Seeking Conclusion Amid Chaos: Open House Session
The very essence of a democracy is that every person represents all the varied interests which compose it. To make it work, it is necessary that every person affected by it be a participant, and not merely an observer. As soon as we stop voicing our opinions, we lose our right to complain.
Staying true to the concept of democracy, SAC Restructuring Committee conducted an Open House Session in BBA on Friday, 10th of February, to listen to the junta of NITR pitch in their ideas regarding the SAC constitution and what amends shall be introduced to help SAC function in a better manner. A list of agendas was circulated via webmail, which acted as the topics which were taken up during the discussion.
The following are the issues that were taken up and deliberated upon:
The first agenda of the session, the idea of reduction of the SAC fees by a considerable amount per semester received mixed response from the junta. While some students believed that such a small reduction does not make much sense and that this amount could be better utilized by increasing the respective budgets allotted to the existing clubs, others argued that a reduction in SAC fees is much needed if the authorities are planning to cut down the number of fests that are conducted annually owing to their degrading standards.
A number of ideas were pitched in under this agenda, and the vague conclusion that came out of the heated discussion was that the amount should be diverted to the technical clubs of NITR, such as SAE, ASME, and Cyborg, which are currently facing shortage of funds in the face of dismal budget allocation and are thus facing difficulties carrying on with their staple club activities.
However, rerouting of money is expected to face resistance from the administration and hence, taking this step would need the concerned authorities to maintain proper accounts and carefully allocate additional budget to the clubs in need.
Number of Festivals
With Prof. A. Biswas being of the opinion that the number of fests conducted over a span of an academic year needs to be cut down to 3 in order to enable students to devote more time towards excelling in their academic pursuits than extracurricular activities, the second agenda of the session discussed was whether or not the number of fests need to be cut down. Owing to great dissatisfaction among the junta regarding the constant deterioration of the fests, the general consensus was that there should only be 3 festivals from the next academic year onwards: one sports fest, one technical fest, and one cultural fest. This will not only ensure that a certain benchmark is set for each fest and religiously met every year, but also lighten the burden that currently rests on the shoulders of the students involved in organizing these festivals.
The students were also of the opinion that enough Inter-hall and Intra-hall activities must be conducted with cash prizes throughout the year to fill in the voids between these fests, thus keeping the students engrossed and entertained at the same time. It was also suggested that Multi-Ethnic and ISM be clubbed with the NITRUTSAV, hence elongating the Spring Fest in order to preserve the legacy of each of these unique festivals.
Timing and Duration of Festivals
In the face of discouragement of granting of leaves from Prof. A. Biswas for fest purposes, this agenda saw students pitching in ideas for the duration of the festivals to be increased to 3 complete days, starting from a Friday morning and closing on the following Sunday night. As per the rules suggested by Prof. A. Biswas, SAC will be entrusted with the authority to announce any 2 working days per academic year as holidays. Thus, the students were of the opinion that the Mondays following every festival must be granted as holidays, so as to allow the junta to rest upon the completion of all the events, in case the administration decides upon opening the festival on a Friday evening. It was also proposed that week-long leaves be granted to active organizers, who work relentlessly to make these festivals a success.
The entire audience shared a common stance when it came to sponsorship affairs: sponsors are being grossly mishandled, and that the people who are assigned the job must be elected upon thorough scrutiny. Soham Ghosh, former Director’s nominee, SAC, proposed:
A Central Sponsorship Committee should be set up by selecting members for an entire year, which will stand responsible for sending out a single brochure to all the companies targeted for sponsorship. The brochure would mention the specifics of each of the three festivals, thus allowing the potential sponsor to choose whichever fest they wish to contribute to. This will also provide a single point of contact, which has been missing from the sponsorship scene at NITR till now, and hence ensure that no company is approached twice for sponsorship in the same year.
It was also suggested that a person from the Training and Placement cell, with due experience, be included in the sponsorship team so that no prominent recruiter stands a chance of being mistreated if and when approached for sponsorship. Also, it was advised that the MoU sent must mention the usage of sponsored money exhaustively, thus clearly informing the concerned company if their money is being utilized in the form of a cash prize or an organizing fund.
The agenda came to a close with the conclusion being that the Central Sponsorship Team must be set up with an aim to streamline the sponsorship process, while the final fund shall be ultimately decided as per the proposals made to the company for a specific event.
Organising Committee of Fests
The last agenda under SAC activities saw varied views being pitched in regarding whether or not nominations should be continued. Ideas were put forth regarding a particular person being elected and not nominated for committees like ISDC and Senate. The proposal for a separate committee responsible solely for organizing festivals was taken up but later dropped, as the authorities felt that it needed to be deliberated upon thoroughly. Many of the students were of the opinion that the Director’s and Dean’s nominees should be removed and a strong impeachment process should be introduced in order to make sure that the elected representatives do their jobs congruously. A suggestion was made to reserve a certain number of seats for female students, thus discouraging nominations.
