Reality Check Ahead: Club Culture At NIT Rourkela
The SAC doesn’t sleep, quite literally. At any given time of the year, this spot of the campus is abuzz with tonnes of activities. Whether you are a music enthusiast, an artist, a tech guru or a sports freak, Student Activity Center or SAC has got you covered. But what makes SAC so phenomenal? The backbone of this organisation lies in the clubs. The clubs make SAC the epitome of all excitement that happens in the college. The clubs have given rise to a way of life within the students, what we fondly refer to as the “club culture”. In its essence, club culture refers to the avid socialising, functioning and participation, which happens within the clubs that exist in NITR. As the article progresses, the situation of clubs at our college would be compared to those at different colleges. Before we do so, let’s take a look at how our clubs function.
Each club at NITR is registered under SAC, which is the governing body of student activities. Technical, Film and Music, Games and Sports, and Literary and Cultural are the four societies at SAC. The organisation is currently headed by Prof Seemita Mohanty as the President. Each society under SAC has two professors who hold the post of Vice President. Along with this, it has its constitution which can be accessed on the NIT Rourkela website. The life at clubs is often projected as free-flowing and easy. But is that all?
The positive effects of club culture are plenty. They provide an escape from the humdrum routine, play a pivotal role in personality development, harbour hobbies, help in developing interests and provide the necessary dose of socialisation. Here is an infographic depicting some of the achievements of different clubs in session 2019-20.
Many students have credited the clubs for reincarnating their long-dead interests. To understand how close we are to the perceptions, Monday Morning conducted two separate surveys amongst the post holders and the students in general. The detailed analysis of the surveys are given below:
A major stakeholder in the club culture of NIT Rourkela is the post holders of various clubs who are responsible not only for acting as a bridge between SAC and the students but also lead the club and decide its future to the best of their capabilities. In less than a few weeks, the procedure for postholder selection will start in most of the clubs. Secret meetings, grudges from the past, secret lobbying and much more have always been the talk of the town at this time of the year. In most of the clubs, post holder selection is made by the outgoing post holders in consultation with the mentors. While in some clubs polls are conducted to know about the views of its members. To clear the air, Team MM put forward this question (Do you think the process of postholder selection in most of the clubs fair?) to post holders of all the clubs.
Chinmay Mohanty, Inquizzitive-President had the following observation from his club:
I think the selection process varies from club to club. As far as our club is concerned, it is decided by the previous year post holders based on the past year achievements, involvement in-club events, skills and popularity/voting among juniors. I think this is somewhat a fair process.
Rajashree Rajalaxmi, RITVIC-Drama head female said:
It should be done on the basis of talent and knowledge of the respective clubs, it should be done in an unbiased way.
Hemalatha Alapati, AASRA-President adds:
Members activities and interest in the club, their interaction with other club members have to be observed throughout the year. PI should not be the only selection process. We have to give them challenges and see how they solve them.
Ch. Ajay Kumar, Udaan club-President had the following suggestion:
Even after selection if any of the club post holders isn't active. There should be a provision of either giving away his post or in severe case termination of club membership
Priyanshu Panda, RITVIC-General Secretary, suggested:
All post holders should face both an election and the Personal Interview round.
Animesh Pradhan, Monday Morning-Chief Coordinator, had the following observation:
Many posts are not on record, no one knows about their roles and responsibilities. There is a lack of standardized rule for selection which can be partially okay, but there should be legitimacy in the posts and their nature of jobs.
But the overall outcome of the poll suggested that even though minor cases of favouritism and lobbying exist, post holders selection should be left solely to the club as the majority of the populace was satisfied with the present process of selection.
Having ensured the belief in the post holders, we moved on to the next question, How many post holders should a club ideally have?
We had an option for selecting that the number of post holders should be 1. Still, none of the post holders felt that a person could single-handedly run a club which highlights the importance of collective decision and teamwork in the functioning of clubs. In the recent past, there has been a tendency of clubs to increase the number of post holders. The reason for the same can be incentivising third years to remain a part of the club culture, ensuring that post holders are not overburdened by the club work to list a few. To understand the impact that being a post holder has on academic activities, we asked the next question, Do you face difficulties in managing time because of the responsibilities of being a post holder along with academics and other activities?
