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This year, every student who applied to be a part of the placement process was forced to attend a Value Inc Session to improve his/her communication skills. To make matters worse, students had to pay Rs. 200 to attend the session. Once again, it was compulsory for every student who wanted to get a job to attend this session, i.e. non-attendance meant getting debarred from placements. What are the problems with this? Firstly, the institute must allow for a choice in the matter; what if I don’t want to sit for the session in the first place? Secondly, and more importantly, making a paid session compulsory goes against rationality and morality. Why? Because paying for something that I rationally believe won’t help me, should not be made a prerequisite for my placement.

But there are other harms attached to this as well. The sheer bulk of the batch of students getting placed is making the process highly inefficient. Students were asked for their preferred dates and many stated Friday as the only day they could make it. Bad luck, said the placement team, and kept their sessions on Monday. Sessions went on till 2 a.m., a time most unsuitable for any form of communication. But worst of all is the time lag between the session and the results. I gave my test more than a month ago and I still haven’t got my results. This means that when I finally get my results, I won’t be in a position to match the feedback with what I had said. I’d like to reiterate that if there weren’t so many people giving the test, then this problem wouldn’t have existed in the first place.

The argument for keeping the session compulsory was this – it was only Rs. 200 if the whole batch took the test, it would have been Rs. 500 if only a few people took it. To this I have the following responses. Firstly, I don’t see anything wrong with that. If it’s a service that costs Rs. 500, then those who want to avail of it must be willing to pay for it. It is unfair to tax those who don’t want the service just to make it cheaper for those who do. Secondly, making it compulsory for everyone only makes the process more inefficient and ensures that those who really needed this service can’t attain the full benefits of it. So, while the amount paid is lesser, so is the quality of the product. And on a side note, knowing my batch, I honestly believe a lot of people would’ve applied for the session even if it wasn’t compulsory, resulting in the possibility of the session costing less than Rs. 500 even if it wasn’t made compulsory.

Unfortunately, I believe that the above case is only a symptom of a larger issue. On several occasions, incentive points are attached to sessions only to ensure attendance. Now if the session was really useful to students, they would’ve attended it anyway; the incentive of getting valuable information for a better placement would be enough. The only reason to artificially incentivise them would be that the session itself isn’t inherently useful. Why is this a problem? Because the number of incentive points one has is very important. It gives a student more opportunities to apply to a variety of companies once he/she has been placed, resulting in more choice. My freedom to choose which company I get placed in should not be contingent upon the number of the aforementioned sessions I attend. This is especially problematic when incentive points are attached to paid sessions, for instance the TIME session this year which had incentive points even though one had to pay to attend it.

In conclusion, these are my views entirely and are not by any means absolute truths. But, in a campus that has recently been bitten by the democracy bug, it is important that decisions like these are democratised. How? Such that every student can get the most from the placement process. Democracy means freer choice for all. And that, in my opinion, is something the placement team has to gun for.

Reply from Prof. Ravi Sinha
The placement process has been designed to provide the best possible opportunity to match recruiter expectations with student capabilities, so that the largest possible number of students can secure jobs. The recruiter expectations are not limited to only technical knowledge among our students but several other skills. During past years, recruiters have observed that language skill, which is accorded very strong emphasis by the corporate world, is not adequately developed among a vast majority of our students. It was also observed that most students are not fully aware of their level of proficiency and the specific attributes that require improvement.

Value Inc. has expertise in assessing language skill, and their proficiency was assessed among the graduating students who were still unplaced after the first round of placement in 2010. These students were very satisfied with the evaluation and found the assessment report very useful in identifying specific aspects requiring improvement. Since even students who are placed during the first phase in December often get lower-trajectory jobs due to inadequate language skill, it was decided to make the assessment compulsory for all students participating in campus placement. Each student will thus have the necessary baseline information and suggestions for improvement. Most aspects of language skills cannot be improved in the short term and the Institute expects the students to continue with the improvement process even after their graduation.

However, the students don’t have to wait for Value Inc. assessment report to initiate improvement of their language skills. With advice from Value Inc., a list with links to a large number of online language skills improvement modules has been compiled and is available on the placement blog. All students are encouraged to make use of these resources to improve their language skills.

The TIME program is being organized by other Institute entities. We have evaluated the program content and find it beneficial to the graduating students. For this reason, incentive points have been assigned as per Placement Policy.