By Arjun K. G. and Rakesh R.
The first Student Affairs Council meeting of the semester was held in DoMS 253 with a total population of about forty people, of which only four or five were from the General Student Body. There were six items on the agenda for the meeting.
Proposal 1: Appointment of Deputy Speaker of SAC Council
Status: Elected unopposed
The meeting began with the appointment of the Deputy Speaker of the SAC Council. There was only one applicant, M.Tech. Councillor Muthu Karthikeyan, and he was elected unopposed.
Proposal 2: Involving Sports Sec in Institute Team Selection Committee
The second task was to vote upon the inclusion of the Sports Secretary/Sports Advisor in the newly established committee that decides whether students with CGPAs below 6.5 or backlogs in two or more courses get to be a part of the institute teams. This took up a lot of time as there was some confusion when some people misinterpreted the resolution as a proposal to scrap the rule itself, i.e., the academic prerequisite for being part of institute teams. According to this rule, effective as of August 2015, students who do not qualify the academic requirements must appeal to the concerned committee to get permission to play. The proposal was advanced by the Sports Secretary himself, who reasoned that the Sports Sec could represent the students under consideration, as they didn’t otherwise have a representative in the committee. A question was posed asking why there couldn’t be a hard and fast rule like there is for Saarang, where having a CGPA lower than 7 made students ineligible for Core positions. The Speaker responded that organizing and participating are two very different things; people are still allowed to participate in Saarang and Shaastra irrespective of their CGPA, and the same should apply to institute teams; so, in this case, the need was felt for a committee to review players on a case-by-case basis. The proposal to include the Sports Secretary was passed unanimously.
Proposal 3: Scrapping DSP Lab for VLSI Course
The third point was to discuss the usefulness of the Communications and Digital Signals Processing (DSP) lab for the Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) course for M.Tech students. According to the curriculum, there needs to be a minimum of two labs in each course. However, there was only one lab pertaining to the VLSI course and the Communications and DSP lab, students say, was added just to fill the other lab slot. This lab, the M.Tech councillor said, had absolutely no relevance to their course; a poll conducted revealed that fourteen out of sixteen students were ‘extremely disappointed’ with the lab. It was especially troublesome as it was a three-credit lab. Some of the students suggested a three-credit theory course instead of the lab. The issue was finally dropped since a proposal had already been passed by the Board of Academic Courses asking for a course instead of a lab.
Proposal 4: Financial Incentives for Student Office-Holders
Status: To be considered by a committee
Next, the Co-Curricular Affairs Secretary brought up for discussion an issue related to stipends for student office-holders. He began by stating that of all institute clubs, only three teams — the Web-Ops team, the Design Team and the mitr team — were getting paid by IITM for their services. The teams ineligible for payment include Hostel Secretaries, Branch Councilors, Shaastra Cores and Saarang Cores. He brought to notice the three criteria required for a team to be eligible to get paid. The first of these is to fulfill a Mission Statement. For example, the Web-Ops team’s fulfills the statement of ‘service to the community through the use of their resources, both intellectual and material’. Secondly, the team members should be answerable to any of the Institute office holders. And thirdly, any team member is answerable to office holders and can be relieved from duty at any point of time.
He agreed that non-elected offices like Saarang core members do not fall in this category but argued that all elected members — the Executive Wing, Hostel Secretaries, SAC Councilors and Branch Councilors — fulfil these three requirements. In response to questions as to where the money will come from, he replied that the institute possesses enough funds for the purpose. This was countered by the point that more payments could mean fee hikes. The Co-Curricular Affairs Secretary then clarified that they need not be paid in cash — any valid incentive would suffice. This, he argued, would make them more responsible as they would be more accountable to the student body — these incentives would ultimately come from the fees paid by students. A discussion ensued as to why mitr counsellors were getting paid. This was justified by the fact that the funding was allocated to IITM by the Central Government as per a rule that a certain amount of funding must go towards the psychological benefit of students. Finally, the proposal to ‘encourage the idea that there should be some incentive for other teams who satisfy the three requirements’ was put forth and was again passed unanimously. A committee to look into the same will also be set up.
