Towards Reformation: The Director's Way
With the second half of the academic session brewing, the esteemed Director, Prof. Animesh Biswas sheds light on urgent issues that engulfs the campus. From hall management to academics and a lucrative VISION 2025, the director offered his insights to make all ends meet.
Here are the excerpts from the conversation:
MM: What are the major areas of concern under Vision 2025?
Director: Our major area of concern lies with the development of the eight pillars. Enhancement of research activities is one among them which is our primary area of focus. That is what can take us on the path of emerging as a top-level institute in the nation. This is what our vision is. Our mission lies with how we can implement our plans by procuring money from various sources. We have received the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) loan which would be used in the establishment of another Student Activity Centre (SAC) (earlier termed as Indoor Stadium). Funds have also been allocated for the purchase of high-end equipment that can upgrade our institute’s research capabilities.
MM: What different plans have been undertaken for Diamond Jubilee Celebration of our institute for the next upcoming year?
Director: We have a long list of plans on our bucket list. For detailed information regarding this, you can contact Dean Alumni Affairs. This won’t be a single day or a two-day programme, rather it will constitute a series of programmes and events that would be organised all throughout the year. We have plans to invite some Nobel laureates, influential figures from a journalism background and various other eminent public personalities. We will be organising several conferences and student cultural activities with the due course of time. If possible, we will be also inviting Hon’ble President of India to grace an event as the Chief Guest. We are trying our best with the help alumni to implement all these plans for a successful Diamond Jubilee year.
MM: Recently, the faculty recruitment drive was conducted by the institute. Could you brief us the stats about the number of new faculty got recruited this year and what was the overall procedure all about? How do you think the faculty base of NIT Rourkela will grow in the future with the recruitment of new faculty?
Director: We can only disclose the stats after the upcoming board meeting going to be held soon. Coming to the recruitment process, we have adopted an innovative scrutinisation process constituting of two phases. The first phase includes the departmental scrutinisation constituting of committees from each department headed by a central committee that looks after uniformity in scrutinisation. Moreover, there has been a provision for a system of assigning a score to the candidates that act as a minimum eligibility criterion. The candidates qualifying that criteria are made to proceed to the further rounds. Then there are cases when candidates specialising in a particular stream of a branch apply in excess resulting in a deficit in other streams. For this being a departmental affair, I have left this responsibility upon the departments to choose their number of intakes. In the second phase, a committee looks after whether the scrutinisation has been justified or not. Before the selected candidates proceed to the interview round, they are also asked to present their research work. This time the process has been really smooth with no complaints been received so far.
MM: Can we implement the provision for having 24X7 internet connection in our hostel rooms?
Director: We have already established the 2 GBPS line with advanced sophisticated cables, owing to which the internet speed has also got enhanced. Our major concern lies with the students using the LAN service all throughout the night, that not only hampers their sleep but also deteriorates their physical and mental health. If the students wish to avail the internet service in the day time as well for any productive work, then we can work upon that proposal. The students can put forth their reviews and grievances pertaining to this matter so that we can have a discussion about that.
MM: Can we make our library facility available 24X7? If not the library, can we have at least the reading room open all throughout the night mostly during the time of examinations?
Director: I also feel that this measure should be undertaken. However, I am not the only one to decide upon this. The suggestions for implementation and improvements are welcome from the students’ side. We can put these in front of the board and discuss them.
MM: Why is our institute so strict about the current attendance policy?
Director: The current policy of 85% attendance has been in effect for a very long time. I personally feel that there should be some reforms made on this. So I will put forth this issue in front of the senate.
MM: What about the operationalisation of Golden Jubilee building, Mechanical Sciences building and Lecture Hall Complex-B? When can we expect these to be completely functional?
Director: Though the Golden Jubilee building is ready, the major issue lies with making the entire building air-conditioned. To do so, we need a budget of around 20 crores which we are putting in efforts to receive. That is what is hindering its operationalisation. The mechanical science department has already started functioning. The branches like Industrial Design, Mechanical, and Management have been allotted the building, and they are supposed to book rooms. By next semester it would be fully ready to function. Everything has been installed in the LB building, but we are trying to set up the furniture soon.
MM: When can we expect a new girl's hostel considering the fact that every year there's a substantial increase in girl's intake?
Director: The MHRD feels we have sufficient infrastructure for the hostels, so they've discarded the idea of building a new girls hostel from the list of HEFA proposal. We will be allotted some funds for the enhancement of Economically Weaker Sections as their intake would increase, and I am planning to construct a girls' hostel with the money.
MM: Which restaurant or cafe will replace Joz? Why is there so much delay for the tender?
