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 detailed story, watch the video at the end of the article.
The soapbox on 9th March began with the RAS candidates’ presentations. Both Srikanth Kotra and Ravi Dadsena had very similar points, the most important priority to them and the present audience being placements. The placement rate for PhD scholars has been especially dismal this year, due to the rains in December. Poor pay packages and a lack of choice seem to be major concerns, and both candidates vowed to work on this, if voted for. Other common points included increasing PG visibility and participation on the LitSoc platforms in insti. Overwhelmingly, there was a feeling that although postgraduates and research scholars comprise about 56% of the population, campus culture is geared toward undergraduates. Other concerns included housing and medical facilities (especially for married research scholars),
The question round included a fair bit of shouting, mud-slinging and hooting. When Ravi was asked about his groundwork, most SAC councillors pointed out that he hadn’t spoken to them, and had barely any idea of the role of the administration in pushing the various initiatives vaguely outlined in his manifesto. This was a valid point, as the candidate seemed not to have estimated realistically the roadblocks faced by previous secretaries. He fended most of the questions asked of him with “I have no idea” or “I don’t want to answer this”, in quite a contrast to Srikanth, who seemed more composed (and knew most institute committees he’d be ex officio a member of, unlike Ravi, who didn’t seem to be aware that the RAS might have such duties. This was in response to AAS Sashank Vandrangi’s questions about SAC’s functioning and the role of the RAS in it).
One member of the audience dramatically accused Srikanth of lifting entire sentences from the present RAS’s manifesto, and questioned his ReNews credentials, which led to another round of pointed fingers and shouting. Srikanth, defending himself, pointed out that he was involved in bringing out two editions of ReNews, one in last August and one in a month from now. Meanwhile, the AAS discovered that although Ravi had included ‘Fortune’ companies in his manifesto, he didn’t seem to have idea of the appellation ‘Fortune 500’, and couldn’t name a single Fortune 500 company he promised to bring to campus for placements. When both candidates were asked how placements could be improved, Srikanth noted that while now companies focussed on the rather specific research work of the applicants, their general skill sets must also be emphasised, so they stand a chance of attracting more companies. Ravi paused for a long moment, and then declined to answer.
The question round ended with a hasty wrap by the Speaker, as the session reached a point where there was no pretence of asking the candidates a question, and the two groups in the audience supporting each candidate heckled each other.
The video of the proceedings can be found here. Credits : Media Club, IIT Madras