Discerning the SAC
Elections for Overall Coordinators of Independent Bodies
Until last year, the selection of the Overall Coordinator(s) for IBs was done on the basis of an internal selection within the team. However, last year, significant changes were made to this election pro- cess. In last year’s SAC meeting, it was concluded that there was a need for ‘democratization’ of the indepen- dent bodies. Last year, elections were held for the post of the Overall Coordinator of the IBs where the post was open to elections for the entire institute based on the number of students contesting from within the IB.
A change in this election procedure was brought up by the student representatives, because they were of the opinion that the entire student community was not in favour of having a general election for the post of OCs. They felt that such posts were handled better when the selection procedure was by nomination rather than by a general election. At the end of the meeting, the committee decided that the system of election of OCs should continue in a similar manner for the next three years. They felt that the need for election of OCs for independent bodies was established in last year’s SAC meeting, where the institute functionaries felt that there was a need for a democratic process in order to elect these student representatives.
In the survey which we conducted, out of a total of 559 responses for the question, we found that 58% of the institute did not want elections by the entire elector- ate while 36% did. Though a majority feels that that selection of OCs should not be by elections, it is not an overwhelming one. When we then asked the question, “If elections were to be held for the post of OC, should the post be up for contention to people from outside of the core team?” 67% of those who answered the ques- tion felt that the post should be open only to people from within the team.
Independent Body Review
In this section of the meeting, the idea of having an open review/feedback for all independent bodies in the institute including the ISMP, Placement Cell, IBs, etc was discussed. These reviews could be on the lines of an open house or GBMs similar to that held for General Secretaries, or on the lines of an online forum for evaluation which is visible to all.
The committee felt that the ISMP and Placement Cell are not independent bodies and do not need to obtain feedback about their activities. The committee sug- gested that in case of any irregularity or grievance relating to the ISMP/SCP and the placement cell, they may be reported to the Faculty In-charge directly. The committee also felt that bodies like the ISMP have done remarkable work in the past few years, and too much student review could hamper the progress of these bodies. However Mood Indigo, Techfest, Ecell & media bodies may use any system to obtain feedback.
The student representatives felt that a review by students or faculty of the functioning of cells such as the Placement Cell was imperative for the effective func- tioning of these bodies. It was felt that without these checks, the benefits of these bodies on the student community could potentially be diluted. Since these cells exist for the betterment of the student community, it made sense to have either an open house or an online publicly visible forum for redressal.
Considering the suggestion made by the committee that students should approach the Faculty In-charge of independent bodies, we posed a question to stu- dents in our survey on whether they would approach a Faculty In-charge if they had a problem with the func- tioning of a certain independent body. We found that only 18% of the students would approach the Faculty In-charge while the remaining either didn’t know that a Faculty In-charge existed who could be approached, or simply wouldn’t go up to a Faculty In-charge with a problem as they were uncomfortable going to profesors with student issues.
We also asked whether students would prefer an online or an open house for these independent bodies, in order to point out any issues they may have with that particular organization. An overwhelming 91% of the students who took the survey felt that there was a need for a complaint redressal forum and a majority of these people wanted both an online and an offline feedback forum.
Restructuring of voting for Institute Secretaries
The voting for institute secretaries in culturals/ sports for opposed candidates has always had the entire institute as the electorate. However, the type of voting to be followed, for institute secretaries who were unopposed has been the mandate of the election committee. Last year, for the first time, the voting for unopposed institute secretaries was a ‘yes/no’ vote by the entire institute. In this section of the SAC meeting, the committee discussed changes to this current structure of voting for institute secretaries.
The student representatives in the meeting felt that voting for institute secretaries, whether they were opposed or unopposed, was a laborious task for the electorate. To vote for 30 posts, with maybe twice the number of candidates, would dilute the purpose of the general elections. They felt that for the insti- tute secretaries, a closed electorate would serve the purpose of an election better. However, the commit- tee concluded that a democratic process to elect the opposed institute secretarie
that while having elections for opposed candidates was essential, the election procedure for unopposed candidates need not be so, and it was left to the discre- tion of the election committee to decide the mode of election of unopposed institute secretaries. The elec- tion committee later decided that the electorate for unopposed candidates be a closed electorate compris- ing of Institute General Secretaries, Hostel General Secretaries, Institute Council (Cult Council for Cult Secretaries; Sports Council for Sports Secretaries), Hostel Councilors (Cult Councilors for Cult Secret- aries; Sports Councilors for Sports Secretaries).
In the survey we conducted, we asked students what they felt about the current closed electorate system for unopposed institute secretaries, and about the proposal of having a closed electorate for all institute secretary elections. With regard to the current elec- torate for unopposed institute secretaries, the survey results were equally split, with no clear majority for either of the two proposals. Some people commented on the possibility of including club members in this electorate. Abhishek Agarwal, GSHA, responds to this by saying that ‘a club member is not defined’ and this may lead to malpractices since no objective crite- rion exists. Hence only current, official post holders can form the electorate.
However, with regard to a closed electorate for all institute secretaries (opposed as well as unopposed), the survey results showed that a 63% majority of the students in the institute felt that it was not a good idea.
Other Items Discussed in the Meeting
The election dates were revised, and the elections will be held between 15th Jan and 15th Feb every year. This was done because the committee felt that the earlier system of election disrupted the midsems and hence the academic schedule of the contesting candidates. It was also agreed that a gap of one week would be kept between the date of polling and the first midsem exam. The elections for IBs (MI, Techfest and ECell) would be held in the second phase, post midsems, in March. The tenure of all Gymkhana post holders would still run from April 1st to March 31st.
A proposal for restructuring the Institute Color and Special Mention organisational awards was raised and passed. Till last year, these awards were decided by a central committee comprising of gen- eral secretaries and other nominees. Now, Special Mentions have been abolished while Colors have been distributed between various councils as fol- lows: a maximum of 2 each for the cultural council,sports council, hostel affairs council, academic council (1 UG + 1 PG), Mood Indigo, Techfest, E-Cell and Placement Team respectively. These councils include all functionaries at the institute and hostel level. The heads (at the institute level) of these coun- cils will not be eligible for organisational colors and the onus to decide the distribution of these awards rests upon the respective council committees. The primary reason cited for this change was the fact that the councils themselves are best aware of the capabilities and work done by their members. This step should help in doing away with the controver- sies and objections in award distribution that have come up in the past.
A proposal for free entry of alumni into the campus round the clock and to draft new entry rules and procedures was raised. The committee deferred the discussion, saying that this can be taken up by the Dean SA in consultation with the HCU Chairman, CSO and GSHA.
We find that there is a disconnect in some cases between the perception in the SAC meeting, and the student opinion we find in our survey. In addi- tion to this, it is also felt at times that the SAC fails to respond to the growing student demand for more transparency and accountability in the functioning of independent entities like the Placement Cell, ISMP,etc, and this is probably necessary for the growth of these bodies in the long run. Perhaps the discontent amongst students for some of SAC decisions is based on the fact that the reasons for the decisions taken in the meeting remain unclear, and therefore are based on rumour. As of now the minutes of SAC meet are not publicised. If someone wants to, he may obtain a copy of the minutes from the Dean, SA on request.