A Glimpse into the SACred Year Ahead: SAC President Speaks
With the dilemma of campus reopening, fests, and the third wave, SAC activities have been entirely shifted to online mode. While the students have adapted to conduct everything online, an uncertain ray of hope to conduct the activities like the old traditional offline way remains one of the major wishes for many, including SAC.
Team Monday Morning got a chance to interact with the President of Student Activity Centre (SAC), Prof. Poonam Singh, to discuss her visions and goals for this chaotic year, how she plans to overcome the hurdles, and much more.
Here's the excerpt from the interview.
Monday Morning (MM): How has your experience as the SAC President been so far? What are your visions for the academic year?
Prof. Poonam Singh (PS): Before joining as a President of SAC in July this Academic Year, I had seen SAC was always full of students in the evening, and many activities were going on. But, when I joined amid the pandemic, there were no students, and we had only some office staff in the SAC office. The experience has not been so good, and I would like to see the students and their activities. We are missing the students on campus, especially in the SAC.
Since the students are not here, we have been conducting some online events. Different clubs have organized some webinars, and some of the clubs also participated in various online competitions. Until the students come back physically to the campus, we'll continue with that, and when the students come back, then SAC has a series of events planned to conduct in the spring semester, including Sports fest, Nitrustav, celebrity night. All of these events planned depends on the Covid-19 situation and whether the students are coming back or not. So if the students come back, we'll normalize the activities just as we used to have before the pandemic.
When asked about the backup plan if the students didn't come, Prof. Poonam said that in case of that scenario, the SAC would try to conduct whatever competition, events, webinars, etc., is possible in online mode.
There are some other activities that SAC is indulged in, like the maintenance of the buildings under SAC like Bhubaneshwar Behera Auditorium, Rajendra Mishra hall, Swimming pool, Stadium and many more. Since I have joined, we have started the renovation work of the swimming pool. The tiles were broken, and those are being fixed. In BBA, the renovation was done when the Hon'able President of India visited for the Convocation 2021, but some of the things are still missing, and we are working on that. Rajendra Mishra hall also needed some maintenance, and we are working on these. After I joined, we visited all the sites, marking the points to be taken care of. So we are trying to renovate all the buildings when students are not here, so finally, when the students are back, you can find them in good shape.
MM: Has SAC come up with the annual plan of action for this year? If the college reopens, what steps is SAC taking to ensure that clubs are functioning smoothly?
PS: We do not have one definite course of action laid out yet, but mostly, we're planning to continue the maintenance work this semester. We started some of the work from July so that if students come, the plans can be implemented effectively next semester. We will also make sure all Covid norms are fulfilled once the students come back to the campus.
MM: Despite the fact that no events and fests were conducted in the last academic year, the students had to pay SAC fees. Can you tell us the reason behind the same?
PS: SAC fees have been reduced from Rs 2000 to Rs 500 since the last Academic year. There have been a lot of club activities which are still going on. For example, SAE has participated in some events and had requested a sum of seven lakhs rupees for participating in the event. The club students have used some funds. I don't know how much it is, but currently, they want seven lakhs. Similarly, many other clubs, who have done some activities and they have spent some money. Of course, the expenditure was much less compared to when students were on campus, but there have been some events, webinars were held where goodies or gifts were given, so some amount was spent.
MM: How will the budget allocation this academic year look like considering that we will have a fest this year?
PS: We have already done the budget allocation in two possible cases(tentatively). Considering all the students come back, the students will have to pay Rs 2000 as SAC fees, and based on that, we have done the budget allocation for the events that will happen. If the students don't come, then the SAC fees will remain as Rs 500, and assuming that as the SAC fees, we have done the allocation.
We have allocated funds for each society; depending on the total budget available to us, some amount of money has been allocated to each society. With that, some money is kept for some future activities and events.
MM: Will the budget allocation for the fest be in the same manner as it was done in the offline mode?
PS: Yes, the budget allocation is the same, but we have increased it slightly this time, considering the prices may have increased due to the pandemic.
MM: If the campus reopens this academic year, When and how will the fest be conducted this year? Will students from colleges other than NITR be allowed?
PS: This is a difficult question to answer as I cannot decide that. I need to discuss with the deans and the Hon’able Director whether we should call students from other institutes as well.
MM: What are your views on the recently concluded SAC elections over the online mode for the first time, and what things could have been better?
PS: When I joined, the elections were long due since it was not conducted last year. But we had to conduct the whole process online. So we coordinated with the automation cell to make it happen. I would like to specially mention Prof.Madhuresh Dwivedi, Prof. Arnab Ghosh, Prof. Sambit Bakshi, and the automation cell for the hassle-free execution.
I believe the participation of students could have been better. We also could not conduct soapboxes because we were apprehensive that we might not be able to control the student crowd online. It is a great initiative, and we would like to implement it in future editions.
