Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Tell us something about yourself.
I am Kartik Raj Khandelwal. I am the General Secretary of the Student Affairs Council, SAC. I am a fourth-year Chemical Engineering student, and I am from Shivalik Hostel.
What was your first impression of the real IITD, the one you witnessed when you first came on campus? How was it different from the online IITD?
When I first came to IITD in 2019 after taking a drop in Kota, I was pretty much in the mindset that I had done three years of hard work. Now I will just go out there, meet new people, do new activities and, you know, be all machau, the best I can be.
But the journey was not like that when I came to IITD. I was just overwhelmed by the smartness of the people around me. People around me were doing so many good things — and great things, actually — and it was difficult to cope with all that; it was difficult to match their level.
I (laughs) wasn’t particularly good at anything; I always asked my mentor which club I should join and which society in IITD is The [Famous] One…, but he said to just explore. And I believe that’s good advice — you try out different things and just find your favorite. You start by taking, let’s say, five things in the first year, and you ultimately converge to one or two in the second or third year.
It was different for me when I came back to campus after two years of COVID because, in those years, I had got time to work on myself. The team at Enactus was very supportive. I also got the opportunity to be a representative of Spic Macay, which helped me connect with the hostel students. I could take charge and be a leader, which instilled the confidence I lacked in my first year. I was not very proactive in various aspects in the first year, which changed after COVID.
Different people might have had different experiences with COVID. The good thing that happened to me was the confidence I got by working on myself. The journey from being Spic Macay representative to leading the SAC team could only occur because of the time I spent on myself during the lockdown. I got over the inhibitions I had. So that was how the campus was different for me; my approach overall and my mindset were different when I came back to campus.
Can you tell us about your experience as a Point of Contact between SAC and the IITD Alumni Association?
My journey with the IITD Alumni Association started very early in my tenure as a SAC secretary. I was their single PoC from SAC for various events they hoped to conduct throughout the year. I associated with them because I saw true potential in how they can help the student community and the benefit we could get from them.
My experience was, in a single word, great. I met alumni from 1970s and 1960s batches and alumni who had recently graduated two to three years back. I got to interact with them, learn their perspective, and know their ideas about how we can benefit the students.
One of the ideas, which is also mentioned in my manifesto, is launching a mentorship program for PG students. It was an idea given to me by an alumnus. He said PG students need guidance, and the alumni can help them given their plethora of opportunities.
It was great interacting with these alumni and also because of the events that we conducted. So we had an alumni fest which was conducted in hybrid mode in Dogra Hall around November-December. It was a completely new and different experience for me since I was organizing and managing the team single-handedly. I had to coordinate with the Gsecs and club secretaries to organize the event. If anything went wrong, I was the one held responsible.
And one thing actually did go wrong. We had this hostel-level alumni interaction, but due to some reason, the alumni did not show up. Everyone was asking, “Kartik, alumni kahan hai? Koi bhi nahin aaya….” I am calling people [to ask them to] join the meet for some time, meet the students, but… yeah.
It was a hell of a ride, to be honest. But in the final day event, which was supposed to be BRCA performances, a thousand people were watching the live stream. (Nods) That experience was very good for me.
What has your journey with SAC been like till now? Any highlights you would like to share?
SAC usually has a lot of work to do with BHM traditionally. But in the online setting, that was not the case. There were not many hostel-level, institute-level, or infrastructure-level initiatives to be planned. So we mainly focused on the technical side of projects — building portals through which we could help the student community.
The Project Portal is a research opportunity portal where professors will list down any project or research opportunity they have on the portal, and students can apply on it. Right now, the process is that you have to mail the professor for the opportunity, sit in an interview, and get the role. But not all students get the opportunities, and not all the opportunities are being presented to the students. To streamline that entire process, we were working on the research opportunity portal.
