By Surya Suresh
This is the first article in our Manifesto Review series, where we review the tenures of IITM’s Executive Council for the year 2016-17. In this review, we evaluate the manifesto of Venkataraman Ganesh, SLC Speaker 2016-17. Please find all necessary documents here. Executive Council Manifesto Reviews are usually done in April or May. The 2016-17 reviews are being done in September, and so the status of completion of some manifesto points might be different had the review been done in April. It is important to note this when comparing secretaries of different years.
Note: The Manifesto Reviews team at T5E has made every effort to review the Executive Council in an unbiased manner and stay true to the facts, but it is possible that we may have made inadvertent errors. We request our readers to point out errors if any so that we may correct them immediately. Finally, we value your feedback! You can reach us at [email protected].
The same colour scheme is used in the review below.
The SLC (Student Legislative Council) is the student body of the Institute which symbolizes the spirit of mutual cooperation among the myriad sections of the campus community. It is one of the most important bodies in IIT Madras and consists of legislators, elected from hostel and departments. More information about the SLC can be found in the Students’ Constitution. The SLC functions as the policy making body of the institute and strives to formulate policies that fulfill the aspirations and demands of the General Student Body (GSB).
The SLC speaker is required to facilitate this process by conducting meetings, putting forward initiatives and ensuring that important issues are raised in the SLC forum by the elected representatives.
The duties of a SLC speaker are quite comprehensively detailed and we do not reproduce them in full here, but they include the following:
- 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.
- Act as a point of contact for communications between the SLC and other individuals and organizations.
Venkataraman Ganesh, in his tenure as the SLC Speaker, was able to complete almost 59% of his manifesto points with 28% ongoing, amounting to an impressive 87%. He completes his post with just 3 manifesto points pending. He brought in some wide-ranging changes to the SLC, and we proceed to discuss the most notable achievements during his tenure.
The redrafting the student constitution was completed during the previous academic year. This was a major step forward for the SLC and was the culmination of the efforts made by the SLC teams of the past two to three years. The past year also saw the approval of a recommendation to lower the CGPA requirement for Executive Council elections and other Positions of Responsibilities (PORs). Besides this, the SLC also obtained approval for the movement of girls into boys’ hostels (which was not allowed for a period in 2015-16). The past year also witnessed greater dissemination of information to the GSB, particularly regarding meetings and policies. This was achieved through hostel meetings, regular smails and updates on social media. The SLC initiative that garnered the most attention was the trip to the Indian parliament during the first week of December. This was hugely successful and plans are in place to visit Parliament this winter. On the publicity front, the SLC was mentioned in articles published by The New Indian Express, Insight-IITB and PreSense. The introduction of the LTAP course ‘Introduction to Student Governance’ and awards for the best outgoing student in the cultural and co-curricular verticals were few of the other initiatives taken during the past year.
We now move on to introducing and reviewing Venkataraman Ganesh’s manifesto points.
SLC: Efficiency and Efficacy
- SLC Wish List will be prepared based on inputs from the GSB, the Executive Council, legislators, and the administration and a roadmap based on the same to be circulated among the GSB before the end of May 2016.
The Wish List was prepared based on inputs from various stakeholders. However, it was not followed. One hopes that this changes in the future.
- Code of Conduct: Every meeting shall follow Robert’s Rules of Order as well as the SLC Operating Manual to ensure that SLC meetings are conducted professionally.
It was ensured that legislators adhered to the SLC operating manual. However, he found it difficult to implement Robert’s Rules of Order in meetings and he believes that this is something that ought to be a long-term goal of the SLC.
- A fixed venue for all SLC meetings will be booked at the beginning of the semester.
There was a definite improvement in this regard as efforts were made to ensure that the venue was fixed well in advance. As a result, around 70% of the meetings took place in the OHM Conference Room.
- In-depth report for every agenda point containing its necessity, the views of all concerned stakeholders and its feasibility shall be presented to the SLC before the SLC takes a final call on any agenda point.
- Fundae session for legislators shall be conducted immediately after the election on essential rules and procedures.
SLC: SLC Committees
- Monthly review of Executive Wing members and their respective Standing Committees to be circulated to the GSB.
Status: Partially Complete
A mid-term review was released by the SLC for all Executive Wing members. Monthly reviews were not released owing to logistical difficulties. The Speaker believes that monthly reviews have become more important than ever and hopes that this will be implemented in the future.
