Under The Table Nominations
The Student Activity Centre comprises of two wings – namely the elected members and the nominated ones. Together, they work through the semesters to organize various events within the institute and develop their own leadership skills. The major difference between these two categories, lies in the fact that Electoral Student Politics involves a democratic process which empowers the NITR Junta to elect the person that they feel will be able to lead the various societies. The selection of the Dean and Director Nominees is a more discreet one, where the Vice-Presidents of various societies forward the applications of deserving candidates to the Dean (Student Welfare), who scrutinizes each of them before announcing the posts. This nomination also tries to compensate and normalize the skewed representation due to zonal politics prevalent during elections. However, the final authority to take a decision in this regard lies in the hands of the Dean.
The Usual Process
The practice till now has been that the Dean (Student Welfare) sends a group mail in the month of March-April requesting interested students to apply for the Dean and Director’s Nominee posts. After short listing the deserving candidates from the applications filed, he/she nominates two representatives for each of the four societies - Literary and Cultural society, Technical Society, Film and Music society, Games and Sports society on the recommendation of the Vice-presidents of the respective societies. Similarly, based on the work of the interested candidates the Director of the institute also appoints two members to the Executive Council of the SAC. These nominated members enjoy the same privileges and have the same responsibilities as elected representatives, including voting and contesting during the selection of conveners.
This time the selection procedure was a different from that of the previous years. There was no mail inviting applications for the aforementioned posts nor did the nominees take charge in the month of April. This was followed by a change in administration with Prof. D. R. K. Padhi and Prof. R. K. Sahoo taking over as the Dean (Student Welfare) and Director, respectively. Being newly appointed, they took help from the Vice Presidents of various societies in short listing the candidates, who not only forwarded the applications they received but also helped by recommending the names of candidates they felt were deserving on the basis of their credentials.
From the VPs' Views
When asked about why the NITR Junta was not notified about the procedure via the regular group mail, the Vice Presidents were of a similar opinion that it was entirely the Dean's prerogative whether he chooses to send a mail or not and they have little role to play in this regard. However, there are students who actually do not work in direct contact with the VPs but are the brain behind some of the most beautiful websites and posters. The absence of a webmail definitely didn’t help as most of them missed out on this opportunity due to lack of information. The only function of the VPs was to forward the applications that they received, recommending those who had worked actively in SAC, last year. Every society had its own list of candidatures which the VPs had to forward.
According to Prof. V. K. Reddy, VP of the Film and Music Society,
"I don't know how but, applications started coming in for Dean's Nominee, almost all of a sudden during the first week of August. I ticked two names out of the total number of applications I received. At the end of the day, the VPs are the ones who work at ground level, so we have a fair idea as to who works and who doesn't. Students also came to me for recommendations for the Director's Nominee which I approved as well based on their candidatures."
However, FMS particularly didn't have many options to choose from since it had just one female candidate applying for it. More applications came in only after the names had already been recommended. This was also the case with the Games and Sports society which claimed to have received just two applications, that too from two second year students only. A third student, who had applied for this post, had his name withdrawn as the institute reopened. SAS Officer Dr. P. K. Rout said, "I received only three applications for the Games and Sports Society which I forwarded to the Vice-President."
One reason for the drastic reduction in the number of applications might have been the non-circulation of a formal notice. Prof. K.C.Pati, the ex-Dean (Student Welfare) on being contacted informed Team MM that there is no such rule that a mail had to be sent, and that it was entirely up to the discretion of the Dean.
According to Prof. D. Choudhuri, VP of the Literary and Cultural Society,
“There should have been some kind of information passed on to all sections of the student populace because it has been noted that only a few students came forward with candidatures on their own. This also makes it clear that while few had the information that the procedure was underway, the rest were completely clueless.”
There were candidatures of pre-final year students (Dual Degree or otherwise) who had put in a lot of effort into the benefit of SAC, and yet didn't get nominated, there were speculations regarding whether a Dean's or a Director's Nominee was allowed to be another post holder, and also whether it was possible for a student to have their application automatically upgraded from a Dean’s to Director’s Nominee.
To these rife conjectures, the VPs collectively had to say, "The name itself suggests that it is the Dean and Director's nominee. So, in the end, it is their decision that counts."
