Addressing the Inter IIT cultural meet fiasco
As IIT Delhi was participating at the 56th Inter IIT sports meet jointly hosted by IIT Bombay and IIT Gandhinagar, another drama was unfolding closer at home. 260-odd students were confused and left in a dilemma of whether they would be going to represent IIT Delhi at the 6th Inter IIT cultural meet or not, to be hosted by IIT Kharagpur from 26th to 29th of December, 2023.
We reached out to the stakeholders concerned and pieced together what exactly happened in the upper echelons of BRCA.
As per BRCA General Secretary, he was given confirmation of IIT Delhi’s participation in Inter IIT cultural meet by the administration on 28 October and tasked to book train tickets for the entire contingent by 10 November. The admin states that they have been prompt in sending out the audition forms the same day (4th November) as the structure and rules of the competitions were finalised by the host IIT. What was already an uphill task was made even more arduous by the limited time frame (26th to 29th is holiday season so tickets sell out quickly). Moreover, the administration had forbidden travelling in smaller groups citing that arriving in fragments doesn’t express solidarity as a contingent.
This was in contrast to what happened last year, where the contingent travelled in subgroups, which made it easier to arrange tickets. This restriction, combined with the small timeframe for bookings, made it nearly impossible to have a solution agreeable to all the stakeholders. The ADSE states that they had reached out to the BRCA requesting them to plan out the travel itinerary 50 days prior to the event. As per the General Secretary, he had to visit the IRCTC office several times to discuss possible arrangements but to no avail. Note that the idea of attaching additional coaches had not been discussed so far.
The administration immediately shot down the proposal to travel by bus due to safety concerns. As per our informant, it instead raised concerns about the contingent size. A smaller contingent would have significantly lowered the travel constraints. This proposal was rejected on grounds that it was impossible to cut down the size at such an advanced stage as preparations and practice were already in full swing. Moreover, the administration maintains that they have encouraged the students to participate by providing access to hostels for accommodation during winter break, providing venues for overnight practises and making sure that IIT Delhi is a part of the Inter IIT meetings for the cultural meet.
The administration states that a large and indecisive contingent made it difficult to book tickets after receiving confirmation from the host IIT. However, it seems like the idea of group tickets, although pointed out as a valid option by ADSE, was never entertained citing that the high premium or blocking a surplus number of tickets would be wasteful. The indecisiveness stems from the delay due to emphasis on transparency in the audition process for the contingent but how democratic BRCA clubs really are remains an unanswered question worth exploring.
This was when the BRCA GSec sent a text message on a Whatsapp group with different club secretaries, implying IIT Delhi might not be participating in Inter-IIT this year. It left several members of the contingent feeling disgruntled and frustrated towards what seemed like an administrative mismanagement. Some students, still on campus practising for various events, reluctantly booked tickets for home, wanting to spend what little vacation time they had left with their families instead. This was the situation last Tuesday before one of the contingent members took it upon themselves to figure out what was happening.
What it led to
After being informed of the possibility of cancellation of the cultural meet, one of the dramatics contingent members sent an email addressed to the director informing him about these developments. As told to BSP, he was informed to be present in a meeting that took place the following morning, i.e., December 13th at around 11 A.M., in the presence of the director, the Associate Dean (Student Events), the BRCA president, and the BRCA General Secretary.
After listening to the plight of the student, the director asked the Associate Dean (Student Events) to find out ways for the contingent to make it to the Inter IIT Cultural Meet.
According to what we have been told, the possibility of attaching extra coaches was explored only ten days before this meeting, and even then, the option to go in subgroups was frowned upon by the administration. The director assured the accommodation of students at IIT KGP who would reach on 21st and that travel arrangements by train would be made for 21st and 24th. Furthermore, the possibility of air travel was discussed as a backup for any remaining contingent members.
Our informant expressed a disconnect between the BRCA president and the General Secretary as their statements were not consistent with each other during the meeting. Our informant was informed of the hierarchy of administration by the Deans and how collective responsibility by the students, assisted by the structure of BRCA G. Secy. → Vice President BRCA → President BRCA → ADSE → Dean SA would have worked fine to avoid miscommunications. Much smoother BSA operations for the Inter IIT sports meet are an evidence of the same.
Officially, Inter IIT cultural and tech meets are not recognised the same as the Inter-IIT sports meet (i.e., as official meets by the IIT council). The Dean SA explained that this means that the host IIT has no formal responsibility towards the event. He points out that last year’s meet at IIT Madras was mismanaged and had no proper closing ceremony or report. This made it difficult for IIT Delhi to justify the discomfort caused to participating students, leave alone the costs incurred. Compared to other IITs, IIT Delhi’s lacklustre performance (students had informed the administration that most of it was due to lack of ownership by the management at host IIT) in last year’s meet and a lack of sense of solidarity may also be noted as important points to keep in mind.
There seems to be an internal lack of coordination and delegation within the BRCA student heads. We reached out to this year’s Inter IIT contingent leader, who dismissed their involvement in making travel arrangements. It seems absurd that only the General Secretary was actively involved in making the travel arrangements for a contingent of 260-odd students. This allegation is in alignment with what the administration believes is a case of lack of initiative and collective student responsibility. Why were the administrative and logistical tasks not divided among the student heads?
MENTAL DISTRESS BORNE BY THE STUDENTS
Several students had already been staying on campus for practice, and many were supposed to reach campus this week through already booked flights and trains as nobody had been previously informed of the possibility of cancellation of IIT Delhi’s participation. Several BRCA club secretaries began to discuss travelling at personal expense with their subgroups so all their efforts did not go in vain.
All this indecisiveness led to mental and physical distress for the students who have still been reeling from the strenuous exam season and several tragedies during the semester. This should strike as particularly ironical as the whole point of these events is to enable students to relax and de-stress.
Taken together, it seems like the hassle created around the Inter IIT cultural meet transpired due to poor communication and misunderstanding which was avoidable. At the end of the day, we are forced to ask why the student bodies are so ineffective in fulfilling basic student demands that highest administrative offices have to be called to resolve every such need?
Report by: Akshay Raj, Sahil Grover, Keshav Agarwal, and Abheek Gera
Edited by: Basil Labib