6th NITR Conclave: Extravaganza or Dreary Ordeal?
NIT Conclave 2016 witnessed a number of zealous participants, a distinguished pool of dignitaries and a series of well-researched presentations. However, it also had its own share of glitches and delays. Team MM met with the organizing committee to discuss various aspects of the 3-day long event.
Timeline and footfall
NIT Conclave was organized from 2nd-4th September and the next two days were holidays. As a result the turnout from NITR was dismal, and students missed out an opportunity to participate in a national level event and listen to some of the biggest social entrepreneurs and scientists of today, share their perspective. On being asked about why such an outcome had not been foreseen, Megha Agarwal, Student Convener replied
Firstly in conclave, everything was not open for NITRians. The presentation was meant for only the participating NITs and only the inauguration and valedictory ceremonies were open for all. Secondly, due to the non-functioning of AC in BBA, the presentation and valedictory ceremony were organized in the CSE Seminar hall which had a limited capacity. So allowing everyone was not a feasible option. Despite that some people did turn up and we allowed them to witness the panel discussion.
The venue for the inaugural ceremony was Bhubaneswar Behera Auditorium (BBA), despite its air conditioning system being non-functional for many days. The presentation round was organized in CS Seminar hall and hence some participants complained about the space crunch. On this Abhratej Sahoo, Student Convener, said that “We opted for the CSE Seminar Hall because there was no AC in other bigger seminar halls like ECE Seminar Hall. Our space calculation was perfect, keeping in mind about all the participants, panelists, content team members from NITR to prepare the draft and some other people from NITR. Coming to the inauguration ceremony in BBA, it was meant to be a formal ceremony and we had invited professors, Dean Academics, Dean Student Welfare and other dignitaries and hence BBA was the better option.”
A plantation programme was planned to be organized near a freshly dug land behind Hall 8 on the first day of the event but it was shifted at the last minute. On being questioned the organizers said that several NITs arrived after the Inauguration Ceremony and some others arrived at 4:00AM on the day of the presentation. Since the organizers wanted at least one representative from every NIT to be present for the plantation program, the event was postponed to the third day.
Timings and the delays
A huge time delay was observed in the event, with guest lectures running 2.5 hours later than the scheduled time. The organizers said that the delays were primarily because of late train timings. Several dignitaries arrived late, as did participants. Luckily, they had planned for a buffer time after the day’s events and they could use that up to ensure that the event went off smoothly.
Accommodation and Hospitality
Accommodation for the participants of different NITs was arranged in SD Hall of Residence for boys and C V Raman Hall of Residence for girls. Food was provided in the South Block Guest House of the institute. Although it proved to be adequate to accommodate the participants, several NITs complained about the long distance between the halls and the guest house and were also dissatisfied with the food being served to them. On this Abhratej Sahoo commented
The Guest House serves the same menu to all the guests, irrespective of whether they are guests of the institute, dignitaries or other participating students. This matter was not in our hands. However, the distance factor had been kept in mind, and the distance of the CSE Seminar Hall was not much from the Guest House between which they had to travel to and fro for their meals.
There was a noticeable dearth of co-ordination among the organizers, which was repeatedly brought to the notice of the spectators at the inaugural, when Euphony’s performance got delayed by over 15 minutes due to petty, avoidable circumstances such as the unavailability of extension cords at the last moment, only to be followed by a delay in Synergy’s performance as well.
The organizers claimed that they had already spoken to the PIC of BBA, Mr. Nalini NIhar Nayak as well as Mr. Matthew Kerketta, both of whom had assured them that the sound check was complete and all the instruments were running fine. However, they conceded to the fact that such situations are hardly uncommon at NITR, and just like the Institute Freshers, students had to troubleshoot the instruments themselves for various events.
Another instance that clearly reflected the heights of mismanagement on the part of the organizers was when Narayana Peesapathy’s post-lecture interaction was cut short by Euphony members taking the stage and testing their instruments, which compelled the guest lecturer to move out to the lawn with his audience to continue with their discussion.
