ALL WORK BUT NO RESULTS, MAKE FESTS A DULL AFFAIR
Fests constitute a major part of the life of students in engineering colleges across the country. They represent the much-needed vibrancy and developing platform providing a break from the monotonous academics and are very much desired by the young prodigies. Fests not only serve as a platform for showcasing one’s unique talents but also bring in the much-needed recreation. NITR had been hosting four fests until the last year namely NITRutsav, Innovision, ISM, and Multiethnic accompanied by Celebrity Night but the practice was discontinued last year owing to the draft put forward by the SAC Restructuring committee to make changes in the present format.
ACROSS THE WALL
Taking into account the take of other engineering colleges across the country on the number of fests conducted in one academic year we observe that the trend varies from college to college and while some colleges like NIT Kurukshetra and NIT Trichy suffice with just two fests which branch into the rudimentary ones that are technical and cultural, some other colleges like IIT BHU and IIT Madras go up to six fests per year. The nature of these fests do not vary a lot ,considering the fact that every college has at least two fests per year that categorize into technical and cultural, albeit some colleges delve into organizing fests that specialize in a certain branch of study, specifically to say these are branch fests mostly organized by the students of a particular branch that celebrates the uniqueness of their branch and mostly strives to make the people aware of the full potential which that branch of study has the capability to endow.
Considering the example of IIT Madras, they took on the initiative to host six fests in a year, which did not yield that of a high ended result as expected, they hosted their Techno-cult fest named Wavez, followed by three other fests namely CEA, Chem love and Amalgam which were organized by the civil, chemical and metallurgical engineering branches of the institute respectively. They again made a bold move by conducting Sarang and Shastra, which are their cultural and technical festivals. Owing to the organization of so many fests as a consequence Wavez and the branch fests failed to garner as much footfall as expected and even advertising became a big problem because children had to juggle the conduction of these fests along with their academics and time management became an issue. Although Sarang succeeds in bringing back the action by having design fests, dance fests, carnival, thespian events making it a point that only one fest could be enough to cover all cult-socio arenas.
Now along the same lines, if we consider the number of fests organized by IIT Mumbai, they had Mood Indigo, their cultural fest followed by their tech fest and AAvriti, the annual research and technical festival of the electrical engineering department of IIT Bombay. If we analyze the consequences we find that mood indigo turns out to be Asia’s largest cult fest which sees the largest footfall in the nation. It is a social and cultural amalgamation of talent, energy and responsibility encompassing competitions like literary arts, speaking arts, fine arts, music, dance, design and digital arts, lifestyle, and dramatics, with pro-shows like Theatre Fest, Illuminati, Fringe Fest, Afternites where there are many activities organized to keep the adrenaline pumping and for the sports junkies. Thus proving that ‘less is more’, just a few properly organized fests usually amass a lot of intended success.
Team MM takes up the onus to analyse the issues that plague the organisers at NITR and as to why NITR lacks behind when it comes to organising fests.
INTERPRETING THE ISSUES
College fests are organized by the students and for the students. And while the standards and the rank of NITR and its students have been increasing wholly, one cannot say the same about the standard and quality of its fests. Sure, participation, footfalls, number, and quality of events have increased but not as voraciously as one expects it to. NITR lags behind many other institutions and colleges when it comes to college festivals. There are many factors affecting and effecting NITR’s fests. Team MM makes a comprehensive analysis of several factors that affect the organisation of a fest at NITR.
TRIPPING ON TIME
One of the most important factors is the timing and the duration of the fests. NITR organizes its techno-managerial fest; INNOVISION, in the first week of November and its literary and cultural fest; NITRUTSAV, in the first week of February. Sometimes the scheduled dates clash with fellow colleges’ semester exams or even with the career-defining GATE exams for which, many students are unable to attend these fests. NITR does take measures to choose dates viable for all, but it is impossible to accommodate all interested students’ schedule. Apart from this, NITR conducts its fests during the weekend; to ensure that a minimum number of classes are cancelled. However, not all students get holidays during the weekend and the fear of missing classes stops them from attending the fests. People travelling from afar also find it difficult to get back to their institutes in time so as to attend their own classes.
