Manifesto Review: CAIC General Secretary

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Overview of Manifesto:

Sarthak shows an understanding of the various problems faced by PG students and researchers within the academic life at IIT Delhi and attempts to streamline the process of research and academic output among the IIT Delhi community; through existing mechanisms like the CRF and creation of new programmes like Research Mentorship and CAIC Portal. He realises the current lack of energy and enthusiasm within the current framework of Technical Clubs and Departmental Societies and aims at restructuring and reinvention of the administration to increase academic interactions between the students.

Q: The Board for Technical Clubs sounds similar to an idea put forward by the previous Gsec as Board of Technical Activities (BTA). Why did that idea not materialise? How is the Board of Technical Clubs different, and how do you plan to ensure that this idea will be successfully implemented?

A: Last year, in the last CAIC Senate meeting, the idea of the BTA got proposed. The authorities, i.e. the Deans and Deputy Directors, felt that it should go through all Departmental Societies and department faculty who are a part of the CAIC. However, feedback from all concerned above was not received in the last tenure. I put forward this point in my manifesto to make sure that the vision Abhinav (Gsec CAIC 18-19) had for the Board of Technical Activities gets implemented in my tenure. Presently, we are awaiting feedback from a few concerned authorities. As soon as it’s done, we’ll put this point in the Agenda of the CAIC meeting and let’s see how it goes.

Q: You have proposed a restructuring of departmental societies into Research, Mentorship and Administration teams, each serving its useful role. What incentives are you providing experienced students to take on these positions, and what will keep them accountable to their work?

A: First of all, the problem with the departmental societies currently is that none of them is on the same page; all of them are running with different structures and different constitutions. The whole idea of the restructuring is to identify the major sectors on which the societies need to function, i.e. Research, Mentorship and Administrative teams. As far as incentive goes, I would be clubbing all of the societies into the TRYST, and that is the most significant incentive I can give for them to function properly.

Q: Regarding the Research Council for advising students writing a thesis, who will it be comprised by, and what will be its structure?

A: The Research Council is not for advising students writing their thesis; that’s the job of Mentorship within the Departmental Society. The Research Council is actually for something different. At present, PG students can be dominated by their supervisor, to the point where they can extend their degree. There are a lot of cases where students even feel harassed by their supervisors but have no place to raise these issues. The current scenario is that you can bring it to the notice of the convenor, who can then forward the case to some professor or the Head of the Department.  But then, it becomes an issue to reputation and relations among professors. To ensure that this politics does not mess up the student’s career, I proposed the Research Council. The Research Council will be a committee of PG conveners of various departments, along with faculty nominated MTech and PhD coordinators, Dean of Academics, G. Sec. CAIC, with the Deputy Director chairing the Council. All of these issues of the PG students, which could not be put forward in the status quo, will be given a platform through this initiative.

Q: With regards to the foundation of the online portal and personal calendars for students, how will that work be accomplished? Who do you plan to employ for such work, and what will be the incentives? Also, how will these portals be maintained once they are created?                                                                
The CAIC website currently is in a dismal state. Most of the information is outdated, and  any links related TRYST, Tech Clubs, Departmental Societies etc. do not work. Are you going to take any steps to ensure the maintenance of this website, or will it be left to rot?

A: The online portal was for the centralised notification system. For example, all the opportunities and messages being floated by different Government ministries and Governmental departments would be displayed through this portal and would be notified to the IIT Delhi community.
To clarify on the calendar, it is not a personalised calendar of students but the faculty, for the students. Most European universities have this system where the schedule of each faculty is uploaded and consequently updated on Microsoft Outlook, and is accessible to the students. This saves time for students; otherwise, we wait for hours outside offices to meet a professor — thus the need such a portal to be in place.

This ties into the question of the website, as these services will be clubbed into it. The website is in its current state because it got updated zero percent during the tenure of the last GSec. I’ve already started working on the site; I guess some of the links may be down (inaccessible to other servers). We are still working on its design, and as soon as the new constitution of the departmental societies gets laid, we’ll upload all of these things on the website. The central notification portal and the faculty timetables will also have their pages within this website only.

Q: Concerning creating provisions for research and travel grants for UG students, do you have any plans for where the finances will come from? What will be the system of application and approval of such grants? How will you persuade the relevant financial funding body to approve this?

A: Currently, the PG students who go and represent IIT Delhi are funded by the MHRD. A similar type of provision must be created for the UG students also, because even certain UG students, if not all, have the vision of doing research too. As this is not specific to IIT Delhi but shows up across IITs, I would raise this point in the panIIT conference, which would probably happen in September. Firstly, we have to bring it to the notice that UG students should be granted some of the funding for attending conferences etc. Then it has to go to the MHRD through higher authority from IIT, and once they create some mechanism for these grants, we can think of creating some portal within IITs.