What we had to do was get adequate security for the portal. Since we are formalizing all these things, we cannot let students from other institutes log in or hack into the portal. So we had to get Kerberos integration for the portal, and that was a very difficult task.
Collaborating with CSC, getting those approvals, getting those permissions — it was a very long process. I had to come to campus specifically 2-3 times to talk to people at CSC to get approval. We had to bug them continuously to give the approval and speak with the Dean Academics and Dean Student Affairs. It took us about 3-4 months to get that Kerberos integration on the portal.
We are about to launch the Project Portal. We are getting professors on board and accumulating opportunities on the portal. Even after the integration, there were many technical glitches, but now we are ready to launch the portal. In a couple of months, we can see the portal working.
How does SAC play a role in integrating the PG students on campus? What are some PG initiatives that we can expect?
The number of PG students on campus is more than the number of UG students. PG is very divided — there is Ph.D., M.Tech, MSR, M.Des., MBA; so we also need to give adequate representation to them. That is SAC’s vision for this year — increasing the PG representation in SAC and eventually across all the boards. SAC also aims to get them involved in all the activities on campus, getting to know whatever issues they are facing and resolving them faster and quicker.
[One of] The PG initiatives that we are working on is getting water coolers and Wi-Fi in A-type Apartments, which is the married scholar apartments. Another PG initiative is launching two mentorship programs — one in collaboration with BSW. We are currently formalizing the structure of it; how we can launch institute mentors similar to UG student mentors.
We are also launching an Alumni mentorship program for PG students in collaboration with the Alumni Association. We currently have 200 mentors on board. We are trying to get highly-specific industry-wise mentors for these PG students because PG works on very specific topics. Mentors who have worked on those topics can help them in their field. So we are working on getting those mentors [and] mapping to get those highly-specific mentors to the students.
These are some of the initiatives, and whatever issues come up, we work on resolving them as well.
Your manifesto highlights an initiative to restructure counseling services and reduce their stigma. It also focuses primarily on the inclusion of diversity on the campus, bringing together people from all languages and ethnicity. Can you elaborate on your vision for the same?
We are all aware of the fact that there is discrimination happening in IIT Delhi against a lot of students. It might be by fellow students, workers, or anyone around here. So, my vision is to sensitize the entire IIT Delhi community, from students to workers to guards to professors. We need to make them aware of what is right and wrong. Last year, we collaborated with TiSS and IGES to do these sensitization sessions for all the PoR holders. But now, we plan to expand it to the entire IIT Delhi community.
We are going to allow inter-hostel movements really soon, and that will be into the rooms as well, and in the common areas, there will be 24 x 7 common room access. This is a big step for the IIT Delhi community. For that, we need to get everyone on board [and] remove the stigma around it. We need to ensure that we are doing enough sensitization sessions and imparting that knowledge that this is not something which is wrong. It’s right, and in the modern society where we are living in, we have to accept this and move ahead with this.
We are currently having a new division, “Diversity and Inclusion,” in BSW, so in that, we will expand the horizons. We will have more dimensions to that division of BSW. They will have collaboration with IGES and ICC for dealing with any sort of discrimination that the students might be facing. Be it any remark which an authority has passed, be it any remark by a fellow student… based on the kind of discrimination they have faced, they can report to the concerned authorities, and necessary action can be taken. So that is something which is being done currently.
Do alumni have a role to play in the working of SAC? If yes, how? If not, do the alumni-based initiatives aim to integrate the Alumni Body and the Student Body?
When you say alumni, they individually do not have any role to play in SAC activities. We, as SAC, want to be more inclusive of the Alumni bodies around the campus so as to strengthen the alumni-student bond and benefit from the prestigious alumni that we have. Secondly, there is going to be an Alumni board, which will be the seventh board. It will be included in SAC with the purpose of strengthening the relationship between alumni-student and planning more initiatives through which we can basically take the alumni’s help to benefit the students.