Post holders are the ones who are directly involved with the Student Activity Center(SAC) and hence are the best to rate the cooperation from SAC for various club activities. The next question in our survey for the post holders was, How would you rate the cooperation from SAC for club activities? (1-10 with 1 being completely uncooperative and 10 being as cooperative as possible)
When it comes to catering to the needs of such a diverse set of clubs, ensuring that everyone is fully satisfied is next to impossible. With an average rating of 6.5, SAC can boast itself for ensuring that not many post holders are dissatisfied with the cooperation from SAC. At the same time, the grievances of the post holders who aren’t satisfied need to be heard.
Shivam Chaurasia, AIChE- Secretary had the following observation:
Cooperation from SAC should be improved. Instead of mocking each and every club activity they should listen and help us improve.
Raj Manik, STEELLUN NITR - Chair had the following opinion:
NIT Rourkela is known for its clubs and all the clubs are doing great work. But the main problem lies in the budget allocation as there are almost 30 clubs in Technical Society but the budget allocated to it is very less when the number of clubs and the total budget is taken into account. So I would like to give a personal opinion that the budget of Technical Society should be 50% of the total budget of SAC as it is "National Institute of Technology" and the name says the reason for my opinion.
Ch. Ajay Kumar, Udaan club- President had the following complaint:
Some of the bills at SAC take a long amount of time to be passed. I hope that every transaction of SAC is to be done through online and it should be transparent.
Subhasis Rath, ICE UK NIT Rkl Chapter had the following to say:
I personally think there must be a student body in control of every club activity, it doesn't mean that SAC should not be there. But SAC should have powers to guide and cross-check the things the student body does.
Chodaganga Pradhan, Clarion- Vice President had the following to say about the club culture:
It's good. Talking about debating club culture, it's not that prominent in other NITs especially or not in most of the engineering colleges. So, I am glad that we are doing good as a debating society being from NITR. However, the process of getting leaves and reimbursements sanctioned get delayed. It could be improved to have better smoothness in the process.
Bedank Agrawal, President, CEST Club added:
The club culture at NIT Rourkela is very vibrant, but the money reimbursement procedure is tiresome, the money takes aeons to come and a bit less if rounds of SAC are made frequently. This lacunae of finance/SAC should be remedied and the procedure should be streamlined. The SAC can also add more dealers under its kitty to which payments can be made directly saving people the hassle of the current reimbursement procedure.
Priyasnhu Ostwal, Udaan Vice President, had the following to say:
Well, that was one of the first things I heard about this college while applying in counselling, so it's well-nourished. But what we don't get is budget. Budget allocation isn't commensurate. SAC should look into the needs of clubs. The budget is defined by the committee neglecting many factors. And the process of Reimbursement is although transparent but complex and SAC authority isn't always pleased and swift about approving and forwarding the applications.
The Janata’s View
To gauge the views of the student population, Team MM conducted another survey which was directed at the student population in general. The takers of this survey were mostly part of 1, 2 or 3 number of clubs.
There is often an urge amongst first and second years to join some club or the other just for the sake of joining a club. It is advisable to explore your interests and not restrict yourselves to just academics but is it essential to join a club? To solve this mystery for the first years, we asked the following question: Do you feel that each student should compulsorily join a club?
The answer to this question was pretty clear from the poll-takers. Clubs are meant to cater to your interests or help you grow in the relevant field, but any notion of compulsoriness removes the very essence of club culture. Having solved the mystery of whether to join a club or not, the next question that we put forth was: How many clubs should a student ideally join?
The views of the students are very clear. A whopping majority of 79% believed that a student should join 1 or 2 clubs. While joining more clubs is not unheard of, but it often leads to disenfranchisement in one of the clubs and further leads to leaving one or more of the clubs in the future. Moreover, even if one manages to perform well in more clubs, the impact that it has on academics is catastrophic. To understand how much club activities influence academic activities, we asked the next question: Do you feel burdened by the club activities or it hampers your academics?