Proposal 5: Appeal for Inclusion of M.S. Degree as Eligibility Criterion for Associate Professors, inclusion of words ‘Engineering’ or ‘Technology’ in M.S Degree
The next point on the agenda, regarding the AICTE (All India Council For Technical Education), involved two points. The first was to appeal to the Board of Academics and the Senate to urge the AICTE to consider incorporating M.S. degrees in the eligibility criteria for Associate Professors. The second appeal would be to mention the words ‘Engineering’ or ‘Technology’ in the title of the M.S. degrees awarded by IITM as it currently includes neither. Starting with the first point, it was mentioned that apart from the IIT’s and the NIT’s, every other engineering college required Associate Professors to hold an M. Tech degree. The M.S Councilor, who put the points forward, mentioned that M.S. must also be included as it is very similar to an M.Tech degree. After being questioned about the similarities between an M.Tech and M.S. course, the speaker mentioned that they have very similar courses and the only difference was that M.S. focusses more on research whereas M.Tech focusses on courses. The first proposal was then passed. The second proposal was also passed without much discussion.
Proposal 6: Extending Library timings
The next issue was that of increasing the library timings up to 2 am or 4 am, at least during quizzes.
It was pointed out that the budget for Air Conditioning will increase significantly if this were to happen, not to mention that there is a lack of manpower for security. A suggestion was made that since people mostly access online study material over their laptops rather than from the library, the CRC ground floor rooms could be used as study rooms. The CRC rooms could be kept open 24×7 and a WiFi network could also be set up. The cost of this would be significantly lower than that required to keep the library open for longer periods of time. It was also brought to notice that 8.5 lakhs were donated by the graduating students for a project to start a 24-hour study centre in the Institute. One other suggestion was to keep a room in the library open at all times without air-conditioning, as the main issue was the cost of air-conditioning. Finally, the proposal to request the Senate to extend the working time of the library was taken up and another proposal to run the library 24×7 during quizzes was also put forth. Both were passed.
Other Points of Discussion
Another point that was discussed was the introduction of a provision for MBA students to directly shift to a Ph.D. program after the completion of their first year, subject to a CGPA criterion. The possibility of the student getting both degrees was debated upon, because recruitment by bigger associations would not be possible without an MBA. Also, if the student fails to get his or her Ph.D., this provision would ensure that the same would, at least, get an MBA (again, subject to credit requirements).
Some of the secretarial roles might also undergo a change, with a committee being formed to have the roles of the hostel Garden and Mess Secretaries rewritten. Since many of the hostels do not have gardens that need high maintenance, the role of the Garden Secretary would be changed to that of Health and Hygiene Secretary. Also, the limited role of the Mess Secretaries, especially of those hostels without their own mess, brought up the idea of “Mess Cores”, who would work directly under the institute HAS and also help conduct the hostels’ ice-cream or pizza nights. The role of a Mess Core would also differ from that of a Mess Secretary in that they are not responsible for a single hostel.
The introduction of a Library Committee was also discussed in the meeting. This committee would carry on book suggestions by research scholars to the academic section, who would then have these books purchased depending upon the demand for each one of them.
The idea of drafting a set or rules for an institute or student-run club to get funding was also approached. This would ensure fairness over all clubs in terms of monetary assistance.
Finally, the Anti-Tobacco Committee Report was presented, covering the few large strides taken by the Committee to prevent the consumption or possession of tobacco products by students on campus. Firstly, the concept of having a helpline via which a student could report any sighted consumer of tobacco right away was brought up. This would be aided by flying squads within each hostel which would conduct a check of the reported consumer. In such a case, the person caught doing the same would be sent to Anti-Addiction Centres set up within the institute. Repeated offenses would incur progressively heavier penalties, with a Disciplinary Council meeting along with a hefty fine for a second-time offender and expulsion from the hostel in the case of a third-time offender. There will also be punishments for those students who possess tobacco products, although it is not quite clear how such possession will be identified. This Committee also has plans of locating “smoking hotspots” in and around the campus, and hopes to stop the sale of tobacco outside the IITM grounds anywhere at a distance of 100 metres or less from the various gates.