However, they feel that there should be some laid-out guidelines regarding these nominations so that this confusion doesn't arise later in the future. Another concern among the NITR populace was regarding the selection of a large number of female candidates for the nominated posts. While there is no specific reservation for female candidates, authorities feel that since they do not usually contest for elections they should get nominated, in order to equalize the gender space. An example stated by one of the VPs was,
"There will be many events like Multi-Ethnic, which will require the Nominees to work with dancers and there will be dealings in the green-room. Having a panel full of male members would pose to be a problem, then."
Another common issue noticed was the delay in the whole process. All of the past records show that the process usually began at the end of the even semester. However, this time, the time frame presented an ambiguous sight. Most of the applications were received during the first week of August within two weeks of the reopening of the Institute, while the applications only for the Games and Sports Society had been received before the Summer Vacations. The delay in the timeline and hence the swiftness in the process followed did not only confuse majority of interested students who wished to apply for the post but also left most of the new Vice-Presidents who observed the process for the first time, in a fix. Prof. D. Choudhuri says,
"Everything happened so rapidly. It wasn't something that happened over a long period of time. It also didn't make me knowledgeable about the whole thing."
Team MM caught up with a few students who had applied for the Nominations, some of whom were selected, while others had to stand back. We bring you their viewpoints, here.
Mohit Gupta (Director's Nominee, SAC) said, "I approached the VPs, at least one for each society and took their recommendations. I even got the recommendation of the SAS officers and the President, SAC and finally presented it to the Dean. All of them were very supportive of my application because I really had worked for SAC, in the previous year. I want to work for the SAC as a whole and not just limit myself to one particular society for one particular fest, as the case has been, usually."
When asked about the procedural issues he said,
"Usually, as soon as the election procedure gets over, the nomination process starts. This year too, after the elections were over, we approached Prof. K.C.Pati. He gave us a green signal asking us to apply for the nominations. However, since there was a transition of administration, the new Dean took care of the nomination process with recommendations from the VPs."
Payal Agarwal (Director's Nominee, SAC) said,
"I had actually applied for the Dean's Nominee, but the VPs encouraged me to go forward, and thus I got upgraded to being the Director's Nominee."
Punyaja Dash (Dean's Nominee, Lit. And Cult. Society) said, “For the nominations, I mailed the VP of Literary and Cultural society, Prof. Sasmita Mishra and got her recommendation after which I was shortlisted and got nominated.”
While most of the nominees reportedly followed the same procedure there was a stark difference among the timelines they followed. While the students who desired to be nominees for Sports and Games society filed their application as early as in the month of April, other students started the procedure on their part after institution reopened on the 26th of July. This not only clearly reflects the communication gap between the authorities and students but also reasons the disparity in the number of applications this year.
Nikhil Kumar Patwari (Contestant for Director's Nominee) said,
"I was interested in becoming the Director's Nominee after being the FMS Secretary for one year. So, I had gone and contacted the Dean to get information. When the applications started going in, I filed mine in too, stating reasons to substantiate my nomination. I personally believe that Shaswata Bisi and I were far more deserving candidates for the post. But, now that it is done we have made our peace with it. However, I would definitely like to know what the actual selection criterion was, this year.”
Speaking overall, Prof. D. R. K. Padhi, Dean (Student Welfare) confirmed that there was no standing rule about circulating a webmail to invite applications for these posts, and in fact, any student can apply for any of these posts at the SAC Office, at any time of the year – even now. Thereafter, the authorities would keep an eye on their activities throughout the session and if they were found to be eligible, they would be appointed. He says, further,
“Both the Director and Dean are free to nominate students based on their contributions to SAC in the previous year, irrespective of whether they have formally applied for the posts or not. If the nominated student doesn’t wish to be a member then we may choose another one. While nominees are allowed to hold more than one post, it is not easy to manage the hectic workload and hence we have asked one of our candidates to resign from all other Positions of Responsibilities. I understand that many students were unaware of the process, but that can be rectified only through amendments to the SAC Constitution, which is possible when we can discuss it with the students.”
In total, even though hard working and deserving candidates have been nominated as Dean and Director Nominees, a wider circulation of information would have invited more number of applications making the selection procedure more competitive. This would have not only ensured a fair chance to all those who wished to apply for these posts, but also a chance for lesser known, but more deserving and industrious students to rise to the fore.