Inducing Changes With Vehemence: Prof SK Patel
With the dawn of the new academic year, Team MM caught up with the enigmatic and multifaceted, Prof. S.K Patel, Dean (Student Welfare) to offer him a warm welcome and to inquire about his vision for the upcoming year along with addressing certain pressing issues at hand.
Team MM: After efficiently serving in a lot of administrative roles in the institute, how has been the experience of being Dean (Student Welfare) so far? What are your major priorities and visions?
DSW: In the past, during my tenure as the Chief Warden and the Head(T&P), I came in contact with a variety of problems over a vast range of issues. So I’m pretty sure I’m equipped with enough experience to deal with students related problems at hand as the Dean (SW). The major priority is that students shouldn’t neglect their academics for extra-curricular activities. They should manage time and juggle efficiently between both of them. Since hostels also come under my supervision, it is my duty to make sure the students are comfortable living in their hostels as far as the budget permits.
Team MM: What are the criteria and parameters chosen for the selection of Dean’s Nominee for this year?
DSW: If they’re able to encash their expertise and experience and if they’re able to work efficiently with SAC. They are the representatives of the students, they need to have attributes like attitude, integrity, honesty and the vision to bring about reforms. Initially, I thought we should opt for CGPA criteria but after discussing with other officials, we decided to consider all the students for selection based on their interviews.
Team MM: In the previous years, there has been very little transparency in conducting the fests such as Innovision and NITRUTSAV and its rumored about corruption in the utilization of funds as well as team selection. How do you wish to tackle this problem? One of the Innovision Convenors who was selected this year had certain allegations against him as a Core Team member of last year. Were they chosen only because of the prior experience they had or was their past work evaluated?
DSW: I didn’t know about these allegations and we should have looked into the matter last year. This year, we should compile all the complaints and put forth before every election. It should have been brought to our notice before the elections. Since I’m new and none of the VPs informed me, I’m completely unaware. Unless the allegations are investigated and proved, we should not debar students just like that based on hearsays. A committee should be there to investigate and make a report on such incidents and grievances.
Team MM: What is the current status of budget allocation for the clubs? On what basis, the clubs will be allocated with the budget?
DSW: It’s still under consideration and nothing has been decided as of now. I asked for a list of all clubs with their post-holders but the list could not be readily available. I had to try on my own and frantically enquire from various sources and compiled the list. There was no platform for me to communicate with any clubs, student groups or sports teams. There are still a few clubs who have not yet provided me with their details. I expect them to be active and do something productive throughout the year. The budget allocated should be according to the number and types of activities. The criteria should be many numbers of activities done using a minimal amount of money. Spending money on hard copy posters, T-shirts and banners is unnecessary expenditure and should be avoided.
Team MM: Team Tiburon had to put in their own money to represent NITR at the international level which was around 50k per person. On the contrary, IIT Kanpur and Bombay gives full reimbursements to their teams. What’s your take on this?
DSW: The SAC budget is limited and it caters to a variety of events. It shouldn’t just cater to a group of students and the expenditure of the money should be prioritized. IIT-K and other colleges may not be using their student fees for reimbursing the money for these competitions, it may be from Alumni funds or donations. On the other hand, students are saying they want a grand fest and big size posters in fests but you also want these teams to be funded for international competitions. Students want more money to be pumped in Celebrity night. If you want your competition’s travel and equipment’s money to be reimbursed, then we need to cut down the budget on celebrity nights and fests. I’m not the only one who’s deciding this prioritization of budget allocation. You should have elected your representatives according to your agenda. Another solution may be that we need to increase the SAC fee, but personally, I am not in favor of increasing any fee.
Team MM: Most of the SAC money goes unused almost every year. Where does it go?
DSW: It’s public money collected as student fees and we can’t use it like it’s our private money. It needs to be spent as per the government purchase procedure. The unutilized money usually is not carried forward to next year's budget. It has been kept aside and it can be used for any Student activities if required in future with due approval of the competent authority.
Team MM: There are new rules like no meetings will be called for the first years after 8 pm. This is creating a huge problem for the Innovision fest teams. Publicity has to be majorly done by the first years because the have fresh ideas. How do you intend on going about that?
DSW: This is done as it's a new environment for freshers and they need to get accustomed to it. They shouldn't feel pressurized. At first, the time limit was 7:30 but then it was shifted to 8:30, taking the student activities into consideration. After Puja vacations, this rule will be removed and the freshers are free to attend meetings and take part after 8:30.
