Comprehending the Impediments: Arts and Cultural Society review
The Arts and Cultural Society is the nascent successor of the erstwhile Film and Music Society that oversaw activities in the domain of film-making, dramatics, and music before the restructuring of SAC. As one of the four main wings of the Student Activity Center, the society is endowed with the responsibility of conducting a host of activities all year round, especially in the Spring Semester. Team MM reviewed the functioning of the society, it’s satellite clubs and herewith presents an exhaustive summary of the yearlong activities of the Society.
Currently, a total of seven clubs operate under the purview of the society after one inactive club ‘Dotara’ was dropped from the society during the allotment of the annual budget. The clubs are:
- Drill n Bass
- Third Eye
All the clubs operate autonomously under the vision of their respective Presidents and Coordinators. They have been allotted with a Faculty Advisor, who supervises their activities and regulates the finances. But the relationship between clubs and SAC office bearers is a bit better in the Arts and Culture Society, as with fewer clubs, a well-coordinated closely knit relationship has been built. All the student representatives have equal say in decision-making matters and are well-informed of club affairs.
Primarily the executive body comprises of four elected secretaries, one each from 2nd, 3rd, 4th year and PG & research constituency. Furthermore, the society also consists of one Dean Nominee and one Director's Nominee, who got nominated owing to the absence of candidates from the PG & Research community. Moreover, the two Vice Presidents Prof. Syed Nasimul Alam and Prof. Arjun Mukerji supervise the entire society and keep a record of the budget allocation as well as the expenditure. Arts and Culture society along with the Literary society also organizes NITRUTSAV which is supervised by a student body of three conveners, two elected and one nominated by the Dean. Performance of the clubs and the records of the expenses serve as a criterion for deciding the future budget allocation to the clubs. All the decisions are taken by hosting meetings and their execution demands the approval of SAC President and Dean Student Welfare. The SAC office bearers for the year 2017-18 are as follows:
2nd year elected convener- Debasish Mishra
3rd year elected convener- Pratyush Dash
4th year elected convener - Ajit Kumar
Dean's nominee - Sumit Mahapatra
Director's Nominee and PG candidate- Biswajit Sahoo
The Arts and Culture society has been allocated with 9 lakhs INR this year, and the budget has considerably reduced from 15 lakhs INR in the year before, owing to the 20 lakhs INR investment in the Counselling services in NITR (SCP). The allocated money is utilized for the year-round activities of the clubs, procurement of new equipment, hosting of events and associated fests coming under the society. The club budget is divided among seven clubs of the Arts and Culture society based on their performance in the previous year and utilization of the previous year’s allotted budget.
Budget for Running expense of clubs
Drill n Bass
Budget for Society workshops, conferences, seminars and shows
Miscellaneous and Contingency
Budget for SAC assets
Photography and Videography equipment
Dance room mattress
Total: INR Nine lakhs
Drill n Bass, the official EDM club of NITR organized the Trancenation 3.0 in INNOVISION and Rapnesia in NITRUTSAV. Mavericks and Synergy, the official dance clubs of NITR performed in various events of the institute and also participated in a multitude of dance competitions like NITW Spring spree (participated by Synergy) and Hustle Herd in ISM Dhanbad (participated by Mavericks). On the other hand, the Rock band- Euphony mesmerized the rock aficionados and Heartbeats enraptured the audience with their soulful melody in Maktub. Furthermore, Cinematics is involved in cinematography as well as videography and also organized a multitude of workshops on vlogging, video editing, photography and many more.
Third eye, the official photography club of the Institute captured the various festive moments of NITR, organized an open photo walk for the NITR students and the ‘My BFF’ event in Innovision. Third Eye also held a noteworthy exhibition event ‘Vivid’ during the occasion of Roots this year, which was appreciated by many of the visiting guests of the creative confluence too. Apart from the aforementioned activities, the society also organized two dance workshops, a workshop by Jatin Das, Roots - A creative confluence, and broadcasted matches in BBA.
Difficulties associated with Society functioning
One of the biggest modifications in the Society this year has been the SAC Restructuring which not only changed its name from ‘Film and Music Society’ to ‘Arts and Culture Society’, but also changed its structural composition by transferring some of the cultural and fine arts aspects of SAC from its sister ‘Literary and Cultural Society’ (now ‘Literary Society’). One of the most debatable talks after the restructuring was how the two revamped societies would operate in tandem with each other. After a year of the restructuring, Team MM went on to make a critical assessment of the current scenario.
Although there were five posts for the secretaries across the various constituencies in the Society, only four took office after the end of the elections and announcement of Dean’s Nominees. The PG constituency did not see any contesting candidates and was subsequently filled up by the Director’s Nominee for this year. Thus while there are supposedly too many constituencies for the post of the secretaries for which apparently not many are interested or even aware of, having just 3 conveners for organising gala fests creates heavy work-pressure on a few. There was, in fact, a suggestion from the current representatives to reduce the number of secretaries who feel no obligations to work for fests and instead increase the number of Fest Conveners to at least 5. Also, the student representatives felt that with less number of representatives, the workforce behind the smooth conduction of fests and events around the year has declined.
Pratyush Dash of the 3rd year elected constituency quoted:
Since the second year students form one of the most active groups when it comes to extra-curricular affairs, there should obviously be more number of conveners from the 2nd year. For instance, during fests, we mainly have to rely on volunteers to work behind all the arrangements. As such freshers and sophomores should be given more representation. Fest Convener system is now more centralised and fewer people are turning up to work. More people should be given direct responsibilities, especially for the fest, so that they own up to their works and have more accountability for their work. This will also ease the burden on the Conveners.
