The first SAC meeting for the semester is being held on 18th Jan, 2016. It’s 6:10pm, and the SAC has just enough councillors to start the meeting. The Speaker starts the meeting with barely half the strength of the SAC present. However, the BT seminar hall is quickly filled with the SAC members as the discussions proceed, and the meeting runs through two very major agenda points, which have the potential to be groundbreaking. The following is a detailed report on the discussions.
Student Election Code
The Student Election Code is a comprehensive set of codes to be followed for all the elections in the institute, the first document of its kind. Spanning 8 pages, 2500 words and spread over 7 articles, the document lays down a detailed set of reforms and rules that are required to be passed by the SAC. This comes as a precursor to the new Constitution, which is all set to be brought up in the next BoS meeting.
The very first point of discussion was about the eligibility criteria for the MS and PhD scholars. It was stated in the document that the students have to “clear satisfactorily” all the courses they have registered for. A few students pointed out that not all courses that they register for are required for them to fulfill their credit requirements. Further discussion on this point led to the amendment of the point to “clear satisfactorily all the mandatory courses”, with the discretion left to SEC(Students Election Committee), since a CG cut-off for the scholars was of no use(any grade below C is not considered for the M.S. and PhD scholars).
Furthermore, the AAS pointed out that the presence of an I (Incomplete) grade might be due to misunderstandings/discussions that have to be sorted out, and hence it shouldn’t be considered as grounds for disqualification. The SAC voted on the same, and the document was amended by removing the Incomplete grade clause.
Another important point of discussion was the SEC attempting to institutionalize the concept of associative politics by allowing the candidates to declare open support for each other, and allowing them to prepare a common manifesto if they do so.This was fiercely debated, with many SAC councillors against the proposal. While the intention of the point was to make transparent the dealings of the candidates, the councillors felt that it would just make the code a lot more confusing, while also leading to a party system. After much discussion, it was clear that the cons of this statement far outweighed the pros, and it was evident in the voting as well, with only 9 of the 37 present SAC members voting for the point, and consequently, the document was amended to remove the point.
The third article oversaw the rules for campaigning. Interestingly, mess campaigning was allowed for more outreach, with the timings and rules subject to the approval of the SEC. Another amendment was to change the timings of campaigning in departments from after 5 P.M to after 2 P.M to allow better reach to the research scholars who worked in the lab. This was agreed upon only after assurances that the classes being conducted between 2 and 5 would not be disturbed. The number of smails and SMSs that can be sent by the candidates was also restricted to 2 each, spread over the span of 20 days of campaigning, to reduce the possibility of spamming on electronic media. Social media, however, was left open, with only few skeletal rules to govern campaigning. A point was also made to regulate the size of the posters, to ensure equal chances for publicity.
The campaign finances was a very subjective point, with almost all discretion left to the SEC.
The next article, which lay the rules for voting procedures, saw a discussion being raised which resulted in the removal of the speaker from the SEC, and allocating the vacant seat to another student member, who would be elected. It was also decided that the SAC would ratify each applicant for the post of the Student Member in the SEC, only after which the interviews would be conducted, so that the SAC, and as a consequence, the GSB has a say in the matter. This is the first time that the SAC has moved for pre-ratifying, as opposed to the other student bodies in the institute. An amendment was also made to ensure that the number of systems present in each hostels is enough to ensure an hassle free voting process.
The Election Code document was passed, with all the amendments. It will be discussed at the next BoS meeting and will await approval.
Teacher Course Feedback
The second agenda point was a revamp of the Teacher Course Feedback(TCF) system, as suggested by a councillor. The initial document had just two basic points, and one point was added by the SAC, keeping in mind the research scholars(MS and PhD). This agenda was extremely important as most students failed to provide accurate feedback, either under the assumption that their feedback would not be seriously considered or due to a lack of interest/time to fill up the TCF form.
The first proposal was to make the filling of TCF mandatory prior to course registration. i.e., students could register for courses the next semester, only after they had filled the TCF. Furthermore, to ensure that the TCF is not too time consuming, it was decided that the feedback questionnaire would be split into two parts, one concise compulsory section that all students have to fill, and another detailed section that students can fill if they wish to do so. The questions for the TCF, as of now, are set by the Timetable Committee,and the professors have a say over what questions to ask. However, the presence of 5 compulsory questions outweighs the bias brought about by this, assures the Speaker.
There has been no method of feedback for research scholars for their guides, since their thesis is not credited, unlike the BTP( B.Tech project) and the DDP( Dual Degree project). Also, they have the same guide for the entire duration of their stay, which is usually 4-5 years for PhD students, which makes it necessary for some form of feedback to exist. So it was decided that the RAS would look into the matter and develop a method of feedback, TRP( Teacher Research Feedback) for the research scholars. However, there were doubts about the anonymity of the students, since there are very few research scholars under each professor.
The most important point was the SAC passing the decision to make the TCF scores public. In a time where the majority of the students think that the TCF is of not much use, making the TCF scores public would completely change the scene, giving the students the opportunity to choose courses given by a professor based not just on hearsay, but actual TCF scores that the professor had been given. While this won’t be enforced until the BoS passes the document, it will certainly attract the attention of a lot of students.
Lastly, a simple yes or no question was added to the existing TCF questions, “Would you like to recommend this course to students?”
This could indeed be a very important document, if it gets passed in the BoS.
Campus Safety and Security (Ad-Hoc Point)
This topic was raised by a concerned councillor since the SAC had time to spare, certainly a first this year. The councillor wanted to make the number of complaints received by the CCASH(Complaints Committee Against Sexual Harassment) and the action taken against them public, while keeping the anonymity of the victim.This was in light of the recent incident that occurred during Saarang, and made it to the newspapers.
This request however, was quickly shot down by the Student General Secretary, who clarified by saying that the CCASH was entitled to complete anonymity under the Vishaka Guidelines of 1997. He even said that the victim could ask for a review of the case if, in their view, the judgement/ punishment was not severe enough.
The SAC still decided to make a request to the CCASH to reveal the basic information, just to provide the students with an idea of the situation. However, some councillors were against this, since they felt the issue would be blown out of proportion unnecessarily.
These discussions marked the end of the first SAC meeting of the semester. However, the members will be meeting at 7:00 PM on 20th January for the first reading of the new Students’ Constitution, at IC&SR auditorium, which is open to the entire GSB.