The third edition of Soapbox, an initiative by Task Force, NIT Trichy, was held on Monday, April 3rd, 2017. A new initiative taken this year by the organizers was the presentation of manifestos by PG student council candidates as well, compared to last year where only the General Secretary, Vice President, and President presented their manifestos. Another initiative was the presidential speeches and debate going live on Facebook, so that people in their hostel rooms and homes could tune in as well.
The format of Soapbox is planned such that each candidate gets five minutes to present their manifesto, and once all candidates present their manifestos, a debate shall happen where a panel questions them about various points mentioned in their speeches, and candidates are also allowed to pose questions to each other. Finally, audience questions are accepted after the debate of every post.
Joint Secretary (PG), Open
Soapbox commenced the proceedings with the presentations of the candidates contesting for the post of Joint Secretary(PG). The panel for the PG Soapbox consisted of Mr. Agnihotran (M.Tech final year, Chemical Engineering, Placement rep. for PG Chemical), Mr. Gokul Ram S (M.Tech 2nd year, MME dept, President of Pupil for Pupil Committee – a social responsibility club for M.Tech), Mr. Rufzal TA (Joint Secretary (M.S./PHD)), Mr. Mohammed Farzeen Azad (PG Placement representative for EEE dept), Ms. Shintu Dennis (English PhD student, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences), and Mr. Ponraj P, (5th sem, Ph.D, EEE Department).
First, Mr. Braj Mohan Patidar spoke about providing RO water purifiers for PG hostels. He then proposed to establish study rooms in the library. Moreover, based on a request based book recruitment system he suggested to improve the availability of books in every subject for PG students. His manifesto highlights many other points such as improving Wi-Fi facilities on hostels, providing photocopy services on Sundays, air pumps for hostels, sheds for cycles and building of bus stops. He also explained his plans to install air conditioners in recreation halls, improve the gym and badminton court facilities, and set up charity drop boxes at hostels.
The second candidate, Mr. Jithin Joseph then gave his presentation. His manifesto proposes to improve computer facilities in Opal and work towards the roll call extension for PG girls. Ensuring the dispatch of student aid funds, providing drinking water facilities near hospital area, improving sports facilities for PG students and establishing a multi cuisine eatery for girls in Opal some other points discussed by him. The other highlights of his speech were his plans to improve and maintain the irrigation facilities on campus, and reduce the cost of using various instruments required for various research purposes.
The presentations were followed by the debate where the panelists enquired whether the candidates would restrict their plans to PG students or would work for other students as well. Another question raised was if these candidates would work towards building a new hostel for PG girls.
Joint Secretary(MS/PhD), Open
The first candidate to address the crowd under this category was Mr. Dinesh Kumar. He spoke about his objective to bring out the involvement of research scholars in academic and non academic activities. The major highlights of his manifesto are – establishing a centralised procurement system for all resources required for research, and introducing single staff system for Placement process.He then spoke about extending roll call till 11PM for lady scholars and ensuring effective investment of interests earned in aids for research conclave and international conferences. He even proposed to train scholars with editors to help them meet the standards of SEI or SEE-I papers. Other aspects of his manifesto discussed were- using student ID cards for payments, conducting plantation drives, installing an X ray machine in the hospital and creating a blood bank portal.
The second candidate, Mr. Dongare Pavan, then took the stage to describe the points on his manifesto. Raising awareness about ongoing research through an online website, a separate placement representative for PhD students, and the possible implementation of an MS+PhD program, were some of the points that Mr. Dongare explained. A major aspect of Mr. Dongare’s manifesto, was the implementation of a system where students are allowed to choose a guide until the end of one semester in college, as compared to the existing system where it is decided in a matter of a few weeks. Ensuring WiFi access for research quarters, a common information portal for upcoming events, and complete access to departmental libraries were also some points that Mr. Dongare spoke about before concluding his speech.
The third candidate, Mr. Sai Guru Srinivasan, was unfortunately not able to attend Soapbox 2017 due to unavoidable circumstances.
The last candidate for the post of Joint Secretary (MS/Ph.D), Mr. Vasantha Kumar, explained in detail the process of purchase of technical equipment, and emphasised the need to prevent purchase of multiple similar equipment. He also spoke about establishing a central facility for operations, an e-newsletter for research scholars that describes ongoing research activities, creation of awards for PhD candidates, the formation of a research scholars alumni association, and went on to emphasise the need for department websites to update information of research scholars, and more importantly, the need for the existing research facilities in departments to be improved.
After the three candidates presented their manifestos, the debate commenced where the panel questioned them about the various points on their manifestos. Some of the major points that were discussed were the establishment of a new hostel of female research scholars, as well as the discussion of the guide selection system.
Joint Secretary (PhD/MS), Girls
The next manifesto was presented was by Ms. Sherin Parwin, currently an MS student in the department of Civil Engineering, applying for the post of Joint Secretary (MS/Ph.D, Girls). Ms. Parwin spoke about the various challenges faced by female research scholars, and highlighted the need for a common system and workspace where all PhD students can work. She spoke about the creation of an online webpage where girls can apply for hostel extension, using battery cars to transport girls beyond curfew hours, implementation of free language training and personality development programs for students, ensuring installation of RO water purifiers and air conditioners, and the need for women empowered eateries in Opal.
