This General Election we are seeing the implementation of a new eligibility criterion for the selection of Overall Co-ordinators for the Institute Bodies. This new eligibility criterion allows only CGs and Managers to contest for the post of Overall Coordinator and has resulted in the closing off of these elections for a large number of students. While an understanding of the work and experience is an important requirement for an OC, there are legitimate concerns that exist amongst students regarding the newly announced criteria. In this article, we analyse the purpose behind the rule, the procedure that was followed to implement it and the concerns that the student body has regarding the change.
Why was the rule introduced?
According to the Dean of Student Affairs, Soumyo Mukherji, all Institute Bodies have to deal a lot with artists and students from outside the institute and any error on their or the OC’s part will be covered in the news owing to the large external exposure that these IBs have.
He mentioned an incident in 2017, when a national competition organized by an IB was accused of plagiarism, leading to negative media coverage. His opinion on the issue then is that given the scale and stakes that get involved in the OC’s position an individual needs to have prior experience as a manager or CG in an IB to be able to understand the inner workings and hurdles that the body might face.
We contacted an Overall Coordinator from last year to get his opinion on the matter. He was a member of the SGEC (Student Gymkhana Executive Committee) for the year 2017 – 2018 and was part of the SGEC meeting that ratified this decision.
As a justification for this change, he stated :
The work of an IB is highly different in terms of being heavily driven by externalities and demanding with neither the core team nor OCs pursuing any form of internships during their tenure. This specifically provides them with the hands-on experience and knowledge required to lead an Institute Body.
What was the procedure followed?
The deciding authority for any amendments in the SAC constitution is the SAC Committee that is headed by the Director who takes the final call on the amendment proposed.
However, discussion for changes in the constitution took place in the SGEC. The SGEC meets every year to discuss if any changes are required in the constitution for the upcoming generation. The SGEC proposed and finalised the eligibility changes along with others in a meet headed by Dean (SA). The proposed changes were further discussed in presence of the Gymkhana Council, professors and the Director in the SAC meeting wherein SAC constitution amendments were finalised.
What are the student body concerns regarding the eligibility change?
We talked to the student representatives for their opinions on the matter. Though some of them understood the motivation behind the move, they had concerns regarding how selective it may turn out to be and loss of accountability that it might bring.
A. Concerns regarding accountability
One of the major concerns that students and student representatives had was the initial selection procedure for CG’s and Managers and the accountability issues that its current opaqueness creates.
Talking about it, Anmol Gupta, the General Secretary, Academic Affairs (UG) stated that “ Even though I believe that there is sound logic behind the change in eligibility criteria for IB’s, the rule will stand on fair ground only if the selection of the CG/manager posts are made more transparent and fair. In these couple of months, there have been some accusations on the selection process, which haven’t been completely cleared. This renders the current situation slightly unfair for students.”
On the same issue, Rupesh Raj, the General Secretary, Cultural Affairs added, “Considerably restricting the pool of eligible candidates may end up creating a cycle of similar ideas and ideologies within the IB’s. Allowing students with different backgrounds and experiences to contest is important to ensure accountability and positive change. Further, there may be students in other bodies who may have the necessary credentials and work experience in dealing with external agencies and if they feel they can add value to a fest, then they should be allowed to contest.”
We asked the ex-OC about the question of accountability, he responded, “the SGEC meet discussed a similar concern and eventually came to the conclusion that the SGEC won’t restrict a particular body to its own core team. For example, as the rule clearly states, the pool is 88 people for 8 posts rather than 22 people for 2 posts and this is established for all the four institute bodies. The SGEC came to the conclusion that this enlargement of the sample space is a sufficient counter argument towards clearing any concerns over possible accountability and capability issues.”
Talking about the CG and Manager selection procedure, the ex OC added, “Historically, no applicant (towards a core team position) has been denied information about their possible selection or rejection by any OC. The SGEC maintains that a core team position applicant can always approach the respective head to understand details about their possible selection or rejection.”
We also approached the Dean SA with this concern regarding CG and Manager selections, he mentioned that currently there are discussions taking place within the SGEC to come up with an objective metric for selection of CG’s and Managers that would be made public to the students during the selection process.
B. Does this restrict interested and capable students from contesting?
The obvious concern that students have is that this could end up excluding other capable candidates from ever contesting for these posts.
Athul Nambolan, the General Secretary, Technical Affairs said, “In my personal opinion it is unfair to a large pool of potential people. Agreed that a CG or Manager would be the best candidate for OC but say a person from the Cultural Council who has managed Surbahar or say someone from the sports council who has managed Aavahan, would also be capable.”
On the other hand, Deekshith Shetty, the General Secretary, Academic Affairs (PG) stated that “I can understand the rationale behind the rule as it does not make sense to prefer a candidate who has no prior experience. However, in its current form, the rule is discriminatory from a PG perspective. No master’s student can even contest for this post anymore, even though they might have handled a similar event in their previous college.”
We asked Professor Soumyo Mukherji about his response to the above statements, his opinion on the issue was that open elections aren’t always about capability. He believes that they often come down to fame and that if an individual who is lacking in experience in handling these type of events is allowed to contest for OC and wins it due to popularity, their lack of experience could produce disastrous consequences for the institute.
Because of how important elections are for the student community, the changes in the criteria are bound to draw responses from the students and the administration. Some may think this is fair and warranted, while others may think it to be unfairly restrictive.
With all of these opinions in mind, a couple of things are evident. There is some thinking and logic behind this change as mentioned above, but there are also certain concerns that remain unaddressme.co.nz/ball-dresses.html”>dressme.co.nz/ball-dressme.co.nz/ball-dresses.html”>dresses.html”>dressme.co.nz/ball-dresses.html”>dressed – primary among them is the exclusion of most of the students from a chance at even nomination for these posts and the other being accountability and transparency issues in the base selections.
We have contacted both the Dean and the student representatives for changes in this regard and they have both confirmed that there are certain modifications in this context that are being discussed and would be finalised by the end of March 2019.
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