In contrast to the post holders survey, a majority of the general public (54.9%) feel that they aren’t burdened by the club activities, and it doesn’t hamper their academics. At the same time, the opinion of the rest of the students who felt that club activities can hamper academic activities is also valid because a lot of the clubs including few clubs related to dance, music, mechanical and coding are very demanding in terms of investment of time. But if one is passionate enough for a particular discipline, then demanding nature of these clubs is exactly what is needed. Hence, choose your club wisely because it can take a toll on your academics. The next question that we put forth in the survey for students was: Are you satisfied with your club activities?
Although around one third (34.5%) of the student population felt that there was scope for improvement, a majority of them (55.6%) felt that they were satisfied with their club activities. This is a major feat for the club culture at NIT Rourkela, and every club which is a part of this diverse club culture needs to be lauded for the same. But are the students satisfied with the Student Activity Center? We put forth the next question where we asked students to rate on a scale of 1-10:
With an average rating of 5/10, SAC definitely has a long way to go in order to satisfy the needs of the students completely. What is most alarming is 16.9% who gave a rating of 1/10, which amounts to immense dissatisfaction amongst a small, but a substantial number of students. But it is obvious that the officials in SAC can’t single-handedly improve the satisfaction of students, participation and suggestion from students is something that SAC never sighs away from. A majority of the students had three common suggestions for SAC,
More funding to clubs through better streamlining of resources.
Easing the process of leave approval and reimbursement with less paperwork and quicker redressal.
More transparency in allocation and utilisation of funds.
A few of the other suggestions and general comments that were received on this form were:
Debabrata Malik had the following to say,
Clubs should be allotted a room as booking rooms in LA can't always go on. Also, there should be more transparency and there should be 3rd AC travel allowance for those representing the college.
Anshuman Bebarta raised the following concern,
When an individual thinks of something that he wants to implement or start a trend, he is bogged down by the hurdles SAC puts in front of him. Hence, the idea dies out at the idea stage itself. Conversely, people have stopped thinking of new ideas of implementation or new trends to start. The depletion is both ways.
Rajkrushna Sahoo had a unique suggestion,
SAC should invest more on imparting spiritual value education to all. More than learning about the external world, one should try to conquer the internal world. It is possible only if the leaders think to impart practical knowledge from wisdom literature like Bhagavad Gita. It's a book that has been authorized as a coursebook in Cambridge, Seton hall university, and also in many IIMs (IIM Ahmedabad). It's the turn for NIT Rourkela.
Sai Shubham Pasayat had the following suggestion,
SAC should keep a detailed database of activities conducted by various clubs and record the active participation by students.
Ankit Dedhia had the following demands from SAC,
More Transparency, fast reimbursement, less paperwork, an online procedure for reimbursement process, more printers for printing forms, lesser no of signatures required for the document to be approved!
Ayush Agrawal had the following suggestions,
To make the budget allocation process more transparent, convenient so that the club could get their requirements/resources readily instead of waiting for months. Second, the SAC leave process should be shortened and more convenient to encourage students to participate in various competitions.
Deepak Marandi had the following observation,
I believe that every club has something to offer, to its members and the NITR Junta. But the benefits of the activities don't really come to be because clubs are irregular and sporadic in their functioning. There are many clubs who gather once or twice a year for one event, and the rest of the time club members forget about it.
Mohit Madhav had the following to say,
Many clubs induct the students who are good at a particular field, not those who want to learn a skill that they are not good at.
Adityaraj Sahu had the following demand,
Students must be sanctioned SAC leave if they are devoting time towards some club activities like working on some projects that can bring glory to our college.
Mahesh Pati had the following demand from SAC,
There should be complete utilization of the budget allocated in a more transparent manner.
NEED FOR MORE CLUBS?