Many institutes like IIT, Bombay, and IIT, Kharagpur opt to conduct both their technological and cultural fests in adjacent weekends. This reduces the amount of preparation required, increases the influx of participants and helps in better utilization of funds. IIT, Bombay conducts these fests in the month of December, during the winter vacation and the holiday season helps boost the number of participants. NITR conducts NITRUTSAV too close to IIT Kharagpur’s KHITIJ and Spring Fest. This diverts many potential participants away from NU.
THE LAND OF OZ
An unavoidable factor for low participation is Rourkela’s inaccessibility. NITR’s fests remain unreachable to college students across the country due to poor air and land connectivity. While the rail connectivity is better, it still takes a lot of time to travel to and fro, which is inconvenient. Institutes in top-tier cities conduct fests which automatically see a higher footfall owing to their proximity or better connectivity to cities. This also creates hurdles while inviting guest lecturers and performing artists. People preferring to travel by air have to board a flight till Ranchi, which happens to be the nearest airport. After that, they are escorted on land by student organizers. This takes a lot of time and utilizes a lot of resources.
College fests are often sponsored by outside organizations, companies or by alumni, apart from being allocated a cut from the Student Activity Centre. This money is utilized in conducting the events, inviting guests, lecturers, performers, and artists, acquiring requirements, accommodating participants and guests, decoration and much more. The import of this budget and its uses is inexplicable. Despite this, there happens to be no proper team or brochure for this. The fests induct for their individual sponsorship teams a few months before the fest, conducting a written and a personal interview rounds on the interested students applying for the teams. They are guided by their more experienced seniors in acquiring funds for sponsoring the fest, which is closed by a memorandum of understanding between the two parties. But the absence of a centralized sponsorship team and sponsorship brochure is an issue. Companies often refuse to sponsor multiple fests when approached too many times in a single year, due to which NITR loses many sponsors.
But NITR’s fests fail in getting large sums as sponsorship due to the absence of a core sponsorship team, proper guidelines of approach and a clear picture. Low participation in previous versions of the fests put off many probable sponsors from sponsoring future versions; regardless of the fact that they may be better in terms of quality and quantity. There is a latent symbiotic relationship between participation and sponsorship. If the amount received in sponsorship were to increase, then the quality and quantity of events conducted would also increase which would cause a spike in student participation. And more participation attracts more willing sponsors. To increase one, one has to focus on the other as well. Rourkela’s closed off location also acts as an inhibitor for sponsorship. Sponsors don’t see it as an ideal place for marketing and sales especially considering the targeted audience.
HEAR YE, HEAR ALL
Publicity is a very important aspect while organizing college fests. People attend fests that which are popular and highly publicised. Fests that stand out among a sea of monotonic college fests see more footfalls as well. In this respect, publicity and proper management and decoration are important to improve the standards of one’s fest. Again due to the non-existence of a core team in these fields, it becomes difficult to improve one’s fests. Also, this team remains unable to publicize the fest far and wide across the country; it is mostly constrained to Odisha’s cities and towns and limited to word of the mouth, posters, social media publicity and a handful of radio telecasts.
OF THE STUDENTS, BY THE STUDENTS, FOR THE STUDENTS
Fests are organized and managed by various student teams, which are spearheaded or guided by a few elected and nominated representatives of the college populace. These teams consist of students from all years and streams, working together to make the fest a success. Many of the people opting to join such teams come in with the hopes of receiving a certificate stating that they helped organize or manage, whereas they may not have done so in real life. The sincerity and dedication of the organizers and managers are paramount to the college fests.
Instances of improper coordination among the students or between the students and the faculty also stand to hamper the smooth run of fests. Problems faced while electing convenors, nominating people and selecting volunteers and coordinators can disrupt the proper conduction of college fests. Inability to properly accommodate and feed participants, conduct events and distribute prizes and certificates can also give the fests and its organizers a bad name; in turn, reducing participation in the subsequent editions.
Participants and students are mostly housed in dorms and common rooms of the various hostels while the guests and artists stay in the guesthouses. However, there is not enough room for all and the living situation is cramped. During INNOVISION 2017, registrations had to be stopped at 1,400 because there was not enough room to house the participants despite more interested students pouring in. However, these kinds of situations aren’t witnessed at IITs and NITs having a higher turnout than at NITR. This also inhibits participants from attending the future versions of the fest, thus decreasing participation.
