Metamorphosis On The Cards
As we set foot into a brand new semester at NITR, a legion of questions regarding the newly appointed Director, Prof. Animesh Biswas’s vision to take NITR to greater heights remain unanswered. Team MM sat down with the Director on a chilly Friday evening to discuss his plans for the institute and seek out solutions for the newly emerging issues as well as the seemingly perennial problems that have been haunting the average NITRian since a long time.
MM: In the previous DD, you mentioned that you are planning to bring a drastic change in the academic curriculum and also to cut down the no. of credits to 150-160. How far have these plans been implemented? By what time can we expect the implementation of the new curriculum? Is it true that the B. Tech. project shall not find a place in the new curriculum?
AB: To update the academic curriculum, we have made a decision to invite a panel of experts in the first week of February, under the chairmanship of Prof. K.L. Chopra, ex-director of IIT Kharagpur. We are planning to accomplish the task in two phases, considering the magnitude of departments in our institute and keeping in mind the issue of accommodation of experts. In the first phase, we will design a template wherein the weightage of core subjects, laboratory subjects, humanities subjects and elective subjects in one’s curriculum would be finalised. We are aiming to provide flexibility to students by allowing the interested candidates to pursue a minor degree in a discipline other than their own branch. We have also decided to come up with an “elective basket”, which would let the students pursue a subject from a wide array of subjects from their own department. As for the Open Elective course, the final call if they should be a part of one’s minor degree or not shall be taken by the panel subjected to recommendation of the expert committee.
We have set the target of implementing the changes by the next academic year and the Senate shall take the final call if the change will be implemented for all the batches or the freshly admitted batches only.
In my opinion, B. Tech. project should be made optional and only the ones who are really interested in pursuing a career in research should opt for it. However, the final decision shall rest with the team of experts and senate.
MM: What are your views regarding the dual degree courses? Do you plan to implement any changes for the same?
AB: We are looking to update the curriculum of all the UG courses (B.Tech, B.Tech Dual Degree and Integrated M.Sc.) where students are admitted through JEE Mains.
MM: The budding entrepreneurs of NITR have complained time and again of the unsatisfactory facilities of TIIR building. Moreover, the existing rules force them to function within certain restrictions. With this, there is an urgent need to review the situation, so that they can function independently. Do you have any plans in mind to bring about a change in the scenario?
AB: TIIR is a newly constructed building and hence we are bound to face a few problems in the beginning. However, once the T&P cell is shifted to the TIIR building, things will change for better as all the written tests and interviews may take place in TIIR building thereafter. Since many of the tests and interviews continue up till late hours, the students can expect the rules and regulations to be remodelled accordingly. Slowly but steadily, the facilities offered shall improve. Things will move at an even faster pace if the T&P cell will keep me informed regarding the complaints from the students. I’m ready to do everything in my power to help them resolve any issues that arise.
MM: The present website of NITR seems outdated and the communication handbook and the academic syllabi haven’t been updated since 2012. By what time can we expect a revamped website and an updated handbook?
AB: I have had a word with Prof. B. Majhi in this regard and plans to revamp the website are in the pipeline. The present website is undoubtedly outdated with almost no faculty profiles, which is absolutely unacceptable for an institute of national importance like ours. It would be better if Team MM could extend their support to Prof. Majhi and be in touch with him on a regular basis. This will make sure that the work is accomplished at a faster pace.
Also, it is my humble request to the students that they should extend their helping hand in revamping the website. I would ask Prof. Majhi to circulate a webmail asking interested students to pitch in their ideas and help him update the website and the communication directory as soon as possible.
MM: In November, you had a meeting with the elected representatives of SAC, where prevailing issues were raised by them. Upon hearing what they had to say, do you plan to cut down the number of fests and also to remove the Film and Music Society as a whole from the next academic year?
AB: I have formed a committee chaired by the President, SAC with a number of students in the committe including Payal Agrawal, Mohit Gupta, Anup Mittal, Poorva Singh, Pushkar Mishra, Pallerla rajanish reddy, Nishant Kumar Singh, B Narsingh Rao and Debabrata Mohapatra. This committee has been entrusted with the responsibility to look for ways to restructure the SAC and their suggestions would serve as the basis for implementation of new rules. There shall only exist one elected body which would function under the President of SAC and send the student members to Senate. I have already announced it to this body that my decision on the number of fests, that shall be conducted from next academic year onwards, would largely depend on their suggestions.
My main aim behind wanting to cut down the number of fests is to put a stop to the unwanted buzz around the campus throughout the year due to one fest or the other. While extra-curricular activities are essential to one’s holistic development, proper care should be taken not to let these activities hamper our academics.
Extra-curricular activities are meant to serve as a compliment to academics, not supplement it.
MM: You recently attended the Annual Alumni Meet at Hyderabad. Tell us about the response from the alumni. What steps would you take to connect our alumni, who happen to be spread all across the globe, with their alma mater?
AB: The response from our alumni was overwhelming! Such a response was highly unexpected and was indeed a very pleasant surprise for all of us. We put our best foot forward by interacting with the alumni and informing them of their alma mater running short of funds. In some of the IITs, especially the older ones, the alumni corpus fund crosses INR 350 crore. We also expect similar support from our alumni. We’ve been assured of monetary help as well as help in the term of various facilities such as campus-wide Wi-Fi. Some of the alumni also agreed to anchor our students and create job opportunities for them. I also appealed to introduce the concept of chair professors and am positive that these promises shall be taken seriously.
MM: The infrastructural work in the campus has yet again slowed down and it’s evident that we would be failing to meet the deadlines once again. What’s the reason behind it? What is the priority order in which we are accomplishing the work? By what time can we expect the Golden Jubilee building to be ready?
AB: The major reason behind the slowing down of infrastructural work is the drastic cut-offs in the budget allocation of the institute. The government is currently focusing on the development of the newer IITs/NITs. Even the older IITs are facing a similar problem with the fund allocation. It is not in our hands, to be quite honest.
At present our priority is to complete the construction of the student hostels, Mechanical Sciences building and Faculty Apartments. While we are trying to accomplish the work as fast as we can, I am not in a position to give you a deadline. You can anyhow expect the Golden Jubilee building to be ready within a year or two!
MM: You’ve time and again highlighted the importance of freedom in your previous interviews and speeches. Kindly elaborate upon your plans to provide better academic freedom to the students of NITR, in terms of hostel in-timings, extension in library timing and more flexible attendance rules?
AB: Although I’m in the process of introducing a change in these policies, it would be unfair on the part of the students to expect the changes to come about instantly. It’s going to be a gradual process, as I will have to go step by step. But yes, I assure you that I will look into the library timings and the needful shall be done.
As for the attendance rules, my aim is to revive the teaching-learning process, and I believe there is a dire need to bring about some revision in the presently existing rules in order to achieve the same.
If students want revision of attendance rule, they should bring it to the senate for discussion.
MM: The minutes of Senate meeting have not been shared with the NITR populace yet. Can we expect it to be shared anytime soon?
AB: I will speak to the Dean (Academics), Prof. B. Majhi and make sure that it is made available to the students as soon as possible.