We also asked the NITR Junta, what more clubs do we need in the institute. Among a varied spectrum of answers, we saw many responses for an E-Sports or Online Gaming club, which is a growing trend in India, but the scope is yet limited. There are many online gaming competitions in which students want to take part, but since there is no club, they will not get leaves or reimbursements for it. They also want a platform to organise such events in NITR. There were some responses for other genres like an Anime and Manga Club, Data Science and analysis club and Poetry club.
A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS
The structure of clubs in NITR is quite broad. A summary of club structures of some IITs and NIT Trichy is given below to see what other institutes are up to:
- IIT Bombay: The Gymkhana of IIT Bombay is the constitution which manages all the affairs related to students in the institute and clubs also come under them. There are 12 clubs in IIT Bombay which are very broad in their spectrum and covers everything related to them. For example, THE Speakers Club encompasses all types of speaking activities and not just public speaking or debating. Same with TechniC, the technology club which includes everything from robotics to coding.
- IIT Kharagpur: The structure is quite similar to that of IIT Bombay where the clubs come under Gymkhana. There are 18 clubs in IIT Kharagpur where there are few clubs which are quite specific like the Chess Club, Culinary Society and Quiz club. In contrast, others are broad sections which comprise of all other activities like, Technology Filmmaking and Photography Club which covers photography, videography, graphic and animation designing etc.
- IIT Delhi: The clubs of IIT Delhi are under Board of Recreational and Creative Activities (BRCA) and contain nine clubs which are all literary and cultural in nature.
- IIT BHU: Like we have four societies under SAC, they have five councils under Dean Of Student Affairs(DOSA)- Cultural, Science and Technology, Games and Sports, Film and Media and Social Service councils. The structure is quite similar to ours in terms of functioning and distribution.
- NIT Trichy: There are 11 societies under Student Welfare council and are holistic in nature. Each society contains 3-4 clubs each and is unique in terms of their cause.
The Dawn Of New Clubs in NITR
Last few months of NITR saw come new clubs emerging which are different from the clubs which the institute already has. Some of the many are mentioned below:
- Rainbow Dot- One of the unique clubs in NITR, they aim to spread social awareness on the right to equality for LGBTQIA+ persons inside and outside the campus and also to break the established taboos associated with such communities. They also aim in creating a safe space- on campus and in mind-for the LGBTQIA+ community so that they don’t feel alienated in the institute.
- Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat- Started under the Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat scheme of government, the club aims at cultural integration and spreading the message of Unity in Diversity in the institute. The club also strives to spread awareness about the rich Indian cultural heritage and customs.
- Kalaam- It is the first poetry club of NITR which majorly focuses on all forms of Hindi poetry like Gazal, Shayari and story-telling. Recently, they organised an event in Pre-NITRUtsav where five members of the club presented their pieces on the above-mentioned forms of poetry.
- Odia Sahitya Samaj- A new club under the Literary and Cultural Society, it aims at presenting the culture of the state on which our institute stands through stories, drama, poetry etc.
- Open Mic Club- Open Mics and Stand Up Comedy is in a growing trend in India, and especially the youth is very enthusiastic about it. Seeing the trends, this club was opened the last session to start a similar trend in the institute. Since its inception, the club has organised many Open Mic events.
- Voice Of Voiceless- The first animal welfare club of NITR, this club is about love and care form animals and providing a better place for them to live in.
As can be noted from the comparison and the survey analysis, the clubs and their nature remain largely satisfactory to the students. The prime issue here, however, is that the public remains unsatisfied with the transparency of SAC. Budget allocation and expenditure issues are constant buzzkills when it comes to clubs and related activities. Time and again articles have brought this to light and several times such articles are armed with the opinions of those who are an active part of the system. Here, two things are noteworthy, one how persistent such issues and two, how less is done about them. Considering the fact that achievements by clubs contribute to the repute and spirit of the institute, authorities must take utmost care of the vibrant club culture that prevails in NIT Rourkela. However, SAC, particularly under Prof. Seemita Mohanty has experienced many positive reforms which have resulted in the smooth operation of clubs at NIT Rourkela.