“No plans of cutting down socio-cultural events”: New MIT Director
A change in Manipal Institute of Technology’s (MIT) directorship saw Srikanth Rao D., earlier Director of Admissions at Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) take over the premier position in the administration of the college from Dr. G K Prabhu.
The Manipal Journal met with the new director for an exclusive session of decoding future plans and debunking hear-say surrounding the change in stewardship:
The Kamath Circle (KC) played a very important role in the socio-cultural life of students and was critical to both leisure and creativity. Do you think the new Student Plaza will have the same impact, and will there be space provided for MIT clubs to function?
I think it’s a very pertinent question. KC has a lot of nostalgia attached to it. When I joined MIT, which is way back in 1979 as a student, KC was the place where every activity happened. There is a nostalgic value attached to it, and I am aware of it.
But then, time requires change. When Manipal was just a barren hilltop there was nothing here, but Dr TMA Pai came and started some activities and built a community around this town. Thus, with time change is required.
Now, the student population is so huge that re-organization is required, and based on that the student plaza was planned. The best of architects have worked on it, and it will include essential shops and several other things including a rain fountain. In the future, there are plans to extend the academic area up till student plaza, and the other side will be the hostels, making the plaza the center point that divides the academic and residential areas. But that is a very long-term plan.
The previous director was very proactive when it came to encouraging the socio-cultural endeavors of MITians, and Yakshagana was added as an elective into the curriculum to reflect this emphasis on the importance of arts.
People believe that when there is a change in authority, there is a change in attitude which trickles down to every aspect of their life. There are a few fears and rumours of changes in cultural activities, like cut-downs in events and funding. Would you like to address these fears?
Absolutely! I am not new to the system. I was a student here and I am a campus boy. My father was working here as a professor so I have been born and brought up in Manipal, and am in touch with the system both academically and culturally.
I am not saying that there won’t be any change. As you said, there are different personalities and no two fingers are alike. There won’t be any change as such to the system as the plans for MIT 2020 is already laid out. Before G.K. Prabhu there was Dr. Vinod V Thomas, who brought along many changes to the academic life of the students which provided G.K. Prabhu a base to build on. Student activities were and are one such important part of the student’s life, and there won’t be drastic changes in them.
The primary focus should be academics, but taking up responsibilities and roles will help build them as executives, capable of getting things done. We can’t curb it (student activities) here because he might fail at the company level later on. MIT has no micromanagement of students.
When you say no micro-management, are you going to keep it as open it was previously under G K Prabhu?
Vinod Thomas, G K Prabhu and I, we are all alumni of MIT. We have a clear understanding of the system. The system is already built we must go by what’s going on.
There have been rumours that certain clubs which work in similar fields, like the various dance, drama and fashion clubs of MIT, might get clubbed together under singular official clubs.
MIT can have multiple clubs because the number (of students) is large, there will be no micromanagement from our side. If you have multiple its good, but can you organize a competition and encourage people who do well? Activities will not be restricted, the more the better as the numbers are large.
There were certain doubts that TechTatva would see more emphasis as compared to Revels from now on.
No, Revels won’t be affected in any way. When it all started, TechTatva was the premier event. In 2006, we thought ‘lets have technical events in one semester and cultural in the other’. Revels was there much earlier and today in terms of activities and all it is much larger than TechTatva. If you ask me, I think they should be at the same level, and TechTatva needs a little more push in terms of its qualitative work. Maybe a growth in TechTatva is necessary, Revels is already doing good.
So the rumours of cut off in the number of events in Revels should be laid to rest?
Yes, no such plans. These things are left to the student council. The student council manages additions or subtractions to the events. I do give my advice, like when I said that it doesn’t make sense to have two events which serve the same purpose. For example, one event is ‘Antakshri’ and the other one in another name serves the same purpose. So, I am talking about incremental changes here that will make the event more attractive and fair. Every club will have all their events; only thing is if they call me to come see their presentations, I will give my comments on it.
How independent is the Student Council in this regard?
The student council is given a budget and they can spend that as they like. But they are answerable to the students of MIT. They accordingly plan and ensure that it pleases the majority of the students and the student bodies. If they ask for our help or comment we will help them out.
There were rumours of MIT changing it’s well known ‘liberal’ approach with events and clubs for fashion shows in particular. Is there going to be any change in that?
Whatever is the current scenario and what is reflecting the current scenario, we need to maintain it. Why tamper with reality? The only thing is we need to bring the right judges, if it’s a competition and let the best team win. There should be transparency. Get people to participate and let the evaluation be transparent. MIT does it royally, let them do it that way.
Women’s safety has for long been a prevalent issue and has garnered a lot of attention over the past year. A list was disclosed last year with names of academicians in powerful position suspected of abusing their authority. Does MIT have any plans implemented or plans to implement regarding women safety and giving them a platform to openly talk about thing like these? Any plans to further sensitize the campus?
MIT has close to around 35% girls and it is a residential campus. We also have female faculty members and non-teaching staff. To talk of safety, we have to talk of external as well as internal safety. Regarding external safety, we have a chief security officer and strategies designed to protect the campus. It is a closed campus, thus people coming in and causing issues is difficult.
Internally, we are very sensitive about men in authority misusing their powers whether at department, institute or university level. We also have a sexual harassment committee as part of the general regulations, and every institution in the campus has it. Within the academic space, every professor or head of department or anyone is answerable equally. The penalty is harsh and the platform is available. No kind of abuse will be tolerated.
The previous director talked about making the student plaza dominantly attuned to cashless transactions. Any changes in this regard? What is the timeline we are looking at for the Student Plaza to open?
Cashless transactions will be there as it would minimize the hassle of cash. But there won’t be any mandatory aspect to it as the student can choose whichever method of payment he is more comfortable with.
The whole timeline of the Plaza opening is a big question mark. I am not sure but hopefully, before Revels or in March. There is no clear timeline as such, but this outgoing batch will get to see it. Also, NCC will be getting a shooting range and campsite, behind the 10th block. There are also plans for a Tech shop near the innovation center, in the space behind the old NCC office; a place for clubs like Formula Manipal etc. A Centre of Excellence by K.E.F. will be coming up soon too, by March this year.
With inputs from Soumyajit Saha.
Edited by Soumyajit Saha
Featured image courtesy: Baisil Kunjumon