The next candidate for the post of Joint Secretary (MS/Ph.D, Girls) was Ms. Shobha, currently a PhD student at the Department of Computer Applications. Ms. Shobha spoke about the need for better transportation facilities for NITT students residing in Thanjavur, the implementation of a completely solar enabled campus, and improving study rooms inside the Opal premises. While talking about access to labs for female scholars past curfew hours, Ms. Shobha proposed to idea of equipping labs with biometric systems to ensure security. She also proposed the idea of having an orientation program for PhD students.
In the debate for the position that followed, the establishment of new hostel for female research scholars was discussed. The issue of buses from Thanjavur not stopping in NITT was brought up, and the current student president Bhavik Jagani said he would look into the matter at the earliest. One major issue brought up by one of the PhD students in the audience was that of lack of funding for PhD students to attend international conferences, which both candidates said they would look into.
The session marked the end of the PG council members and commenced onto the UG candidates. The panel for UG candidates consisted of final years, namely Deepayan Dasgupta (CIC Rep of the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering), Bhavik Jagani (Student President, 2016-2017), Neeraj Kumar (Technical Secretary, 2016-2017), Akhila Avala (Vice President, 2016-2017), Srinivasan Balasundaram (Head, Festember Social Responsibility 2016), and Harini Sekar (Head, Festember Social Responsibility 2016).
The candidates for the post of EC Member (Boys) included Mr. Koushik Sampath, Mr. V.M. Sai Krishna and Mr. Shubham Kiran Wani.
Koushik Sampath proceeded to present his manifesto, highlighting the need for improved hygiene on campus and accordingly talked about the need for more trash bins in all parts of the campus. Issues such as the increase in electric car fleet, improvement in water quality, improved greenery and the reconstruction of the Opal shed were put forth through his manifesto.
The next manifesto was presented by Sai Krishna, who brought up the lack of a tutor at the gym, the lack of a throwball team and absence of professional guidance for sports as a part of his manifesto. Furthermore, an online attendance and certification portal was proposed as well as a portal for Ebooks. Sai Krishna further went on to suggest the presence of maps on campus in order to guide newcomers.
Shubham Kiran Wani presented several innovative concepts as a part of his manifesto. This included, a mentorship program for students to get an idea of what to expect in their Minor courses, a resource sharing portal such as DC++ as well as the proposal to have online video lectures for all the faculty members. Moreover, emphasis was made on the necessity of a completely cashless campus and means of implementation.
The candidates seemed keen on the concept of digitalisation and suggested means of doing so through the introduction of an NITT App that provides timely push notifications as well as a wide array of features to cater to the needs of the students.
The debate session that followed addressed several points such as, the plan of action for the water management system proposed, the feasibility of bringing in professional coaches and the tentative locations to fix maps of the campus. The feasibility of convincing vendors to go completely cashless was discussed and means of doing so were considered. Finally, the candidates were asked about the feasibility of the NITT App and the procedure and prerequisites to be followed to create such an application. The debate concluded with the candidates clarifying points present in each others manifesto and discussing on their feasibility.
Joint Secretary, B.Tech (Girls)
Ms. Suman Raj stood unopposed, hence was declared as the Joint Secretary in the girls category.
Her manifesto discussed the installation RO water purifiers, mosquito nets, more Wi-Fi routers and air conditioners in Opal. Her sports reforms focused on indoor sports facilities in Opal and recruiting coaches for teams.She spoke about improving the standards of mess food, providing late night food delivery services, reviving mess squads and revising the girls’ mess menu. She also proposed to implement a 24 hour printing service for girls and work towards a NITT app.
This was followed by a question and answer session conducted by the panel members.
General Secretary, B.Tech, Open
Contesting for the post of General Secretary in the open category were Mr. Jittam Bhattacharya and Mr. G.S Ram.
Mr. G.S Ram started his speech explaining why he chose to stand for the post and that he would give his best to contribute to the campus if elected. The major aspects of his presentation include creating an online complaint forum on Facebook with a response period of 24 hours, ensuring a regulated transport service on campus, introducing WiMAX to overcome the Wi-Fi issues, installing food vending machines in hostels and arranging periodic laundry runs in hostels. His manifesto also addressed the concept of conducting a Petition Day, where students can interact with the Student Council.He then explained his plans to establish a proper restaurant serving breakfast and lunch, to extend library timings, to bring about structural changes in hostel maintenance system and to ensure that existing ATMs are made fully functional. He concluded by stating his plan to overhaul the existing mess review system to increase student representation.