Director: There's a problem with the CCD as of now but the tendering process is going on. I am also aware that the quality of the food is deteriorating. On-campus business PIC Prof. Sameer Patra can elaborate with more immeasurable clarification.
MM: Can brief us about the technicalities of the Fast-Pace programme which would be helpful for the students to opt for 6-months internship or student exchange programs and collaboration with foreign universities?
Director: We have an MoU signed with UC Davis. However, financial difficulty to support students needs to be addressed. There’s a limit to it and cannot accommodate a large number of students. I want my students to have a decent stay when they avail this.
There have been demands by several companies to send various bright students for internships rather than for jobs. Moreover, they are demanding for six months internships from students that is difficult on behalf of the students. Through the Fast-Pace programme, the students will be staying for four years on the campus, but they have to complete the required number of credits within a period of three and a half years. This is a way to motivate good students to get internships and get a job in the process. And the last six months they can devote to the internship. But the question arises on how to squeeze the entire course within the stipulated time. For that, I have created a team to look upon that. It is also a matter of pride that our institute is the first amongst all the NITs to introduce such methodology. 20% of credits can be achieved through MOOCs and gradually things can be streamlined. Regarding this, even other NITs are looking up to us!
MM: In our institute, the number of branch changes is also less compared to other IITs or NITs. They have a system of consequential branch change. Can we improve on our existing system?
Director: Let the proposal come from the students and we will definitely look into this.
MM: This is about some serious complaints regarding the medical services at the institute that have surfaced in a few weeks. There have been multiple issues forwarded to us and some also needed Dean intervention as well and no action has been taken till now to implement some measures. What is your take on the issues?
Director: We basically have three doctors and we are trying to increase the number of doctors and specialists. For this purpose, advertisements have been put out and we are expecting things to improve.
MM: Regarding HMC, we have been understanding budget constraints for improved furnishing of the halls of residence. There has been dissatisfaction regarding space, mess, pesticide control and such issues though but changes have been nil or small. What is your opinion regarding the persisting problems?
Director: These issues need to be strongly put forth by the hall secretaries which they don’t after repeated deliberations. I can always summon an emergency meeting if given I am given a chance but keeping quiet in such meetings doesn’t solve these problems. There is so little that comes out from representatives. Everyone needs to take a share of their responsibilities. Only then we effectively come out with effective measures. I cannot make them work if they are not interested in working. When problems are deliberated to be solved, I will go out of my way to solve them.
MM: The teaching feedback process has been made online this year. This has definitely become convenient for students as well as instructors to access the feedback. How efficacious would this process be for accountability on the part of teaching?
Director: When I initially came here, the process was a lengthy one and no one would want to go through the tedious method. So, now introducing an online system makes both feedback and scrutiny easier. Professors can see the feedback data and improve on themselves.
MM: Our alumni network has grown more than ever before and it remains to be seen how students can directly benefit from this connectivity. According to you what can be done to strengthen our alumni relations that directly benefit our students?
Director: If students feel strongly about the same and can identify or invite alumni to forge interactions, I am ready to fund and welcome their move.
MM: What is your view regarding the institute remaining apolitical in general?
Director: This environment is strongly focussed on academics. And it has to sustain in that way.
MM: A couple of years back there was a discussion to have every Friday off before the fests and conduct them for three complete days but never implemented. Can we make that happen now?
Director: I don’t want to disturb our academic curriculum. Any such fest and activity is targeted for the pleasure of students but not at the expense of the curriculum. As per the rule of government big sound systems should stop by 10:30 pm and last time a show started at 10 pm. This is not right. If we can wind up early, students can also present themselves for class the next day.
Enjoy yourselves. It is meant to complement your academics but not at the cost of your academics.
MM: Our participation rates are shooting up higher every year with a record during last Innovision and we find it difficult to accommodate more numbers in the halls, given the fact we have so fewer rooms. This way our hospitality is also questioned. Can we possibly make better arrangements in future?
Director: This is news to me. I will take this matter up soon.
MM: Regarding the tightened security budget, what is the state of increasing security personnel now?
Director: The estimated budget was lessened for security but now compensation has been relaxed.
MM: With your remaining tenure, what is your major plan of action? Any message for the students and the NIT Rourkela community?
Director: So far we have to improve sports infrastructure, i.e, the lawn tennis and repairing the courts. A new hostel has to be funded and we have to procure that. Another one and a half year to go, I wish to work together with everyone for the betterment of the institute!
On a final note, students should enjoy and maintain a healthy lifestyle and become good citizens of tomorrow.