This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and are not a reflection of Ping! as a whole.
A new academic year has begun. Just last month, the first cohort of freshers was inducted and introduced to Parliament and the Felicity Committee. However, due to COVID-19, these bodies have not appointed new members in several months. The difficulty of conducting elections and campaigns has played a direct role in this, throwing their plans in the air. In this piece, we interview these bodies and the election commission to clarify the situation.
For the uninformed, the Parliament at IIIT-H is a student body that serves to represent the population in decision-making. The Election Commission, set up in 2018, was a significant step up towards the formalization of the election process. The Parliament consists of a whole host of positions specific to various tasks, spearheaded by the General Secretary with the Speaker presiding over the meetings.
To get the anticipated news out of the way, let’s start with the situation regarding the awaited annual fest – Felicity, managed by the Felicity Committee and the Felicity Steering Committee. Elections for the Felicity Committee are usually held before the heat of summer settles. This pandemic has ensured the delay of the election, and hence, the same is yet to be voted in.
The spread of COVID-19 has ensured that only a handful of students remain on campus, while the vast majority nest at home. With only four months left for the usual schedule of the fest, the idea of Felicity taking place seems improbable on the surface, given the circumstances. However, as per the Felicity team, there happens to be a slight chance that the situation might improve, and the mood of the camp and faculty says that, should the scenario become favourable, the fest will take place. And should that happen, heavy precautions will be pitched, with no personnel who aren’t members of IIIT-H, and with little external help. All this should be unsurprising, as health and safety take precedence.
On inquiring with the Election Commission, we found that students can expect the election schedule for the Felicity Committee to be out positively by the end of this week. IMS Portals, which help verify the votes, are being set up by the Parliament, the Election Commission, and the IT Team, who will collaborate and organize the elections this time.
The previous general secretary has stepped down on account of his graduation. Sunil Anumolu, the last Speaker, and Shivaan Sehgal, also a Member of the Parliament, have taken up the mantle of the interim General Secretary and interim Speaker, respectively, on account of the ongoing pandemic. There is no established “New Structure for the Parliament”, per se, but the tenures of those currently holding positions have increased.
Similar to all the other proceedings this year, the Parliamentary elections will be organized online. Every student can enter as a candidate, and all of them are given time to campaign and present their manifestos. The elections will be held on the IMS portal as soon as the IT department can finish the setup.
As far as UG1 elections for the parliament are concerned, it will be held in the next semester. Organizing the elections online seems a bit too simplistic. Until now, elections have usually been multi-part, week-long ventures complete with nominations and campaigning. But now, everything will have to be shifted online. In these circumstances, how will the same standards be upheld? This remains to be seen.
Finally, to paraphrase a piece of information obtained from a member of the Parliament: “Forms isn’t a viable option and hence the resolution is to use IMS for conducting elections. This portal will be used (invariably) for all the elections that will be held on the campus (General Elections for Student’s parliament held twice – UG1 & Rest, and the Felicity elections held once).”
Only a small percentage of IIIT has been in touch with small groups of freshers during the induction period held, hosted by their respective mentors and Apex heads. Consequently, the Parliament can’t have a viable idea of the freshers’ aptitude. Adding to that, even the freshers themselves wouldn’t be entirely sure of their batchmates’ capabilities.
The selection of members is made based on their leadership qualities and their ability to find solutions to the various issues that students face. These cannot be interpreted through listening to a voice and seeing a pixelated image of a student, not to mention the complete absence of any reliable metrics of judgment. Thus, a different approach is required.
Even if the elections are held, regardless of the means, it might not be too bad an idea to have them afresh for UG2K20 when they move to the campus the following academic year, when their contributions are seen with a closer eye. There is no complete “right answer” to this, but as of now, the best one is to give it some time. The freshers will take their time to settle in, interact with each other and with seniors, participate in clubs, and gain as much “exposure” as possible while idling at home. This won’t give anyone a comprehensive idea of their proficiency in aspects of supervision, but is, presently, the best course of plan to judge their competence.
As cliché as it may seem, this is one case in which “time will tell”. The entire year has been one of complete uncertainty and surprise, so trying to see too much into plans based on the present can only get us so far.
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