MM: Every year in the SAC election, students could only vote for their batchmates, whereas this year, there was a slight tweak in the ruleset, which allowed any student to vote for any year student irrespective of his batch. Why was it done so?
PS: The voting system was changed because we thought it was fair to allow students to vote for people other than their batchmates. Moreover, we thought that students of a particular batch might not know students from his batch due to the covid pandemic; Hence, we devised such a system. The voting system can be implemented in two ways. A student can vote for all the years separately, or else one can vote for one candidate in that respective society.
MM: The films and music society was the new name coined for the arts and music society, but the old name is still in use at various places by the SAC officials (i.e. during elections). What are your comments on it?
PS: I am not aware of this issue. It must have been a mistake on our part. We will try to rectify it as soon as possible.
MM: The majority of clubs are using webinars as a tool for club activity, and most such initiatives are free of cost. Can you give an insight into how the surplus money allocated has been used?
PS: The surplus money that was not used last academic year has been transferred to the student aid fund. The fund can be used for helping the students only. I don't think we can use that budget for this year. The current year shall make use of the budget from this year only and not the previous one. The money saved in the student aid fund will be used for the maintenance of facilities such as the swimming pool and the sports complex.
MM: The club treasurers and people associated with the clubs have to go through many problems to get the money spent in various competitions/tournaments reimbursed. Do you have plans to speed up the process?
PS: There will always be some delay because it has to go through a long and tedious process. First, the bill has to be submitted by the members and then it has to be approved by the faculty advisor. Then it goes to the Vice President of the society, after which the President receives it. Once the President approves it, it is sent to the finance department. They verify all the bills once again, and if they find a problem with any of the bills, they will send it back. All this takes some time as this is the general procedure in every government organization and applies to me. Since this procedure is looked over by the institute and not under the control of SAC, we can't help it.
MM: Can any measures be taken to ensure the speeding up of this process in case of emergencies?
PS: Yes, in case of any emergency, the students can take the advance and use it at that moment. Later the students can submit the bill, and accordingly, the matter can be resolved. The faculty advisor has to apply for the advance, and it will be issued immediately. Also, the faculty advisor and the Vice President must be satisfied with the situation's urgency before the advance amount is issued.
MM: Various prestigious IITs and NITs have conducted the fests over the online mode, whereas NIT Rourkela has not even initiated a step towards conducting the fest. What's your take on this?
PS: We are hopeful that the fests can be held accordingly once the students return to the campus. Normally in the month of August-September, there are no fests held. The first one is held in November. In the spring semester, we have the Nitrutsav, and so we are waiting for the students. We are planning to organize online fests since all the students may not be able to come back to the campus soon.
MM: One month has already passed after the SAC elections, so could you please update us about what all has happened till now?
PS: After the SAC elections, there were holidays and the Mid-term examinations so we could not contact the elected representatives. There was also the NBA (National Board of Accreditation) visit for which everyone at SAC was busy. The club registrations will be finalized by next week, and once the Dean's nominee is selected, we will have a meeting with all the members.
MM: What was the procedure of selection of Dean's nominees? And when will the results be out?
PS: The interview will be held on the 13th of November, and the Dean's nominee will be decided on the basis of that interview on the day itself or maybe the next day. Since the results will be announced by the Registrar officially, you can expect the results in the next two or three days.
MM: What are the criteria for any clubs to be registered under the SAC?
PS: For the renewal of old clubs, we will see if they have been active over the last year and whether or not they have conducted any events. For the new clubs, most of them will be approved if they have submitted valid applications.
MM: How are you going to address the issue of many clubs having the same goal and clashing domains? What are your views on this?
PS: We will talk to the presidents of the clubs with similar domains and try to combine them into a singular club so that the activities can take place on a larger scale instead of having multiple clubs for the same thing. Once we have a discussion, we will see what we can do about it.
MM: With the foundation stone laid by the Director, Could you please state the status of the new sports complex that will become the centre of SAC activities?
PS: I'm aware that the sports complex will be completed within two years, and right now, one basketball court and one tennis court have already been completed. They have just started working on the SAC building, and hopefully, it will be complete with the next two or three years.
MM: The pandemic struck in 2020 made the entire academic process shift over to the online mode, whereas the SAC website has been in progress since 2019 and isn't completed yet. Can you give an insight into the status of the sac website?
PS: The SAC website needs to be completed manually, and hence we have asked the computer centre people to start working on it. We are planning to have a meeting next week with the computer centre people and try to update the SAC website soon enough. Of course, if the students are interested, they can provide valuable suggestions regarding the website through the online mode itself.
MM: Your final message for the students.
We hope to see you on campus soon enough and I hope that you will include yourself in the various SAC activities. Even if the students are not on campus they can indulge themselves in various events over the online mode. I am also hoping to see more SAC activities in the upcoming semester.
Team Monday Morning wishes Prof. Poonam Singh all the best for all her ventures for the upcoming academic year and hopes that SAC functions in a student-friendly manner in the challenging year ahead.