Affairs Secretary – Animesh Bagora
by Nitin N.
Animesh Bagora, the sole contestant for the post could not be physically present for the session due to him being away for an internship. Hence, a video was played to elaborate on the candidate’s vision. The video described his plans for the following four spheres of the institute tech scenario: Shaastra, CFI, TechSoc and the Inter IIT Tech Meet.
Questions from the speakers and the audience were answered by him via phone calls.
Animesh mentioned that he would increase the scope and reach of Envisage both geographically and conceptually. He also proposed to revitalise the concept of Mini Shaastra. Considering the fact that the participation in Mini Shaastra this year was paltry, he was questioned about the viability of the idea. He answered that this was due to the heavy rains and not because the concept of Mini Shaastra was unviable. When asked about what his approach to core selection would be, he said that the screening process would involve an interview with ex-cores and that the final selection would be a joint decision taken by him and the ex-cores. Also, he talked about his plans to get international exhibits from universities and labs for Shaastra.
He proposed to initiate a club that dabbled in a fusion of tech and entertainment. He suggested that this club could be mentored by the Envisage team.
He suggested the idea of teaming up with alumni and corporate sponsors in order to promote TechSoc better. When asked about what he would do to make the exchange students feel more welcome in the tech scenario, he referred to a point on his manifesto where he had promised to set up events designed exclusively for them. In response to a question about the dwindling numbers of freshies involved in TechSoc events and the inefficiency of the current mentoring system in place, Animesh said that the role of 2nd years as mentors would be emphasized during his tenure. He added that 2nd years would work more closely with the freshies and that he would ensure a better mentor-freshie interaction than what has usually existed.
Inter IIT Tech Meet:
It is being planned that IIT Madras will host the meet next year. He proposed to set up a team comprising of members of the Shaastra team along with the Techsoc head at it’s helm to select members for the Inter IIT Tech Meet contingent.
You can watch the entire proceedings here. Credits – Media Club, IIT Madras
Academic Affairs Secretary – Saketh Shiva
by Rohitha Naraharisetty
In yet another day of the bygone soapboxes, the unopposed candidate for the post of Academic Affairs Secretary presented his manifesto in a rather sparsely attended affair. S. Shiva Saketh from the Department of Mechanical Engineering began by introducing his manifesto in a PowerPoint presentation. Some of the key points included in it were that of ‘Placeterns’- an initiative which is proposed to allow for candidates to avail of internship opportunities in other companies if they have not already been placed elsewhere- and ‘Dream Core Companies’ that allow for students who have already been placed to attend another interview of their company of choice. Besides placement oriented initiatives, other proposals that dealt with academics included the tutor system, Academic Buddy Programme, revampment of the online portal, and more.
He was then faced with questions from the moderator. One was regarding the new academic course framework and its feedback, to which Saketh replied that the latter had been pretty good, though it is difficult to ascertain this until one batch of graduates with the current curriculum passes out. The Academic Buddy Programme, he says, will consist of those who are trained in the current curriculum, and can thus guide freshers on what courses and electives to opt for- this will be in coordination with Saathi (which will be the proactive front by catering to all the events related to the well being of the students). Another issue that was raised was regarding the personalised profile page which hasn’t been able to come to fruition under the previous secretaries’ manifestos. This, says Saketh, was probably because it wasn’t their top priority at the time. Under his plan of action, he plans on including the page on the institute website; and have the cores authorise points of information. The moderator also brought into focus the fact that academic deadlines such as distribution of answer scripts and uploading of grades, have not been followed strictly. Saketh proposed to implement a policy wherein the average cutoff and the average grade of the class shall be uploaded before the deadline.
The floor was then yielded to the audience for asking questions. A rather riled student made a confrontation regarding the contingency plans during the flood-addled placement season, and questioned why there were no generators installed whilst the Director’s house received full power. Both the previous secretary and the current candidate, in their defense, replied that it was a logistical difficulty, in addition to not obtaining clearance that prompted them to not act on the generator issue. The floods were anticipated to strike on the 25th of November and when they didn’t, schedules were retained and the sudden onslaught of floods on the 1st of December was thus unforeseen.
Another issue brought to light by the same student was regarding placements directly- she recounted an incident with a certain company which not only shortened the list of shortlisted candidates, but replaced names with new candidates. However, this was soon clarified as it was revealed that new names were added to the shortlist and due to a reduction in the number of panels, a preference list was drafted by the company with the new candidates included in it.
