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The Institute Gymkhana Elections are just round the corner and there are some new tidings for those fond of dabbling around with tech—a new post, General Secretary Technical Affairs (GS Tech), shall be introduced at the institute level this year.
The structure of the institute technical council is set to receive a bit of a shake-down this year. In this article, we look at the bearings that this change will bring on the tech scene of the institute, Students’ Technical Activities Body (STAB), and the general dynamics of all the councils.
Why do we need a separate post?
We talked to Chirag Shetty, ex-STAB Overall Coordinator (OC), for his opinion on the need of restructuring the post from STAB OC to GS Tech which, on the surface, appears like a nominal change. Here’s what he had to say and why this post has been introduced.
On STAB being a distant cousin
STAB is one of the largest bodies in the institute, comprising of about 50 Position of Responsibility (PoR) holders as managers and convenors. It acts as an umbrella-body to several clubs, has its own GCs, organizes its separate competitions and conducts various events through the course of the year. Thus, it does almost everything that other institute councils and their representatives do. In light of this, one is forced to reevaluate the current status STAB holds – which is just an umbrella-body consisting of a few clubs.
Tech has played a part, at some point or the other, in the life of an average insti student. It thus seems fair to better integrate the primary tech body of the institute with itswork dynamics.
Lack of involvement in insti-affairs
Institute councils and the various General Secretaries have a major say in the affairs going on within the institute. With no institute council for tech, however, STAB has often been kept out of the loop of some big decisions owing to its absence from the Senate and the Undergraduate Programme Committee (UGPC).
It was collectively felt that an Institute technical council would be a decent way of fixing this.
Towards an independent body
Until a few years ago, STAB was under the purview of the Academic Council of the institute, with the prevailing belief that ‘tech’ and ‘acads’ go hand-in-hand. Hence, all the proposals regarding technical matters were routed through the GSAA (UG) which was clearly inefficient and imposed a lot of constraints on the independent working of STAB. In addition to this, the STAB OC did not have mailing rights for GPO and had to send all mails through the GSAA (UG). A decision was taken to make STAB independent from the Academic Council and mailing rights were given to the STAB OC, in 2015. The introduction of this new post will be another big step in increasing the autonomy of STAB (henceforth known as the Technical Council).
More competitive elections
Even though open elections are conducted for the position of STAB OC, it has received few interested applicants over the years. It is no secret that very few people are enthusiastic to take up the roles of club managers as well, which is definitely a concern for such a vast body. The post of GS Tech and the new Council structure aims at ensuring more people come forward and take up these positions of responsibility.
Diversification and breaking of hierarchy
STAB managers are nominated by the hierarchy of the incumbent council than by any concrete objective measures. The ex-managers choose a candidate from the ex-convenors and this process has been followed over the years. The need for an alternate selection procedure was thus felt in order to bring more diversity and a wider range of ideas into STAB.
Ease of communication
Most other IITs have a General Secretary of Technical Affairs, or an equivalent post. It is strongly believed that pan-IIT discussion over technical affairs would certainly be eased out by the introduction of the GS Tech post.
What has delayed the introduction of the GS Tech post, then? The DoSA speaks…
“Each co-curricular activity that happens in the institute takes time to develop and to get more organised. People have been involved in tech far earlier than sports and 19 culturals and were always very enthusiastic to go on with it. But tech was more or less done in an informal way; on the other hand, the activities of cult and sports soon grew rapidly and demanded strong organisation, hence the GS posts for these were introduced. For Tech, the need was felt later on, because till the time the decision was initiated, the informal way in which Tech was being conducted was satisfactory. However, the need to make these activities and GCs more structured, and attract
more people towards the post, was always at the back of our collective minds.”
Technical Council Hierarchy and the first elections
A big change that will be brought about due to this restructuring would be the new technical council hierarchy and the closed elections for the posts of Institute Technical Secretaries, who were until now referred to as Club Managers.