The second candidate to take the dais was Mr. Jittam Bhattacharya who commenced his speech stating that his manifesto was a compilation of all students’ problems and he wished for everyone’s voice to be heard. He spoke about installing more routers and improving Wi-Fi services in hostels, and convincing the admin to sanction funds for a centralised water softening unit. His manifesto also emphasized on providing 24/7 functioning ATMs in hostel zones, food courts in boys hostels, enforcing strict mess squad for girls and establishing laptop and phone service centers. With regard to the sports reforms he proposed to provide more training by external coaches to all teams and provide proper lighting facilities in NSO and CEESAT ground.
The other points discussed included installing mosquito nets in hostels, paving way for online guest house booking facilities and ensuring smooth scheduling of time table.
The two presentations were then followed by the debate where the panelists put forth their queries. Issues like how to avoid misuse of Wi-Fi, whether the candidates would be willing to take up NITTFest chairmanship, how the water and food standards could be improved and how the two candidates planned to resolve the poor functionality of ATM services were deliberated and discussed upon.
Student President, B.Tech, Open
The first candidate, Mr. Daksh Khanter commenced his presentation by talking about his vision to create a Student Council that would be transparent, approachable and accountable to the student populace. He spoke about how NIT- Trichy had ranked 11th in the National Institute Ranking Framework list released by the MHRD Government of India but how it is placed 46th when it comes to teaching and learning, and this ranking would need to be improved.
The academic reforms suggested in his manifesto were, collaboration with industries and other institutes for student programs, ensuring that student aid funds are provided from the year beginning, establishing an e-book portal to provide access to all study and reference material required by students, working towards implementing deferred placements, and extending library timings year round.
He then explained his plans for campus development which involve resolving the water issues hostels face and providing water tank for non-drinking purposes, creating a hostel complaint portal, working towards installing more Kelby plants and a centralised RO plant and pro .To resolve Wi-Fi problems, he discussed about providing LAN connections in common rooms.
He also proposed to conduct a monthly meeting between students and the Student Council to improve transparency and increase the efficiency of the work carried out. He talked about introducing Student Activity zones for girls till 11 PM and enhancing Student Alumni interaction. He emphasized on improving the security on campus with more CCTV cameras and increased protection at the border wall. His agenda focused on providing laptop and phone service centers, increasing frequency of transport facilities and introducing X-Ray machines at the hospital. Apart from this, he discussed collaborations with LEAP and other clubs to maintain and increase greenery on campus. His manifesto also proposes to provide coaches for sports teams, allot funds for multiple tournaments every semester, to renovate existing grounds and gym facilities.
In the digitalization reforms, his manifesto cited a NITT app with push notifications for all NITT centric announcements, registrations, news etc, and implementing portal for online form booking facilities. Some other important aspects of his manifesto were reinstating mess squads, fitting functional air conditioners in common rooms and ensuring vacation messes are of high standards.
The second candidate, Mr. Sai Prakash Reddy of the department of Civil Engineering, presented his manifesto outlining his plans for the campus if elected as student president. His infrastructural plans outlined the creation of a new shopping complex near the Chennai Bakery area, while explaining the inconvenience of Amber and other hostel residents to procure basic necessities due to distance. He also spoke about increasing the reach of NITT Radio by wiring speakers in major hostel zones. Another main point on his manifesto was cleanliness in the campus, and he emphasized the need to keep the existing shopping complex clean, while also focusing on more plantation drives. The creation of an NITT App for communication of all grievances was also one of the points of Mr. Sai Prakash’s manifesto.
In the academic sphere, he explained about the trouble that students have to go through while purchasing books at the start of the semester. To tackle this, he proposed a second hand book fair in campus at the start of every semester. Citing the large number of temporary faculty currently in campus, he also emphasized on the need of a review system specially for temporary faculty members. He also discussed his idea for the implementation of a system where professors of NITT will be able to upload their lectures and notes online, with the aim of making it easier for students to prepare for their examinations.
For the improvement of sports facilities, Mr. Sai Prakash proposed the proper establishment of water facilities and concrete benches in all sports grounds in campus, along with the renovation of the existing ground near Amber hostel. He also spoke about the need for the sports center to be open on weekends as well, along with the renovation of the existing gym. He also cited his plans for getting coaches for the sports teams of NIT Trichy. Another point that he touched upon was the introduction of billiards tables in the NITT Sports Center.
While talking about hostel reforms, Mr. Sai Prakash spoke about his plans to introduce pay and use photocopy machines as well as vending machines in all hostels of the campus. He also spoke about improving the facilities of common rooms in all hostels, while citing his intention of creating a fully functional night canteen for girls in the Opal premises. He further spoke about his plans for reinstating fully functional mess squads.
The Presidential debate ensued the presentations. At first, the floor was opened to the audience and the two candidates were questioned on their manifestos. The panelists then posed their queries to the candidates. The candidates were asked to give their opinion about how packed the even semester was and how they could improve the situation. They were then questioned about the process they would adopt for club and fest budget allocation. Their views on the feasibility of deferred placements and allocation of symposium funds were also talked about. The debate ended with the candidates asking questions to each other and finally, a rapid fire round was held to test the candidates’ knowledge about the administration, and this concluded the proceedings of Soapbox 2017.