Q1: The initiatives you’ve already worked on as part of the BSW focus heavily on mental health and student counselling. You have also mentioned the need for better Student Counselling Services and alumni mentorship. How do you plan to tackle these issues as G-Sec this year?
Yes, my main agenda is on mental health itself. In the matter of mental health, there are two fundamental things: to increase awareness about mental health and to make it more accessible to students. To make it more accessible to students, we are planning to reach out to SCS and YourDost so that people can approach counsellors and professionals online. Which is why we are thinking about making an SCS portal for better access.
Q2: YourDost already provides free online mental health counselling to IITD students. So why do you think there is a need for a separate SCS portal? Wouldn’t a new portal be redundant?
That's a good question; I’ll explain. Right now, there are PG students living on campus, and if they need any help, it would be great if they could reach out to a counsellor face-to-face after booking an appointment online. Second is the online component. Suppose, say, a second-year student had been going to a particular counsellor and now they want to continue that counselling from home, then they should have the ability to reach out. So the main intention of the SCS portal is to help students who want to continue their counselling from home. Because if you find that you like a counsellor, then it’s better to just continue sessions with them instead of interrupting your counselling.
Q3: In your manifesto, you’ve talked about a series of sessions with alumni mentors. It sounds like you’re talking about more than just career counselling. Can you explain why you felt the need for this?
Yes, the alumni sessions are part of my second point – mental health awareness. I realized that there were several alumni who were trying to help IITD students on social media platforms. For example, last November there was an ex-IITian who wrote a very good post on Facebook, in which he talked about his depression and about reaching out to friends and counsellors. The post got a huge response – around 150 people messaged him and 25 people called him. So the thought came to my mind: if a single student can do this kind of mental health outreach in IIT Delhi, then why can’t BSW?
That’s why we will launch a series of videos of alumni talking about their experiences at IIT Delhi and how they dealt with mental health problems. We’ll start with an introduction on stereotypes that people have for IITians, and later we’ll move on to how IITD caters to mental health and their opinion on this system. They’ll also talk about the issues they faced during intern sem and placement sem. If alumni talk about their problems in a public space, it will make others feel comfortable in reaching out and sharing their experiences.
Q4: Improving the BSW website is a prominent point in your manifesto. What do you plan to add or improve upon in the website?
So we’ve recently updated our website. Until now, we didn’t really have a website, but I think that currently, our website is one of the best across all the boards and clubs. We have made it more interactive. Whenever people look for IIT Delhi online, this is the main website they’ll be seeing. It’ll provide one-stop access to all problems and solutions.
I'd say that we've covered all the points in the website which are feasible right now. One thing that we need to improve is the chatbot, which hasn’t been linked to the servers yet. Once we get permission from the CSC we’ll be able to put that up too.
Q5: With this year’s freshers joining IITD online, how do you plan to make the orientation process easier for them?
We are going to remodel our orientation process for this online semester. The main thing in our offline orientation was to set up a helpdesk at WindT and LHC, so people could come and ask any questions they had. We won't be able to do that now, which is why we will set up an online helpdesk for each hostel using a Zoom breakout room. Each room will have one representative during working hours to answer all queries from parents and students.
Q6: To adapt the activities of BSW to an online semester, you’ve said that you’ll hold a 3-day online Speranza, with live band sessions, comedy nights, and alumni Q&As, along with filler events like dancing, singing and poetry. But how do you plan to reach out to the freshers and make them interested in attending an online fest?
We will be publicizing the events of Speranza through Instagram, Facebook and the website. It’s the website that freshers will see from the starting itself. The IIT Delhi website is a generic website for all students and faculty members, but the BSW website will be oriented towards the freshers. So that’s why our intention is to publicize our events through the website.
And for the other part, we will have online competitive events with fresher participation in dancing, singing, poetry, photography etc. in the days leading up to Speranza. We’ll take entries from the freshers so they can share videos showcasing their talents.
Q7: You plan to introduce a system called the Action Taken Report. Can you explain this mechanism? Doesn’t BSW already have a feedback system?
We’ve already introduced this in our team. The Action Taken Report is the list of all the initiatives that we will organize or conduct down the year. For every initiative, it’ll contain the names of the team members responsible, the minutes of the last meeting, how long the initiative has been in progress, and the current status of the initiative. This sheet with all the details will be shared with all BSW team members. This will maintain transparency in the board.
Yes, such a system has been proposed a few times before, but I don’t think anyone else has implemented it so thoroughly.
Q8: Your manifesto mentions that you’ll create mandatory duties for BSW reps to increase participation. How do you plan to implement and enforce this?
In the starting of the tenure, we will allot to each rep that they need to conduct so-and-so activities. For example, in academic mentorship, we need to make a record of the attendance of mentors. We also need to maintain a performance sheet for those mentors. And on the operations side of things, we will have tasks related to Speranza, freshers’ orientation etc. So all of these will be made mandatory for reps.
Q9: Besides what we’ve talked about, do you have any big new initiatives in the works right now? Anything you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes, one of the big initiatives we’re working on right now is research mentorship, which will include PG students as well. In foreign universities, it’s common for PG and UG students to discuss research topics and collaborate with each other. So to facilitate this kind of communication, we are going to create a research mentorship program this year. Though such a scheme has been proposed by incoming G-Secs for the past two years, it has not yet been implemented, so we will shortly be submitting a proposal to the administration regarding this.
It’s clear even from a short conversation that Aayush is greatly concerned with the mental health and welfare of IITD’s students. His agenda emphasizes the need for better counselling and openness in speaking about mental health. He has also been closely involved in making the BSW’s online interactions more impactful and publicized. Moreover, he has several ideas for making the board’s mentorship programs more efficient and accountable.
1. This G-Sec’s recognition of the persistent issue of mental health on campus is admirable, and it’s heartening to hear a systematic plan for tackling this problem.
2. Concrete understanding of counselling processes and requirements is displayed. Planning for the latter part of the tenure - which will be offline - is also evident. However, one still wonders about the efficiency in creating an entire portal to fulfil what seems to be a trivial function.
3. There is distinct passion in this G-Sec regarding the possibilities of alumni sessions to help the students of IITD. One definitely feels optimistic about this idea, although it has to be noted that the initiative’s success in garnering interest remains to be seen.
4. It was a novel and wonderful experience to ask an incoming G-Sec how they plan to implement an idea and be told that it has already been done to the fullest. There is obviously ambition for the BSW’s website in this G-Sec, and also awareness of the scope for improvement.
5. The model for the fresher's orientation is a sound and doable idea which is certain to smoothen the way of many incoming freshers and make the burden of joining college online a little easier.
6. Although the method of outreach was described at length, one is still left unsure as to how the BSW planned to connect with the freshers personally and make them interested in participating in Speranza.
7. The feedback system is a mechanism which is fundamental to the working of any organisation if low-level in complexity. This G-Sec is clearly concerned with efficiency, though one wonders whether undue credit has been taken for modifying an existing system.
8. The creation of mandatory duties for BSW reps is a simple step which will have solid benefits; its inclusion in the manifesto exhibits attention to detail.
9. It’s always interesting to see an initiative that aims to wed the UG and PG halves of IIT Delhi, and the aforementioned program is especially interesting because of its research angle. If pulled off, it’ll certainly be laudable; all is up to the administration and proper implementation now.
Link to Manifesto:
Interview by Anoushka Barthakur