However, the SAC VPs opposed the idea of removing the concept of nominations, arguing that the nominated members are the only people who actually turn up whenever some work needs to be accomplished. The suggestion to make the nomination procedure more transparent and rigorous was received with open arms by both the students and the SAC VPs.
Reconstitution of SAC Societies
The Film and Music Society, which is responsible for organizing fests such as Multi-Ethnic and ISM as well as events like the Celebrity night, has been one of the four major societies of SAC at NIT Rourkela. However, with plans to scrap the first two and the future of latter under deliberation, the future of FMS seems bleak. Since FMS will be left with no major events to conduct apart from a few occasional workshops, it was proposed that the society should be merged with the Literary and Cultural Society so that SAC only has three societies, namely the Technical Society, the Cultural Society and the Games and Sports Society.
While the students agreed to this idea, it did not concur with Prof. Sasmita Mishra, VP, Literary and Cultural society. She said:
Pushing everything under the Literary and Cultural Society will create undue pressure on one society and would encumber its efficiency while compromising the uniqueness held by the FMS at the same time. As an alternative, we can increase the activities of FMS rather than cutting down the number of societies.
The students came up with a quick solution of distributing the clubs currently functioning under FMS among the remaining societies, instead of pushing them under the banner of a single one. This would help tackle the problem of overburdening and ensure the smooth functioning of all of the societies.
Number of Members in SAC Societies
Regarding the number of members in SAC societies, it was proposed that the number of elected student members in senate and ISDC could be kept same or increased marginally as per the requirement but a number of elected members should be redistributed properly among the festival bodies, society members, ISDC and senate in order to manage the day-to-day club activities, manage fests and participate in other administrative activities of the institute.
The festival bodies could be an amalgamation of both elected and selected members and a check and balance system could be devised to ensure that the elected representatives discharge their duties properly. Fests could have a separate advisory faculty body and money could be remitted directly to the students instead of the VPs so that fests could be handled with greater ease.
Greater empowerment of faculty advisor was also pondered upon. As suggested by Prof. Sasmita Mishra, there should be separate secretaries for different categories like Drama, Art, Literature and so on in order to ensure that the representatives have the skills related to their societies which would help them regularize the activity of clubs.
Nomination of Members
The common opinion was to make the procedure more transparent and rigorous. Since the nominations had already been discussed under one of the previous agendas, this agenda was quickly summarized and closed.
Procedure of Election of Members
A proposal for the screening procedure to be made rigorous and compulsory for the election contestants came up. Ability to present one’s manifesto and satiate the crowd with proper answers were some of the listed criteria for the eligibility to contest an election.
The idea of incorporating the concept of ‘Soapbox’ was also suggested. Soapbox is an Open House Session wherein a contestant presents his/her manifesto and justifies it to the audience and a panel of moderators. The contestant can then be questioned about the feasibility of the points mentioned in his manifesto by any person from the audience, and he/she is required to answer it in a convincing manner. This would ensure that the junta gets to know their candidates better and cast their votes wisely.
Constitution of Student Body
It was suggested that SAC act as an independent body, like HMC. This will allow SAC to have its own audit.
Student Members in ISDC/Senate
The general consensus was to marginally increase the number of elected members in ISDC and Senate. As this topic had been taken up earlier, not much time was devoted to discussing this agenda.
SAC VPs, SAS Officers, and Faculty Advisors
The prime function of a SAS officer is to assist in the functioning of their respective societies and look upon the activities that fall under it. Since the SAS officers are permanent members of SAC, a proposal of handing over all the administrative files to the SAS officer and adding file processing as their responsibility was made as the VPs are already overburdened with academic responsibilities. However, it is necessary to put a strong check and balance on the SAS officer in case they are too be burdened with crucial work. It was also suggested that a SAS officer should be appointed for the Technical society.
It was unanimously agreed upon that the number of VPs should not change and remain as it has been up till now. Moreover, empowerment of Faculty advisor was emphasized upon so that money for a club could be directly remitted to their account making the entire process less cumbersome and hassle-free.
Bottlenecks in File Transactions
It was decided that a separate desk will be set up in the Finance department for SAC to speed up file transactions. Students were of the opinion that the SAC website work should be accelerated, and a centralized procedure of obtaining permission should be introduced and implemented. The administration asked for the co-operation from students regarding strict maintenance of deadlines to further ease the procedure. It was also advised that Faculty convenors, different from the existing VPs, be appointed to look after this department.
The last two agendas under this head, i.e. Establishing single point-of-contact with Finance and Accounts, and streamlining tendering process were left for future discussion due to a shortage of time.
Hence, even after hours of intense discussion and deliberation, the session came to an end on an inconclusive note, leaving the students perplexed and dissatisfied. However, the junta still has its hopes resting on the mighty shoulders of the SAC Restructuring Committee, who are expected to keep in mind the woes of every average NITRian while writing recommendations for the amendments to be introduced in the SAC Constitution.