Q: How does the CAIC plan to increase the purview of CRF to include all labs? Have you contacted relevant authorities regarding this proposal? If not, what’s your plan?

A: For now, there are two or three central labs available which we can book through the intranet. But each department has labs under professors and currently there is no database about what lab has what equipment, apparatus, chemicals, etc. A database of all labs does not exist for most departments. I plan to create this database for all departments and use the CRF portal. Currently, one has to go through a process of using informal contacts of people in the department to reach the specialist of a given instrument and to use the tool, which sometimes takes up to weeks. This may not be able to completely eliminate the waiting time to book and use the labs, but will probably reduce it to the minimum possible. The task will be completed by the respective conveners of each department to collect data from all labs, which is a job of one or one and a half weeks.

Q: How does allowing PG students to enrol in below 700-level courses allow interdisciplinary education? 700+ level electives are more detailed versions of the below 700 level electives. Don’t you think the PG students are already supposed to have mastered the below 700 level ones, as they act as TA’s for those? Also, have you got this proposal approved by HOD and other relevant authorities? If not, what are your plans to do so?

A: Much of the MTech students who come to IIT come with the hope of getting a decent job. The current curriculum designed for MTech students is not making them fit for the workplace. For example, if a person from MTech programme wants to sit for a non-core job, he wouldn’t have done any of those courses in the previous college. Once they get into their PG programme, will only be doing core courses. So to get a feel for these workplaces, they would need to do relevant courses, which are often available only as below 700 level courses. That’s why I raised this point.
This proposal has to be raised in the CAIC meeting, and if all the people are happy with this point, it will be passed on to the Board of Academic Purposes. Once it is passed through that, there will be a curriculum change.

Q: Also, many freshmen face a lot of confusion while pre-registering for courses for the third sem as they are unfamiliar with the system. They have to depend on informally scavenging for seniors to guide them. As you do not give any improvements on this problem, do you think that the current system is already perfect?

A: So as far as the freshers are concerned, it has been the incentive taken up by BSW, who have created Mentors, and currently it’s their job to guide freshers. It’s a good point because the current eacademics portal is new, and a proper orientation has to take place for all the students to advise them about the process. I’ll work up with the conveners and call upon a session for the students community on how to effectively use the eacademics portal.

Remarks:

1. There seems to be a clear idea about the process involved to make the Board of Technical Clubs a reality. Although, it hinges upon the response of the departmental societies and other CAIC members to the proposal.

2. The ethos behind restructuring the departmental societies is well-conceived. It is questionable whether the incentive of being a part of TRYST would really encourage seniors deep into core profiles to provide mentorship to their juniors. But it does seem to be the best offer in current circumstances, especially with the TnP enacting new changes concerning CV and verified points.

3. There is a convincing picture depicted of a PG student being dominated by their supervisor, and the issues and problems arising from this are evident. Allowing these concerns and complaints to be voiced on institute level via the Research Council is a good step towards a more transparent, fair and cooperative research environment.

4. The idea of the online portal for the centralised notification system of programs and opportunities provided by agencies such as the MHRD departments seems to quite well formulated. It is supposedly clarified that the personal calendar was not for the students even though that specific point in the manifesto seems to indicate otherwise. (Administration > CAIC Portal > point 2 “instituting a personal calendar for each student with classes, examinations and other appointments”). Otherwise, the idea of publicly available calendars of faculty is an equally meritorious replacement.

The currently dismal state of the CAIC website is acknowledged, and plans for updating and revamping seem to be underway. The idea of incorporating the CAIC Portal into the website along with the links to TRYST, Departmental Societies, Technical Clubs etc. is useful and convenient for users.

5. Recognition of the potential for better and well funded UG research is laudable. The idea of raising the issue in the panIIT conference seems logical and will lead to better lobbying power for the proposal.

6. The problems associated with not having a satisfactory database for all labs and no streamlined process to book them is well recognised. Using the existing mechanism of the Central Research Facility is a brilliant idea, and it seems feasible in implementational aspects as well.

7. Problems encountered by PG (especially MTech) students vying for non-core jobs in fields like analytics are identified. It is shown how the current curriculum and academic rules prevent these students from realising their goals. A clear picture of the process involved to get the proposal passed and implemented is shown.

8. Initially, claims are made that the problem raised is not under the ambit of the CAIC, but of the BSW. However, it is then admitted that there is a need for orientation about the eacademics portal, not only for freshers but for students from all years of study. The eagerness shown to address this problem is heartening.

By Suyash Singh

 

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