Another major issue was that with everyone on board being a new incumbent, right from the SAC President to the VPs to all the student representatives, there is some confusion pertaining to exact roles and responsibilities of the office bearers. When asked about the exact roles of different office bearers, VP Prof. Syed Nasimul Alam was quoted saying:
VPs mainly look after the financial or monetary state while the Conveners manage each and every aspect of the associated clubs and fests. Budget allocation to the clubs and funds required for equipment purchase and passing on the message from Director to the students are the tasks of the VPs. We are a bridge between the Director and the students.
According to the conveners, Pratyush and Sumit- a retained representative in the Society to guide the new postholders during the first few months would be helpful in making a smooth transition from one year to another. This point was well-received by the VP Prof. S.N. Alam. This also brought to light the fact that there has been no amendment to the previous SAC Constitution after the major reshuffling—a guideline turning increasingly obsolete now.
The Secretaries, now known as Society Conveners, did point to one exact role that they were assigned with- mentoring and looking after the needs of the seven clubs under the Society which are to be shared by the five representatives. This would certainly go a long way in streamlining the interaction of the clubs with the parent authority now, a change that the Society should definitely stick to.
Vice Presidents’ Perspective
Currently one of the major problems is the lack of space inside the SAC building, which houses one dance room and one music room for the regular practice of at least five major clubs under the society. As such they have to be shared in shifts which hamper continuous practice of both the clubs, especially that of Synergy and Mavericks. An added cubicle for the Assistant Registrar (SA) also reduces the space to hold general meetings among the other executive members. While the Dean (SW) had previously agreed to look into the matter by pushing for an extension of the building, it has now come to light that the entire SAC premises will now be shifted to the proposed indoor stadium complex with added space for every facility. The project is currently in its design phase, and would expectedly be finished within two years, as was promised to the society Conveners. Prof Arjun Mukerji said:
The entire project costs in crores and could take years, as the existing constructions need to be completed first. I personally raised the proposal of making separate dance rooms and storage areas in the meeting.
Commenting on the paucity of the budget allocation to various clubs, Prof Mukerji said—
The budget distribution was similar as last year. If the overall amount is to be increased there has to be more revenue generated, which means students have to pay more SAC fees. Otherwise clubs may approach the Director through the VPs for additional funds, which can be allocated from the Dean’s fund, President’s fund and maybe from even the Director’s fund. For instance, a Rs 68000/- surplus expenditure in Roots was met by the Dean’s fund, while money from the President’s fund was utilised to sponsor the trips of the various dance clubs in recent times.
Another problem highlighted in part of the clubs was that the ‘permission acquiring process was cumbersome’ and even more was the ‘reimbursement process’, as all requests have to be put up in advance. However, both VPs said that clubs should plan expenditures well in advance. Prof Arjun Mukerji said---
There are two kinds of finance grants, requests and reimbursements. The requests can be foreseen in advance and procedures should be followed accordingly. For events like Jashn (which was earlier planned to be similar to Maktub), the event was hugely modified. For such cases where the Budget was initially approved for something, it is to be utilized for something else, hence all the approvals are necessary. This process should be smooth on paper. For reimbursement, if the purchase was already approved during the annual budget, only the bill needs to be submitted.
However, unfortunately for even a single grant application, the club members have to move from one department to another and collect the required signatures. The process was made smoother this year when the SAC President Prof S Chakraverty asked clubs to submit bills and applications in the SAC office where they will be signed by the required authorities. But even so, the problem of files getting misplaced or neglected is common. While the Conveners suggested making the entire process online, Prof Mukerji said club members need to follow up at regular intervals, at least through their Faculty Advisors, to check the status of the files. Prof Mukerji also highlighted another problem—
In some cases, communication gap is the main factor. Also, vendors now need to have a GST number and be registered in the GEM (Government E-price Markets), which may cause inadvertent delays. The rest of the problems may happen in the Finance and Accounts Office, the reasons of which are unknown to me.
Prof SN Alam too agreed that the GEM procedure has lengthened the procedure a bit but added that it was mandatory as per the recent orders from the Government. However, he also expressed disappointment in the fact that this year’s budget for the purchases of equipment haven’t been utilized thoroughly—
A lot of money was allotted for the purchase of Cinematography equipment. But Cinematics club didn’t want to go through the process of drawing up tenders and insisted on doing the process themselves. In the end the money was never spent fully and had to be rechannelized to fund the expenses of the dance club’s trip to NIT-Warangal.
Like the Society Conveners, Prof Mukerji also feels that the renaming of the Society during the restructuring hasn’t seen justification so far, as clubs like Ritvic, Pantomime, Chitraang and Akriti still fall in Literary Society.
Initially there was a lot of confusion over this, as those clubs approached me for permissions and discussions. It was only later clarified that no clubs would be shifted for the year. This was done considering the fact that the Annual Budget distribution among societies were done similar to the previous years, and no funds were left for us to accommodate other clubs. This is something I hope will change after my tenure ends this time.
In hindsight, all the society members felt that the Arts and Culture Society has performed decently well this year, with a successful edition of Roots and Musical Night. Barring the financial crunch, which still saw funds underutilized in many heads, overall participation of the clubs in activities has definitely improved under the nurturing of the Society. Team MM hopes that Arts and Culture Society will keep up its spirit of work in the coming years and achieve greater heights of success.