Some of the questions from the audience were fairly loaded, owing to the fact that the manifesto failed to cover various other members of the electorate, like the MSc, Mtech and MA departments. Saketh was criticised by an MSc student for placing his focus mostly on undergraduate and dual degree students. His justification for this was that there has been poor representation from these respective areas, as they are primarily interested in research and not placements. Therefore there were no points of contact during placement season, and the issue was thus a representational one which didn’t require a separate point on the manifesto. The issue of improvement of communication skills for some PG students was also raised. To this, Saketh claimed that he had already spoken to some soft skills trainers for an intensive session during placements, with a batch of 40-50 students. He said he has also chalked out plans for sessions during the semester for the same. Besides this, he said he has spoken to third party organisations such as Career Launcher in order to help draw out plans for the same.
Next, he received some amount of backlash from a humanities student for not adequately considering the needs of this department- where majority of help regarding resume writing, placements and internship was said to be received by seniors within the department itself. There was a special emphasis on the ‘Technical Writing Club’ proposed in the manifesto, which would provide professional assistance with helping students write technical resumes. When questioned about the placement situation in this department, he recalled three companies that had come specifically for it, though he couldn’t remember their names.
The issue of workflow bugs and problems was brought up, to which the answer given was mildly obscure. It is also worth noting that there was no point regarding this in the manifesto. A point worth noting, however, was that an accommodation for relieving students of mental stress during placement season was considered, when the proposal to extend phase 1 of the placement season from 10 to 20 days was drafted. This is for students to take the time to get to know companies coming in on days 5 and 6 better, and for them to prepare for HR interviews.
Watch the soapbox video below to know more about your candidate. Credits – Media Club, IIT Madras
International and Alumni Relations Secretary – Poojan Patel
by Parvathi Madhu
Poojan Patel, contesting unopposed for the post of the I&AR secretary, started his soapbox with a presentation that summarized his manifesto. Major new initiatives included forming an ‘Impact’ team that would work on a flagship initiative to better IIT Madras, encouraging alumni to take up mentorship roles and streamlining application procedures for exchanges.
After the presentation, the moderator kicked off the questions with a concern that he said was voiced by several students across the institute. The concern was that many teams in IAR ended up doing redundant work, as they had more recognized counterparts in the institute. The examples given included Chennai36 and The Fifth Estate, IITMTV and the Media Club and LLS and the EML team. Poojan responded saying that he would answer it case by case. Speaking about Chennai36 first, he clarified its vision, stating that it is an ‘alumni blog’, and that it aims at fostering the alumni network. He also added that it would be a huge added workload on the T5E team if they took this up. Speaking about IITMTV, he said that it has subscriber-ship of over 2000, which is not matched by any other media team in the institute. He also said that the Media club doesn’t really generate any ‘new or unique’ content that can be put up regularly. Differentiating EML and LLS also, he said that the former tries to bring in famous personalities, while LLS is targeted at bringing alumni and getting them to interact with students and giving ‘fundaes’ apart from just giving a speech. Here Abhishek Sharma, the current I&AR secretary, added that LLS was not exclusive and had often been held in collaboration with other teams. Moreover, the alumni who come down for these lectures often end up participating in pre-lecture events, and even contributing something, monetary or otherwise, to the institute.
The next question was regarding his vision for the newly created post of hostel alumni relations manager, as they are not part of the hostel council, and would be directly under him. Poojan said that the hostel representative’s duties would include managing hostel alumni relations, handling the hostel’s FB/LinkedIn pages and coming up with various funding proposals. Also, care would be taken to ensure that there is a proper interaction channel between the representative and the hostel council.
Next, Abhishek Sharma, the current I&AR secretary, voiced one of his major concerns, which was that the IAR team was yet to crack placements. Many of our alumni are well placed in various fields and he clearly felt that there is a lot of scope here. Saying that this was an issue that he had already discussed with the Saketh, the AAS candidate, he said that an internship portal was planned where alumni could put in their requests. Also, more department level and institute level sessions would be planned so that alumni could come and effectively give advice to a targeted audience. When asked about the lack of a proper structure wherein the placement team and the IAR team can interact, Saketh joined the discussion and said that the major issue was time and not a lack of information. Often, it’s easier for the BCs to contact the alumni themselves than wait for the data from the IAR team. As a solution, a common team is planned and both Poojan and Saketh said that they had discussed about this.
When asked about his plans for non-final year students, Poojan said that department level and institute level sessions would be held where 2nd and 3rd year students could interact with alumni and make better career choices. The last question of the soapbox was about the consolidated portal on exchange programs that the team had been working on. Poojan said that the database was done and that the portal would be up before Abhishek’s term. Abhishek joined in, saying that a session on international opportunities would be held for both UG and PG students by the end of March and that the portal would be released then.
The video below gives a more detailed account of the soap box. Credits – Media Club, IIT Madras