Closing In On Diverse Bailiwicks
This week, Team MM got an opportunity to sit down and discuss the persisting problems in the institute with Prof. Animesh Biswas, Director, NIT-R. With the Institute introducing a complete change in academic syllabus, and the SAC witnessing major changes since the dawn of the current academic year, Team MM took the opportunity to get the Director’s views and clear the air of doubts on several issues. Excerpts of the interview are presented below:
MM: The academic curriculum for the batch of 2017-18 has been changed. Why were the changes not introduced for the sophomores who were just about to learn about their branch?
AB: It was discussed at the Senate meeting to implement the changes for the sophomores. But the final verdict was to continue with the old curriculum and to implement the new curriculum for the fresher’s only. The Senate observed that the newly introduced core courses of the first year students are not similar to what the previous batches have read. Also, the departmental subjects are designed in such a way that the students need pre-requisite knowledge from their first-year courses. So there could have been a possible mismatch if the change would’ve been introduced for the sophomores. Hence, the new curriculum couldn’t be implemented for second-year students.
MM: There has been a major change in the number of credits of some of the courses for the freshmen year, like- BEE, Environment & Safety Engineering, Physics have been reduced to 3 credit courses rather than being 4 credit courses, like the previous year. What will be the grading process for students appearing backlog papers?
AB: Revamping the whole new syllabus is a tough job and teething problems are expected to arise whenever a change is introduced for more than 5000 students at once. To deal with the above problem, we gave a one-time opportunity to all the students to clear their backlog papers in the summer of 2017. If there are further problems, the issues will be taken up in the subsequent Senate meetings and would be solved accordingly.
MM: This year, the institute didn’t admit students for a number of dual degree courses. What was the reason behind such a move? Is the Institute planning to remove the Dual Degree courses altogether slowly?
AB: I was informed by the departments that the Dual Degree courses aren’t popular among students and have lesser job opportunities after graduation. On a personal note, it was very surprising to me. On the contrary, at IITs, the dual degree courses are more popular and preferred. Many companies prefer dual degree students over B.Tech. graduates at IITs. The dual degree courses of CSE, EE, ECE, ME have been scrapped off considering the fact that they had very less attractive job opportunities. On departmental recommendation, the courses have been removed with the approval of The Senate.
As of now, we don’t have any further plans to remove Dual Degree courses from any branch.
MM: What is the progress on renovation process of the lawn tennis court and the volleyball court?
AB: The revamping of lawn tennis and volleyball courts has been a major concern. I wanted to construct the courts in such a manner that they could meet international standards. The cost for the whole restructuring would require more than a crore. Due to crunch in funds, I have to compromise with the quality. I expected the total expenditure to be limited to 50 lakhs INR but according to Prof. C.R Patra, Dean (Planning and Architecture) the whole construction can cost us more than 1 Crore INR. So we need more time to negotiate things and limit the expenditure within the specified budget and the estimated budget needs to be approved by the BOG. We also need time to develop the plan and architect of the upcoming courts. So we will take at least a year’s time to begin the work.
MM: What is the objective behind the Sports Fest? Is it going to be an inter-institute or an intra-institute event? Are we planning to club it with the Inter-NIT tournament?
AB: My vision was to include Inter-Hall events in the Sports Fest. Since there is a separate budget being sanctioned for the sports fest, the whole fest can be merged with the Inter-NIT events. The fest can be extended but the whole decision depends on elected SAC secretaries and VPs. I want them to come up with the Plan of Action, as in how they want to conduct the Annual Sports Fest. Meanwhile, I don’t intend students to miss classes amidst all the festivals.
MM: When will the air-conditioners which are bought and kept in LA be installed?
AB: The air-conditioners have been bought for the Computer Laboratories of LA I. They will soon be installed in the labs. Prof. C.R Patra has planned to make LA I and LA II completely air conditioned with the funding from TEQIP III. He has also suggested to install Smart Class Technology in the classrooms. The air conditioners were temporarily used at BBA during the JOSAA Counseling procedure but now they would be installed at LA.
