A Talk with the 'SAC'hem: President SAC Speaks
At the outset of a new academic year, team Monday Morning got a chance to meet up with the newly appointed President of SAC, Prof. Seemita Mohanty to discuss her visions to tackle the numerous challenges at SAC. Given below is an extract from her interview regarding the latest major changes in SAC and its activities.
Monday Morning(MM): How has been your experience as the SAC President so far? What are your major priorities as the President, SAC?
Prof Seemita Mohanty(SM): It has been a very assertive experience so far. We form a very supportive team with the VPs and Dean (Student Welfare). The SAC Officers and support staff are engaged consistently without any complaints. We have also received great help from the students. This time we tried our best to conduct the election in a much transparent manner and we got a good bunch of elected students. The Dean’s Nominees have also been selected through a rigorous interview process for 2 days.
Being the Coordinator of the Centre of Excellence in tribal studies funded by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs situated in TIIR building, I have to move both ways.
There exist some systematic issues regarding rules and regulations, we need to look after them first along with ensuring proper organization of fests. Most importantly, we aim to make students aware of the functioning and financial aspects of SAC, so that no one is left in speculation. We want all clubs to mention SAC in all their activities because SAC forms the base of all the activities they conduct.
MM: On what criteria the budget was distributed among the societies?
SM: This year the SAC budget has been raised to 2.5 crores with each student giving 2000INR per semester. Analyzing the previous year’s budget allocation to each society and fests, the VP’s proposed budgets and the number of active clubs under each society, a mutual decision was taken and the budget has been allotted. In terms of the procurement of equipment, the Games and Sports society has received more money than other societies.
For instance, last year SCS was allotted 20 lakhs yet they used only 5.5 lakhs. Keeping this in mind, they have been allocated 7 lakhs this time. The unutilized money proceeds to the Institute Corpus Fund and that cannot be transferred to any other heads or societies. The societies can extend their budget if they need and that will be obtained from the SAC President Miscellaneous Fund.
MM: Can you cast some light on the 30 per cent budget plan, where any club is expected to utilize 30% of their budget in the fest?
SM: This plan was recommended by the student representatives. They notified us that not all clubs utilize their budget continually. When a club participates in a fest, let’s say tech fest, they instead of using their allocated budget depends on the fest budget. This generates a problem for the Convenors to manage the fest with a limited budget. So it has been proposed that the clubs have to utilize 30% of their allocated budget in the fest and rest 70% would be utilized for their requirements. This suggestion was primarily related to the tech fest. It is supposed to be functional this year. Some of the clubs might have started following this plan, I am not sure of it as it is difficult to keep a track of all clubs.
MM: Why were the society names changed after the SAC Elections?
SM: As per my knowledge, it was Film and Music Society and Literary and Cultural Society, 2 years back. Last year probably the SAC functionaries thought of converting it to Art and Cultural Society keeping Literary Society apart. An official note was sent to the Director but there was no change authoritatively. I don’t know exactly what happened.
To proceed with the amended name, a proper notification has to be there and there was no official order regarding this.
MM: The budget for the fests like Innovision and NU has been increased. So what changes can we expect from the increased budget?
SM: Considering the increase in student groups, the overall proposed budget was 2.5 crores. But due to some confusion at the Finance Section, we reduced it to 2.4 crores taking away 5lakhs from the celebrity night and 5 lakhs from the SAC President's Miscellaneous Fund. So there is no tremendous increase in the budget of fests. Last year, it was 20 lakhs for the celebrity night and this program gets no outside sponsor. So that was not sufficient, hence it was increased. This time Cosmopolitan has been extended for 3 days, so relatively more budget has been allocated to that. Also, we see a very large mass of students participate in cosmo fest due to the existing cultural diversity.
MM: Who is responsible for the organization of Celebrity Night? Is the NU team supposed to participate in the management?
SM: As per SAC Constitution, the Celebrity Night is to be organized by Film and Music Society. Anyway, it need not be so strictly separated in that sense as we lie under the same parent body. This time all the societies will work together and will be majorly looked after by Film and Music Society.
MM: What are your plans regarding the renovation of the SAC building?
SM: There is a proposal for building a big mega sports-cultural complex. The director has planned on building this mega-complex stadium and thus SAC is supposed to be centered there. The proposal has been there however, due to lack of funding it hasn’t been carried out. Thus, we are not so keen to carry forth the renovation. However, we are going for the interior renovation of the SAC building. We will be working on the whitewashing of walls and the gallery and maintenance of washrooms. We have purchased some plants to beautify the building. We will try to see to it that it is carried out by Innovision'19. Apart from that, we have been approved to install two ACs in the SAC building and copier machine. We are also willing to install some other necessary equipment in the building.
MM: Since the SAC budget has been remaining unutilized by around 30-40% for the last two years, why isn’t the SAC fee being reduced?
SM: I am not the right person to comment on the utilization of the budget for the last two years. I can just say that it was supposed to be utilized fully in different activities. The student committee should see to it that the budget is fully being utilized.
