It is really wonderful how much resilience there is in human nature. Let any obstructing cause, no matter what, be removed in any way, even by death, and we fly back to first principles of hope and enjoyment.Bram Stoker, Dracula
It’s been four and a half months since COVID-19 dramatically altered the college atmosphere. What many welcomed initially as a break from the hectic schedules that define IIIT has morphed into a sense of longing for the lush spirit of the campus. Singular events that tended to define a semester no longer apply, as we hope for the moments in-between these singularities to come back into our lives. The moments that are unexpected, random, and even forgettable, the kind that can only happen in a tight-knit community. The start of the quarantine showed exactly that yearning – with groups popping up to recreate the most mundane of IIIT activities, imagining a virtual world where everyone was back together. Now, four months into the quarantine, the humour that helped initially feels forced. Attempts at recreating informal conversation spaces, ritualistic juice canteen trips, and meals together have lost their steam as well. For a community that often cribs about the lack of life at IIIT, this is perhaps our darkest hour. Yet, IIIT persists.
This magazine in some sense is part of that story. Working entirely virtually to produce a magazine has been challenging in unexpected ways. Like most communities, Ping! has relied on 12 AM talks and pizza dinners to accomplish tasks. The informal spaces that create camaraderie within the team are no more. After all, there’s only so much conversation that one can make on Microsoft Teams when staring at the other’s initials. This quarantine magazine teems with life nonetheless. Like most Ping! issues, this edition serves as a snapshot of IIIT – our perspectives and contentions. Within these pages, we explore the heated debate around the Diversity Pool, critique the ever-popular Online Judge (OJ), and explore our psyche during the quarantine. Some light-hearted articles poke fun at absurd college rules that we’re lucky to not have and the movie ‘Cats’ (we’ll let you read that one to avoid spoilers). And, there’s more. Ironically, this magazine also includes an analytical piece about campus spending trends.
COVID-19 Response Analysis
IIIT does not enjoy a reputation among students of being particularly prompt about – well, anything really. So it has been a shock to us – albeit mostly a pleasant one – to observe the rapid response to the pandemic and the largely rational decisions that have been taken, which has meant much more clarity for the students than most across the country can claim to have.
From a swift and hygienic campus evacuation to a seamless transition to an online semester, IIIT has largely hit the mark in dealing with the pandemic. The dedicated COVID Apex team has also been detailed in their policies on returning to campus and dealing with a potential crisis, including detailed guidelines on dealing with an eventual case on campus and restrictions to ensure minimal contact is made with outside of the campus.
Interestingly on the national front, IIIT has largely been right about most things COVID related. We were one of the only institutes – and among the earliest of those – to end the spring semester online, forgoing entirely the possibility of in-person exams. Even the then-controversial choice of holding UGEE in June seems to have been well-timed, as India’s bad spell spirals out of control. The only hiccup that comes to mind is the matter of vacating hostel rooms of the graduating class. However, it too seems to have been resolved with some compromises on both ends.
Going into the next semester, IIIT seems to remain on its toes. New lecture styles have been introduced, morning class timings reduced, and central examinations scrapped entirely. The efficacy of the new system is yet to be seen but IIIT does seem prepared for most eventualities. Overall, we can see some visible advantages of not being beholden to UGC. IIITs independence undoubtedly gave it the freedom to respond to the pandemic actively, as several other universities scramble to react. As students, we are aware of what lies ahead. A luxury not currently afforded by most of our peers across the country.
A Sudden Uptick in Club Socials
If there’s one consistent trend across years in Ping!, it’s the classic “club revival” article. It’s been covered in several ways in the past, but this year something feels different. Historically, clubs at IIIT often functioned more as event organizing bodies than hobby communities – despite their ‘club’ moniker. In a year where events aren’t possible, college clubs have returned to their hobbyist roots. Throughout the summer of 2020, it’s been surprising to see the sheer engagement with nearly every club. The lack of a physical community has also led to new social media pages – lending the perception of greater activity. Considering the low effort of maintaining a social media page, it is not fair to confidently speak of club revival. But, the regular stream of content and interaction with the remote community seems promising. These clubs also collaborate increasingly, strengthening the remote IIIT community. The LitClub’s new Harry Potter based event is perhaps at the peak of that – an event conducted with 6 other clubs! There’s an entire semester left to see if these trends continue and hopefully, this isn’t another random occurrence. The lessons learnt about retaining an interest in extra-curriculars should ideally continue into the future, changing the way clubs operate for the better.
The Diversity Channel and Cross Entry
The other consistent Ping! topic is that of ‘Cross Entry’. Following lengthy debates last year, the student parliament had announced that some recommendations were given to the Institute. Fast forward a few months later, we wonder if those recommendations have come to fruition. As part of promotional material for the Diversity Pool, it is hard to miss the mention of ‘Separate Hostels’. It’s been advertised in brochures, flyers and blog pieces. When Ping! Interviewed the diversity committee to learn more about the pool, we learnt that they’re trying to reach families that may be hesitant to send their daughters to far off cities. The messaging of separate hostels makes sense in that context, to allay parental fears.
On the other hand, the recent parliament yearly progress report suggests that cellar area in Parijat Blocks A and B might be the first space in hostels to allow cross-entry. Some residents have confirmed that they were given a survey on this while still on campus. The parliament’s statement is laced heavily with a “perhaps”, and it is not entirely certain whether or not it shall come to be.
It is almost certain that at the end of all discussions, the final actions that will be taken will be the prerogative of the Institute – and not the students. Which is not to say the Institute does not listen to students (despite often giving the appearance of such), but that students are on campus for four or five, maybe seven years at the best. Many of the cross-entry conversations in recent times have been spearheaded by individual students, who will eventually graduate. It remains to be seen how these conversations will carry on in the future. The Institute has explicitly shown its commitment to ensuring equal opportunity, options, and a more balanced intake of students, and if it is seen that cross-entry as a topic hurts that goal in the short term, it may very well be entirely abandoned without any pallbearers for the cause from the newer batches.
Editors-in-Chief: Abhigyan Ghosh, Jaidev Shriram, Zubair Abid
Designer: Jaidev Shriram