Team MM: There are no coaches for any sports team and in spite of having very good teams, our Institute teams are facing problems because of the pathetic conditions of equipment and the ground. Are there any plans to bring in coaches for our institute teams? Also, students from other institutes are not happy with the facilities being provided here when they come for competitions. How will that be tackled?
DSW: In no academic institution, there is a regular post for any coach approved by MHRD. We can only appoint SAS Officer and SAS Asst. You’ve come here to study and sports come under your extra-curricular activities. However, we can engage Coach for a few months when necessary at the cost of SAC money. We can’t afford so much money from SAC for stadium maintenance and coaches. But if this is a priority, then we’ll have to cut down other expenses to divert the money from other student activities to use it here.
Coming to the second question, If they’re not happy with the common rooms, they can stay in the guest-house. But we do not have sufficient rooms in Guest House. Moreover, we need to pay for Guest House charges. Let’s be practical. Maybe we can have provisions for their accommodation in our new Sports Complex. Another solution may be that our students should co-operate and allow them to stay with them in their hostel rooms if they want to. But we should not force. Those students, who come from other colleges, usually don’t take responsibility for their actions. In the past, they have damaged the hostel room and toilet fittings. So, we’re skeptical about keeping them in new hostels that are yet to be inaugurated.
TEAM MM: Zone and branch fresher’s parties are a breeding ground for ragging. How do you plan on combating it?
DSW: Personally, I’ve taken the responsibility to curb ragging. Now, I’ve circulated a notice that they have to intimate me before organizing any fresher’s party and take my permission. We have also laid down strict instructions that at least one professor should stay till the end of the event to supervise it and freshers must leave before 8:30 pm. Also, the students organizing it should be responsible enough to ensure that ragging doesn’t occur. Also, through Monday morning, I would like to give a straight warning to students indulging in ragging as strict action will be taken against ragging. If we get any complaints regarding ragging we would not hesitate to rusticate the student and hand over the case to the police. Ragging is a crime. Our institute is a ragging-free institute and hence wants everyone to live in harmony and distance themselves from such activities.
Team MM: There are reports that patrolling is being conducted by the official at night? What are the goals of the patrolling?
DSW: I don't see any problem in it as it is the duty of both security guards and authorities such as wardens to look after the hostel boarders. No 1st-year student is allowed to leave their respective hostels after 8:30 pm. They are new to the campus and should be safe. If any senior students want to go outside after 11 pm, he should take permission from his warden.
Team MM: The SAC billing and approval process is quite unknown among the students and also is a long and tedious process. What do you feel about this issue and how will you improve this condition?
DSW: Any expenditure bills have to be approved by the audit and the accounts department of which there has to be a hard copy. Coming to bill approval, the club has to submit the bill to SAC after the event. It's not expected that students should run around for months to clear these bills. I don’t want any students to get into all these messes just because students are unaware of the protocols and exact process of bill approvals. For this purpose, I plan to call all presidents of the clubs and brief them about purchase procedure through sessions. I also hear that the uncooperative nature of the SAC office is causing delay to pass any bill due to which students take the matter in their own hands and get the work done much faster. I intend to call a meeting regarding this issue to train students for the billing process and also to make the bill approval process faster without making students run around for this purpose.
Team MM: You have done a commendable job in creating common platforms for club/team heads as well as for branch CRs. What are your expectations for them?
DSW: While I was in T&P, I was told that students usually do not check their group emails. All communications in T&P used to be through WhatsApp. So, I created two WhatsApp groups one for all student group heads and others for all class representatives. But recently someone started spreading fake news in WhatsApp with Dean(SW)'s name under the message. We have been investigating this case. Thanks to our students, who introduced me to the Telegram app recently. Unlike WhatsApp, a telegram group can have thousands of users. In this telegram group, we have restricted that only admins can post news there and that will be official which would reduce the chances of spreading fake news. Selected few officials have been made admins of this telegram group. All students were told to use telegram to get all official news about any event happening in NIT Rourkela. I am thankful to the students who help to keep updated with the latest technology of information sharing to keep up with today's world and also the students of NITRKL.
Team MM: BBA is too small to accommodate the students on special occasions. Are there any plans for the larger auditorium for the students?