- Secretaries’ Rulebook to be created and maintained in accordance with the Students’ Constitution.
- Research Committee for studying the best practices followed by other Universities around the world to be formed.
Committees were formed for this purpose. However, there is work to be done before these committees can contribute to the functioning of the SLC.
SLC: Speaker’s Committee
- A Speaker’s Rule Book containing the roles and responsibilities of the Speaker’s Committee shall be created.
- The domain of Policy formulation shall be removed from the Speaker’s Committee and the Speaker’s committee shall be oriented towards logistics, publicity and outreach of SLC.
- A dedicated design and social media wing shall co-ordinate with the Institute Design and WebOps Team.
This team was created to ensure that SLC’s publicity, especially poster designs and the website are maintained well.
SLC: GSB participation
- A Certificate of Recognition shall be instituted for commending outstanding contribution by GSB members to SLC.
This step was taken to encourage GSB participation in the SLC and the previous year did witness increased participation from the GSB.
- Recognition for GSB members of ad-hoc committees will be given based on their participation in deliberations.
Institute Outreach of SLC
- SLC should be renamed to the Student Parliament, IIT Madras and a SLC logo to be designed.
The SLC logo is still a work in progress. A competition was conducted for the same and this point was taken over by the 2017-18 SLC team.
- ‘Know Your Elected Representative’ posters will be put up at every department and hostel.
Institute Outreach of SLC: SLC Online
- Video recordings of SLC meetings shall be hosted on the SLC Website.
- 2 minute video Minutes of Meetings shall be uploaded on the SLC Website and Facebook page.
A single video MoM was uploaded on the Facebook page. However, the plan was then scrapped as the Speaker felt that it was not viable.
- A ‘SLC Library’ shall be hosted on the SLC Website containing books/papers/articles of interest to SLC.
The Speaker circulated papers and articles of interest to the legislative members. These should be up on the website as soon as the latter is fully functional.
- Opinion polls will be conducted on the SLC Website and publicized via The Fifth Estate and SLC Facebook page.
More than 1500 students participated in these online polls, making this initiative very successful.
- SLC Correspondents shall be inducted into T5E to ensure extensive coverage of meetings and deliberations.
A few members of the SLC were already on the T5E team, thus ensuring that important SLC events were covered.
Institute Outreach of SLC: Outreach to Freshies
- Mitr Freshman Guide Book to contain a comprehensive introduction to SLC and student government.
- A short introduction to SLC shall be presented during the Mitr Orientation Week.
That completes the review of the Speaker’s manifesto points.
We now move on to discuss the list of proposed policies which Venkataraman Ganesh mentioned in his manifesto. Many of these proposals were ambitious and depended on the approval of various stakeholders. Hence, the success or failure of these policies must be analyzed within this context.
- Inclusion of sports, cultural and co-curricular activities as part of coursework in line with the Senate’s Curriculum.
Status: The Speaker and his team went to great lengths to get this legislation approved. Further, the Dean of Students was enthusiastic about this proposal. The proposal did not get approved owing to the logistical difficulties of implementing it. The introduction of NSO Cultural is a step in the right direction.
- Public display of all financial transactions by Executive Wing Members on the SLC Website to improve transparency of funds given by the Institute.
Status: The budget for Executive Wing members is publicly displayed. However, there needs to be increased transparency about individual transactions.
- To push for the creation of an Operating Manual for the Board of Students, in consultation with the Director and the Board of Students.
Status: Ongoing. A few changes to the BoS structure have been agreed to but have yet to be implemented.
- To push for relaxation of the attendance criteria for students representing IIT Madras in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.
Status: This proposal has been implemented. Students can get an attendance waiver after approval from their respective departments.
- To formulate guidelines on the duties and responsibilities of Guides and Faculty Advisors in consultation with the Deans.
- Hostel and Department Council Meetings should ideally be conducted before and after every SLC meeting.
Status: Legislators were encouraged to conduct such meetings. However, there is a lot left to be desired in this regard.
That completes the review of the Speaker’s proposed policies.
Venkataraman Ganesh, in his tenure as SLC speaker, has implemented most of his manifesto points aside from introducing numerous initiatives and streamlining the functioning of the SLC. The trip to the Indian parliament and the screening of ‘Samvidhaan: The Making of the Indian Constitution’ helped to increase awareness about the SLC.
We congratulate him on the successful completion of his tenure and hope to see greater heights achieved by Nikhil Namburi, the SLC Speaker 2017-18.