MM: There was a post as Director’s Nominee to help in coordinating the working of the four societies but it was scarped off. Isn’t there a need for a student representative as Director’s Nominee to act as a bridge between students and authorities?
SM: I suppose the Dean’s nominee can work efficiently as a bridge between students and authorities. This time Dean’s nominee is selected through a rigorous process of interviews. They have been instructed to inform the authorities if they come across any irregularities and problems. They are experienced and they are supposed to uphold the virtues and have to be ethical. So, I expect the nominees to work accordingly.
MM: What rules are in place for the budget allocation of the newly formed clubs?
SM: The motive of SAC is that a greater number of students take part in SAC activities because each one of you is paying SAC fees. The newly formed clubs were asked to submit in writing about their club type, the agenda, number of students participating, their future activities and their budget demands with proper utilization account throughout the year and the budget allocated to them was based on these attributes. This year we have allotted them some budget however if they fail to perform and utilize it, we might reduce the budget or completely de-register them.
MM: This time the fashion clubs have also been allocated their budgets. Why are there three fashion clubs but not one official club to represent NITR on a broader level?
SM: This is a question to be addressed to vice-president. We want a greater number of people to take part in the activities. Thus, all three clubs are given the budget.
Prof. Sambit Bakshi Vice-President, Literary Society: Three fashion clubs approached us seeking registration and allocation of the fund. We have allotted INR 60,000 to each of them. If the clubs have to be merged into one "official" club, the request has to come to us from the office bearers of three clubs, and not the other way around. Though this idea of merging is nice, I do not believe in imposing as long as the club members feel the urge to do so. The clubs may also choose to gain expertise in different genres of fashion. So, this kind of future decision is entirely up to the three clubs.
MM: Social Services clubs like Leo and Rotaract conduct crowdfunding events as well as receive a budget from SAC. Ain’t they supposed to present proper bills of expenditure for accounting?
SM: This question should be addressed to the vice president of the Literary Society. We have noted this. We have decided to ask them not to take money from the students and if they take then it shouldn’t be in the form of cash.
Prof. Bakshi, Vice-President, Literary Society: We have debated with the office bearers of these clubs on this and we are told two points:
a. They do not organize a large number of crowdfunding events or any such specific events thus, they need funding from SAC.
b. Though we discouraged cash transactions from students, the Rotaract club pointed out that sometimes online transfer might not be possible as the payer does not have an idea of online banking (e.g. guardians of students of nearby schools). We have suggested them to mention in their offline crowdfunding form about online banking QR code and add a clause like "we encourage online payment as preferable." We also suggested maintaining a cash collection record in proper format which can be audited at the end of the financial year. Adding to this, I must state that we are still looking for better and feasible options shortly.
MM: There is a rule which states that 25% of the sponsorship acquired will go to the SAC Corpus Fund. Please elaborate on this rule.
SM: It is there in the SAC Constitution but it was not being practised till now. It hasn’t been finalized whether we are going to implement it this time or not, but the Dean has proposed and we kind of agree to that. If we go strictly by the SAC Constitution then we have to implement it.
MM: The club treasures and people associated with the clubs have to go through a lot of problems to get the money reimbursed. Do you have plans to speed up the process?
SM: According to General Financial Rules 2017, any kind of financial transaction are difficult. Up to INR 25,000 can be easily reimbursed. The students are not allowed to take any advance however the faculty advisor, Vice President or SAC officials can take an advance. The other way is spending from your pocket and then getting reimbursed by submitting all documents related to that purchase or expenditure.
MM: Earlier SAC had no distinct record of clubs or society expenses till last year (only a document was maintained). Google links have been circulated for the clubs to upload the bills. Is SAC moving towards Automation for maintaining expenditure of different clubs separately and can it be viewed at the end of the year?
SM: There has been a link that is sent to all the clubs to record their expenses. In addition to that, in SAC office, officials will be maintaining a register for every society and the money spent by the clubs along with the bills will be recorded there. The online data and those recorded in registers will be cross-checked at the end of the academic year.
MM: Why doesn’t Cosmopolitan fest has its elected conveners like other fests?
SM: Well, there had not been a convener in the past for Cosmopolitan. However, we might look into the matter of selecting one in the future.
MM: What is the Status of the SAC website?
SM: The SAC website is now facilitated by the Institute’s Automation Cell similar to all the departments. We are trying to bring changes in the layout and access to any modifications will be provided to the VPs of the societies through their NITRIS portal. Each club’s president will be given access to their club page for updating their club’s information. It took some time to finalize everything with the automation cell to help us out. By the end of November, I guess we will be able to make it fully operational.
MM: What would be your final message to the students?
As the SAC President, I would like to ask students to get involved in more SAC activities and develop more skills. The more students get involved in such activities, the more one can learn about time management, working with other people, and enhancing your communication and negotiation skills along with handling conflicts and critical situations.
Team Monday Morning congratulates Prof. Seemita Mohanty for her encouraging visions and actions and wishes them to get accomplished in the near future.