DSW: BBA is definitely unable to accommodate all the students on special occasions and we are planning to open a bigger auditorium in the golden jubilee building. The golden jubilee building should have been functional by now but due to a few problems during its construction, its opening has been delayed. We hope that the golden jubilee building will be functional by next year i.e by 2020.
Team MM: Why was the workshop on substance abuse open for first-years only. Shouldn’t it be open to all considering the fact that a lot of seniors indulge in such activities?
DSW: We know that seniors have already experienced their college life and know a lot more than 1st years and know more about what's wrong and right for their life. The first years are inexperienced and will be attracted to anything new they come across. Seniors were not at all restricted to attend this program. Those who are interested should come on their own. We did not call off their classes because we know hardly anyone of them would have turned up for such events that seem boring to them. Our main aim was to educate and spread awareness among freshers to restrain from such unnecessary activities and focus on their academics for a better future.
Team MM: Although students contested the election for Arts and Culture society and Literary Society, both of them have been merged as one along with the creation of films and Music Society. Why was this done after elections and what was the purpose behind it?
DSW: There has been confusion regarding the nomenclature of this society. 2 years back it was named as ‘film and music society’ and ‘art and literary society’, then they changed it to ‘art and culture society’ and ‘literary society’. But recently, a VP was appointed for Film and Music Society vide an office order issued by the Registrar leading to the impression that the name of the society has been changed to Film and Music Society. Since I am new to this system as Dean (SW), I need to look into the matter to get a clear insight into the matter and sort out.
Team MM: The representation of females in SAC is quite minimal. What could be the possible reason behind it?
DSW: This year we encourage female participation in these elections but I was unhappy to see that none of them was ready to stand for the elections. Both boys and girls face different problems at different points of time so they need to maintain the balance between both male and female representatives who can raise voice for their cause. We have added few girls to SAC Council as Dean's nominees. In the future, we will be encouraging more and more female participation in such an election and wish that they win and work harder than boys to improve our institute.
Team MM: The rules restricting ragging and interaction between juniors and seniors were implemented this year. What made the implementation of these rules necessary? Was there any particular incident?
DSW: The rules were always there. It's not a new rule. We're just doing our job of taking various anti-ragging measures. Ragging is a crime. No one should support it in any form.
Team MM: These rules will minimize interaction between juniors and seniors and will hamper the club culture. What are your opinions on that?
DSW: Why will it minimize? It shouldn't. Treat them as your equal, not treat them like they're inferior. By subjecting them to rules like looking with head down while talking with a senior, etc is a human right violation. They're new to the college. Be friendly, help them out. They'll be very thankful/respectful to you if you do so. Respect should be earned and not be demanded.
Team MM: There are some juniors who are taking advantage of the new implementation of the rules regarding ragging and they complain due to any minor inconvenience caused by seniors. (Eg: Senior texting them, etc) What are your opinions?
DSW: They've just come to the college and are newly exposed to this type of situation. I don't think they've got the guts to do such type of activities.
Team MM: What would be your final message to the students?
I would like to advise the students to refrain from indulging in any unproductive activities. They should be physically and mentally fit. Their main aim should be to excel in academics and in their spare time engage themselves in any one extra-curricular activity of their choice. They should try new things rather than wasting time in watching movies on a computer or playing computer games. Instead of playing games developed by others, they should try to code and develop their own game and play which will be rather helpful in their overall development. Never miss any classes and compromise with your academics. Another thing I want students to implement is Swach Bharat Abhiyan and take initiative to keep their campus clean and hygienic. This is our institute and we are the ones to take care of it. We should stop printing hard copies of posters/circulars and instead use digital mediums. In unavoidable cases, these should be pasted only on notice boards and not on walls/doors, etc, thereby we can keep our campus clean. In the name of club activities or welcome functions, classrooms should not be disfigured with the use of any posters, banners, decorative materials, etc. Nothing should be pasted on the wall using glue or sellotape or nails. Under Jal Shakti Abhiyan, we should not wastewater. We should not hesitate to carry our partially used drinking water bottle to consume leftover water later. We should not waste electricity unnecessarily as most of it comes from the thermal power plants at the consumption of fossil fuel which is going to be exhausted after some years. Moreover, the burning of fossil fuel leads to the problem of global warming.
TEAM MM wishes Prof. S.K Patel all the best for all his ventures for the upcoming year and hopes for new reforms to be made.