Clearing the air, Abhratej Sahoo elucidated
There was some miscommunication on our part as well as theirs. Euphony was told that the guest lecture will be over in 10 minutes and they would be informed accordingly to take the stage and test their instruments. However, due to certain delays they were falsely informed that the guest lecture was over when it was still going on and this caused some inconvenience. However, I believe that we were able to sort it out, eventually and everything worked out.
Publicity plays a huge role in making any event a success, and singularly bears the ability to make or break it. With the online publicity starting only a week prior to the event and the flexes being put up a day before the inaugural ceremony, publicity was a front on which the organizers fell short.
They also clarified that a Conclave essentially differed in format from a regular fest and did not depend on publicity for participation. Since it was an entry-by-invite-only event, people had been specifically intimated through official channels. Thus a month-long publicity process would have proven to be quite redundant.
They also said that the primary motive for publicity was to spread the word among alumni and general populace of NITR, for which they felt that one week was fairly sufficient.
Along the same lines, Megha Agarwal added,
The flexes would have been put up maybe a day or two earlier but we had certain fund crunches which only got resolved at the last moment. We could have placed an order for flexes and banners only after the budget got sanctioned, which was done at the last moment. POs cannot be sent out if your budget has not been sanctioned completely. That got done 3-4 days before the conclave. So you can imagine the amount of work done at the last moment due to the funds coming in late.
The document consisting of the proposals, ideas and suggestions, upon which the various NITs have agreed, is underway and can be expected to be ready by mid-November. The draft has been prepared, wherein the points given by the various NIT delegates have been assimilated.
The organizers seemed to be overwhelmed by the kind of response they received from their jury, panelists and chief guests, throughout the drafting process. Each of them have actively given inputs to make the whole process a more effective one. In fact, several dignitaries have handed over separate write-ups regarding various subjects such as educational models, research ecosystems and what sort of collaboration needs to be done.
Regarding the final realization of the aim of the conclave to reach the MHRD, Abhratej Sahoo said,
We are currently trying to crystallize the suggested points into an acceptable format, so that a proper draft of sorts can be presented to the MHRD. We are first planning to send the draft to the Directors/Deans (SW) of all the NITs so that they can also chain the loop and this does not become just an initiative by NITR, but the NIT fraternity as a whole.
The major hurdle that the organizers had to face while conducting the Conclave was resistance from other NITs. In the wake of the absence of any governing body for all the NITs, and no tangible result established from the previous editions of the Conclave, the organizers had a paramount job at hand: To obtain a palpable solution out of this edition.
With around 7-8 NITs backing out at the last moment, the participation was dismal, and hence this is something that they would like the future organizers to improve upon.
Elaborating upon the problems faced by the organizing committee, Megha Agarwal commented, “We sent out the invites 2-3 months back to all 30 NITs’ Directors and Dean (SW), through our Director and coordinators. When we started calling them up for final confirmation, 7-8 NITs backed out, which was a huge blow for us. Initially 24 NITs had confirmed, 6 failing to come due to their examination schedule clashing with the event. We could do nothing about the last moment backing-out, as there was no such rule that compelled them to attend even if they had initially confirmed.”
The organizers are working upon forming a pan-NIT governing/controlling body, which will not only ensure participation in such events with the aid of a set of concrete rules and regulations, but also try to implement whatever is discussed to some extent, in every NIT.
Abhratej Sahoo commented,
Three things need to be there for an event such as the Conclave to be successful and running about in the county: legitimacy, credentials and output, and all three are interconnected. If there is no output, the Conclave will fail to gain credentials, and if the Conclave will not gain credentials, there will be no legitimacy associated with it.
Despite the dismal participation and the various impediments the organizers were faced with, the Conclave managed to not only garner the attention of various NITs, but also fulfill its purpose. The organizers are optimistic about the draft that they will be sending to the MHRD and are expecting it to be implemented in an effective manner in all the NITs.
M. N. Anandbabu, Chief Coordinator also commented,
The conclave was conducted almost perfectly, from where we see it. It got positive responses from everyone and even the participants were happy. The event was recorded via video and we are currently compiling it to great a sample and basis for the work that will have to be done by future organizers. As suggestions, I would like to say that people should have a clear focus regarding the procedure and structure. One should always have alternate plans that target the same purpose, so as to have a smooth conduct of the entire event.