The lack of female/gender-neutral washrooms in the boys’ hostels is a notable concern addressed in your manifesto. How do you plan to implement the same?
This was something which I came to know about when I saw a female worker in my hostel. She was using the Staff washroom, but that was not in a very good state. Also, in the hostels, there are no washrooms for female students to use. If there are guests, they have to use the SAC washroom because, apart from that, there is no female washroom anywhere on this [boy’s hostels’] side of the campus. That is where the idea originated, and I dived deep into this problem.
So the thing is that, with the inter-hostel movement also starting, we need to have gender-neutral as well as female washrooms in all the hostels, and similarly male washrooms and gender-neutral washrooms in the female hostels as well. So our initial survey showed that apart from one or two hostels, there is a common washroom or a female washroom there, but no gender-neutral washroom as of now.
It is not structurally possible to construct new washrooms in all the hostels. So what we are thinking of is constructing a big setup somewhere between Aravali and Karakoram, the empty places wherever there is a possibility. We will be constructing two-three sets of big washrooms on the campus. Not necessarily that all might be done this year, but we are hoping to at least get done with one of such washrooms. It will have a gender-neutral washroom, a female washroom, and a male washroom. These will be PwD friendly as well. It will be the entire setup and be somewhere in that locality only. So if any guest is coming, or there are a lot of students on this side of the campus, it is highly convenient for them. This is a big issue for us right now.
Do you feel there is still a need for arranging collaborations with vendors like OYO for PG student accommodation, given that new hostels have been constructed on the campus, namely Saptagiri and Dronagiri?
There are 10,000 students in IITD right now. . From what I know — my figures might be a bit off — but around 6000-7000 students have accommodation right now. So a large chunk of people reside outside the campus, and IIT Delhi wants to help them in any capacity they can. [IIT Delhi] wants to ease their experience if they are living outside. They should have that relief that okay, IIT Delhi is there for us. We will be working on providing them security, the helpline numbers, and in whatever capacity we can.
Now talking about the collaboration with vendors like OYO, upon discussion with various authorities, I got to know that collaboration was not very successful, and none of the stakeholders were very happy about it. The services provided by the vendors were not on point. So right now, we have to devise a new method for such collaboration, which we are currently working on. But meanwhile, what we are trying to do is help all the PG students who are residing outside the campus with the necessary facilities.
First of all, right now, the onboarding process is still going on. So once that is complete when everybody is there, either settled outside the campus or on the campus, we will do surveys to figure out how IIT Delhi can help them — if they need security or cleaning services. Then we will figure out how the IIT Delhi community can help these students feel included on the campus at a hostel level. They are obviously very much a part of the institute. Still, at a hostel level, we can get them that sense of relief, that okay, IIT Delhi is doing something for us.
What are your vision and hopes for the SAC team this year?
My vision is currently highlighted in my manifesto. I want to make this campus more inclusive and more progressive in a lot of capacities. There is a lot of stigma around a lot of things. There are a lot of [cases of] people not being treated nicely. There is a lot of non-progressive behavior shown by students. My goal is to help improve that. That is my primary objective because I feel there is a lot of need in that area.
The second would be, as I also wrote in my manifesto, helping increase the alumni-student bond, getting whatever benefit we can from them, and making alumni more inclusive with the student community.
Lastly, if there is any other issue being highlighted to SAC or other student-specific issues, [I plan to] make the reporting process much easier for the students. They [should] know that they can talk to the SAC representative or some other concerned representative so that the problem can be resolved at a quicker pace. Once we get a problem, we take necessary and swift action for that. We are not stuck in administrative processes, getting delayed action, but acting very swiftly and quickly and helping students with whatever they are facing. Basically, a quicker resolution of the problems and an easier reporting process like this is something we want to get resolved.
And finally, I would like to clarify that Student Affairs Council and Student Activity Centre are different :)
Interview By : Unnati Goyal
Design By : Prisha Jain, Shivam Jhanwar