The Revamped Technical Council Structure will be as follows:
→ General Secretary, Technical Affairs (GS Tech)
→ 5 Institute Secretaries (Institute Electronics and Robotics Secretary, Institute Web and Coding Secretary, Institute Maths and Physics Secretary, Institute Aeromodelling Secretary, Institute Astronomy Secretary)
→ 1 UG Nominee, 1 PG Nominee (In order to increase the participation of PGs in tech, which has been really low in the past few years)
→ 2 project nominees (1 for Technical Projects, while the other one for the Technical teams)
→ 2 Nominees for Tinkerers’ Lab
→ 1 Web Nominee
→ 1 Club manager (nominated by the GS Tech) for BioTech Club (might be converted into Institute Secretary from next year onwards)
→ Club Manager (Elec+Robo, WnCC, MnP)
→ Convenors (number will be decided by the next GS Tech) The 5 Institute Technical Secretaries will be elected through a closed electorate, comprising of 3 nominees from each hostel (nominated by the General Secretary of the Hostel, in consultation with the GS Tech) who have been active in that particular genre. In addition, the Tech Councillor of each hostel will be the de facto member of this electorate.
Impacts in the short and long run
With the new post of GS Tech up for taking from this year, how exactly are the institute dynamics going to change because of this decision? Is there going to be some improvement in the tech culture prevailing in the institute? Turns out, the impacts aren’t nominal, contrary to what some people might think. Atish Aloor, the present STAB OC, also shared with us his views on how this position is going to have an impact.
Stronger voice in institute matters
With the formalization of STAB OC as the General Secretary of Technical Affairs and a better-defined technical council, the integration of technical activities in institute-wide decisions related to student matters will definitely be increased, both on a formal and an informal level.
Both Chirag Shetty and Atish Aloor feel that accountability won’t change much. Even as STAB OC, they had to individually go through open elections and were also answerable directly to the Dean of Student Affairs regarding institute matters, hence this part of the position is not expected to undergo many changes.
As far as funds are concerned, the introduction of this post won’t bring about any drastic change. STAB is majorly funded by Gymkhana. The technical teams receive their funds from the Dean R&D, and the Tinkerers’ Lab is funded by the office of Dean Alumni & Corporate Relations (ACR) via alumni donations. Chirag, however, feels that since most of the funds that are allocated to STAB go unutilised, with this change the new GS Tech should make an effort to use those funds smartly and efficiently.
Keeping in mind the adequate funds that are allotted to STAB every year, Atish is of the opinion that tech infrastructure of the institute will definitely receive a boom since now the extensive plans that are prepared by STAB every year will get approved and executed more easily. He feels that the entire process of decision-making and implementation will get smoother and more efficient than has been the case in the past.
Technical scene of the institute
Atish stated that till now the role of the UG Nominee for Tech wasn’t defined properly; however, from next year onwards the UG Nomineefor Tech would be primarily involved in hostel related tech activities, especially the GCs; hence, the number of Tech GCs organised will go up in the years to come. Besides, they will also be conducted in a better manner, now that there are posts focusing exclusively on these. In addition, one of the two Project Nominees will be looking into the activities of the technical teams of the institute, which will ensure better interaction and communication with students as well as orienting them towards a common purpose of promoting tech in the institute.
A MESSAGE FOR THE RIGHT CANDIDATE
“I just want that more people should stand up for this post, and they should know that a tech background isn’t a necessity here. The only requirement is that they should be ready to put in the time and effort for this and should have good management skills. I would like someone who values the position, to become GS Tech, not someone who does this for the resume point.”
Prof Soumyo Mukherjee,
Dean of Student Affairs, IIT Bombay
“We want people who have not be a part of STAB to come for the post of GS Tech. It’s a post that doesn’t really require technical expertise unlike the convenors or to an extent, even the club managers. Just anyone who wants to bring about a change in the technical scene in the institute and will be sincere enough to his contribution should stand up for this post.”
Atish Aloor, STAB OC, 2016-17
“It’s a wonderful post to have! If a person is into engineering and Tech, then what better job than to be the GS Tech of an institute of such an astounding national importance? If you want to be remembered, to have an impact on the technical scene in the Institute, or even to hone leadership skills etc, it’s an amazing opportunity. I can easily claim that being STAB OC for IITB has helped me a lot personally.”
Chirag Shetty, STAB OC 2015-16