An Open House was organised by the administration of IIT Delhi in response to calls by the students for an open discussion in light of the recent suicides in college. It was led by Professor Rangan Banerjee (Director), along with Professor T.R. Sreekrishnan (Deputy Director Operations), Professor Ambuj Sagar (Deputy Director, Strategy & Planning), Professor Narayan D Kurur (Dean, Academics), Professor Aditya Mittal (Dean, Student Affairs), Professor Angelie Multani (Dean, Diversity, and Inclusion) and Professor S. Chatterjee (Associate Dean Curriculum). It was held on September 3, in the Open Air Theater (OAT) of IIT Delhi’s Student Activity Centre (SAC) from 17:00 to 19:00 hours. There were hundreds of students in attendance, from all departments, years, and specialities along with professors from various departments. Several issues concerning mental health of the student community in IIT Delhi were raised, and answers sought from the administration. The objective of the Open House was to hear students’ concerns, and seek potential solutions to address them.
Concerns raised by the students and response by panel
Student Counselling Services (SCS)
There were concerns raised by a large number of students highlighting the inefficiency, and incompetence of the Student Counselling Services (SCS) at IIT Delhi. Several students shared personal anecdotes about the apathy of the counsellors and the psychiatrist at IIT Delhi Hospital. There were also grievances about the lack of 24x7 assistance to the students, and the small number of counsellors in comparison to the student population. The students demanded an accountability mechanism for the counselling team and an increase in the number of counsellors to be able to cater to the big student population.
The Panel responded by saying that the Institute is already on lookout for new counsellors and plans on increasing the number in the team. They recently hired a couple new psychiatrists as well to increase availability of their services to the students on campus. They emphasised that the process could not be rushed, and that they would look into alternate measures to help provide help to the students in the meantime. They admitted the need to have a system of checks and balances in place for the counselling system and pledged to work on the same.
Number of Yearbacks (One on One Faculty Mentorship)
There were 26 students in the 2019 batch of B.Tech in Mathematics and Computing, out of which two have committed suicide in the last three months. The crowd questioned how the students who come here after qualifying one of the most difficult exams become so incompetent that around 25% of the batch is not able to pass in the allocated time. They sought measures to help guide these students, and provide options to help them complete their degree in the smallest possible time frame.
The Panel responded by saying that they had restarted One on One Faculty advising and mentorship for such students who were struggling to pass their courses and complete the requirements for an undergraduate degree. The system had been shut up during the pandemic and had only recently been brought back up.
A professor, who is also a faculty advisor, said from the audience that the Mentorship system has a long way to go right now, and is hardly up and running. He mentioned that he and his colleagues had to cater to a large number of students as there were a small number of faculty advisors available. He emphasised the need for proper training for such advisors, and a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) in place for the same.
Uniformity in Grades Moderation
Unreliable grading moderation was another issue raised by the students, and was said to be a big cause of academic pressure in the community. Some students alleged that there were certain professors in the Institute who purposefully pass only a small minority of class, year after year. The students questioned how this was allowed to take place by the Admin, and why there were no measures to contain such blatant abuse of power over the students. There were questions about professors changing the course policy mid-course, and giving extremely poor grades on Average marks, instead of a 7 that is warranted on average performance.
Dean of Academics, Professor Narayan D. Kurur responded by saying that it was only the first year courses that came under the purview of his office, and the courses from second year onwards were audited and moderated by the departments itself. He insisted that there were discussions at the end of every year, and the students were welcome to voice their opinions on the matter. The Associate Dean of Curriculum, Professor S. Chatterjee, also mentioned that there was no provision that allowed professors to change their course policy mid semester, and that his office should be made aware of the same if this happens. The professors are mandated to upload the course policy on the Academic ERP before the Add/Drop deadline, and the students are advised to flag the course if this is not being done.
The director, Professor Rangan Banerjee said that there are no professors that take pleasure in the student’s misery, and that they frequently work on adjusting policies so that more and more students are able to pass the course on their own merit, in as few tries as possible.
No conclusive answers were given by the administration for most of the questions, and it reiterates the point that we are a long distance from solving all the issues plaguing the mental health of students in a premier institution of the country. There were issues highlighted from the dire straits of the counselling services, to poor living arrangements, unreliable support systems and the ever increasing academic pressure on students. The Panel advised the students to look out for their friends and reach out to them in case of any academic or non-academic pressure that they could provide assistance for. The meeting ended with a lot of unanswered questions and the Panel vowed to hold more open houses in the future to listen to the needs and demands of the students.
Report by Sahil Grover Edited by Basil Labib