THE CONVENERS SPEAK
Team MM caught up with Mohit Gupta, ex-student convenor of Innovision. When asked about why according to him, fests in NITR fail to garner the same level of participation compared to fests of reputed colleges in the country he said,
Firstly and very fundamentally, here at NITR, we have an election system so it is only three or four months prior to the fest do we know which people will constitute the fest team. Financing the fest is the next problem that is faced. If you look at the fests of any reputed college, the budget allocated is much, much more than what we are getting allocated here. I don’t think that 10 lakhs INR is enough to fund a mega-fest; given the budget, I think we are getting the best arrangements possible for the fests. People from different colleges will come to our fests only if either the quality of events is superb or if we manage to attract an immensely popular celebrity. In Innovision, we don’t have a celebrity night as such but we get decent crowds because the quality of events is amazing. Now when we compare this to NITRUTSAV, we see that people don’t turn up in large numbers because we neither have a good quality of events, compared to top institutes nor do we attract a very popular celebrity. More people will turn up only if each individual event attracts a lot of participation. The biggest problem and perhaps the one problem that is exclusive to NIT-R is the zone system in play here. Right from the elections, this zone politics comes to the fore and this is so fundamental that is ingrains a sense of hatred in people. This leads to a fest being perceived as the fest of a particular zone, not the college. If a zone prevails in the elections, then other zones quite often completely ignore this zone; not everyone turns up to help even though they are quite capable of doing so. If everyone is not equally invested in making the event a success, the event would never be a success, as is quite evident in case of NIT-R.
Innovision Student Convenor Bhagawan Bharat Kumar had some similar opinions as well. Speaking on the same note, he added,
Two months duration is completely acceptable as the duration for organising a fest successfully but the problem lies with the officials, the amount of time required for a bill or any form of tender to be passed is of 2 months itself, and it's a really slow process. Lack of publicity due to a reduction in funds can also be a reason. Moreover, the remote location of our institute poses a major setback in the process of creating a buzz and gathering more and more crowd. Working hard and smart is the way to success and we're definitely working on it.
Much could be done to combat such problems and improve the standards of our fests. One of the first moves would be to change the timing and duration of the fests to an even more viable one, all the while keeping in mind that participation is not affected due to competition with some other fest or examination. Organisers should also keep the climatic conditions and course load in mind while designing the fest schedules.
To improve the amount of sponsorship received, the amount of publicity gained and the quality of decor, formation of central teams for these is important. Instead of having one team in each field, in each fest, one could have a central sponsorship, publicity and decor teams for all the festivals. The sponsorship team can also prepare a common sponsorship brochure for all the fests, to be distributed to all potential sponsors and to be modified accordingly every year. The same could be done for publicity. Clubs like Akriti and Chitraang can be asked to help with the decorations; this will prove to be much more viable than creating an entire team meant from decoration from scratch. Similarly, clubs like the Entrepreneurship Cell and such can help in acquiring sponsors and the likes.
To ensure that the truly interested and hard working people get the chance to work for the fests, the selection process should be made more transparent and thorough. Also, elections and nominations ought to be taken seriously for the fate of our fests surely rests in the hands of able representatives. One way in which coordination and organization can improve is through hiring fest managers. Such organizers organize, conduct and manage fests, in its entirety or a part, for a fee. They conduct many customized events and normally relieve the pressure on the student organizers.
To ensure proper accommodation, NITR can tie up with local guest houses, hostels, inns and hotels to house participants. They can also venture into collaborations with start-ups willing to house people like OYO Rooms, etc. Not only will this increase credibility and sponsorship, but proper accommodations will ensure a higher turnover and happier students.
College fests allow one to socialize, mingle and peek into another lifestyle. They play an important role in one’s college life and give one a chance to try new things and discover where one’s talents lie. Fests help increase the student-faculty and the student-student interaction for the better. NITR’s fests reflect its vibrant club culture and student diversity and bring together people from all sectors of life, to celebrate together. Their vibrancy and life are dependent on the participants’ enthusiasm and the participants depend on the fests’ standard. Team MM hopes to see NITR’s fests making the rounds around the country and living up to their fame, in the future.