MM: Two major fests namely ISM and Multi-Ethnic have been scrapped this year, which was supposed to be organized by the Arts & Cultural Society. Doesn’t that make an unequal distribution of work amongst the different societies? Also, why were the SAC fees not reduced despite the Institute saving lakhs of money after the cancellation of two major fests?
AB: There are other plans which have been proposed and the money would be utilized to conduct small events. I envisioned having small, influential events once in a month, rather than spending it once in a year on the extravagant stereotypic fests. One among the few proposals was to conduct a FILM Festival. The students need to be aware of the classical culture. There are many aspiring film enthusiasts in the institute and this would help them a lot in learning new things. This has already been suggested to SAC by me. It solely becomes their responsibility and discretion to decide how to implement it. Besides that, there are several other events like Nukkads which can be conducted during the Film Fest. The student secretaries and VPs of Art and Cultural Society need to come up with new ideas and then I would take the final call on its implementation.
MM: The batch of 2016 has not received the security deposit yet. What is the reason behind the same? What steps have been taken in this regard to fasten the procedure?
AB: The Registrar keeps a record of the security deposits and other related transactions. You can get all information regarding it from the Registrar’s office. However, I will inform him to look into this matter.
MM: The passport camp has not been held in the institute since the last couple of years. What is the reason behind the same? When can we expect to have the next passport camp?
AB: The passport office has inaugurated its branch at Rourkela recently. Passport camps were held because students had to go to Bhubaneswar for passport works and it was cumbersome and time-consuming. Since the passport office is nearby, there is no need to organize camps for the same.
MM: In the year 2015, 12 TnP leaves were allowed per semester. In 2016, the number was reduced to 6 and now only 6 leaves (including SAC and TnP leaves) can be taken by a student per semester. With so many companies visiting the Institute for the placement session, isn’t it too tough for a final year student to balance the number of leaves for extra-curricular activities and placements within the limit of six?
AB: This decision was taken by the Senate by considering all facets. The Senate gives paramount importance to Academics and it does not want final year students to compromise it at the cost of extra-curricular and placement activities.
MM: The Central Water Commission (CWC) has signed MoUs with premier institutes of the nation, including NITR, to support dam rehabilitation efforts of various implementing agencies. What would be the role of the institute while working for this project?
AB: Recently, an article got published in a few National newspapers stating that a MoU was signed by the NITR authorities with Central Water Commission. But, there was no such agreement made and NITR authorities did not sign any such MoU during my tenure. It’s highly disappointing to note that the media is publishing such important information without cross checking and verifying. But after consulting the Registrar of the institute, I can tell if any such MoU has been signed prior to my joining.
MM: At the wake of the recent fee hike, there was a protest by the PG and Ph.D. students of NITR, after which it was decided that fees would be reduced and students would pay fees as per last semester’s fee structure. Why were the fees reduced for the PG and Ph.D. students but not for the UG students? Also, what decision has been taken regarding the final fee structure?
AB: A committee headed by the Dean (Student Welfare) was formed to look into this matter. The fee escalation was halted and it was decided that the students would pay as per the fee structure of previous semester. In the meanwhile, the committee would take the final call on the fee structure for the subsequent semesters. If the UG students have already paid fees as per the new fee structure, then the amount would be adjusted while paying fees in the next semester.
MM: The road leading from Academic area to Technical Avenue is mostly left dark during the busy evening hours. What is the reason behind the same?
AB: This issue captured my attention recently and I instructed the Estate Office to start the repair work immediately. According to the officials of the Estate office, the work was delayed because of the retreating monsoon. Some of the street lights along the Scholar’s Avenue have been repaired and are functioning smoothly, others will be attended to as soon as possible.
MM: After the recent re-allotment of caterers, the quality of mess food has considerably decreased in several halls. What steps can be taken to ensure that the mess caterers don’t underperform after being allotted to a specific hall?
AB: The re-allotment and introduction of new caterers were brought into effect with the motive to have a sense of competition between the existing caterers and the new ones, and in the process, the quality of food would bump up. Rather, as seen, the results are otherwise.
I’m making surprise visits to different halls and will make sure that this issue is taken up in the next HMC meeting. Providing the students with nutritious and optimum quality of food is our primary concern. I would advise the Mess Inspection Committee to play an active role in ensuring that the quality of food isn’t compromised.