By many yardsticks, the 6th Student Government made history. It gave us our first female President, Priavi Joshi, who went on to appoint the highest number of women in the Cabinet, seven out of nine. It was elected using the new Swiss PR voting system, in the first two-day-long election that saw a five-year high voter turnout, over 80%, with the first woman Chief Election Officer, Amola Mehta, at the AUEC’s helm. It was also the first House to govern-in-exile, so to speak, due to the pandemic, and yet saw the highest recorded number of meetings held and votes cast, all without any resignations. On the eve of the AUEC Accountability Debate, here is an overview of its legacy:
The House took a stand on political issues…
The House took active part in the anti-CAA/NRC/NPR movement under the banner of Young Indian National Coordination Committee (YINCC). In the last week of February and beginning of March, the House arranged for transport to protest sites, and communicated with volunteers and PoCs to ensure the safety of the students who participated in protests. The SG also endorsed the nationwide protest against repression of dissenting voices, called ‘Sab Yaad Rakha Jayega’, organizing a protest on campus on 3rd June as well as sharing resources to help mobilize students to participate in simultaneous protests nationwide.
Notably, the environment ministry, Tarang, led a national-level student campaign against the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 with the support of more than 120 other university student unions and clubs, and over 30 law college student groups. Over its term, the 6th HoR also released statements of solidarity with the following causes:
- 24th April: the House condemned the arrests of the activists and journalists booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
- 14th June: the House, in collaboration with the North-East Collective and Ashoka University International Students’ Association (AUISA), sent out a statement in solidarity with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and protests against acts of systemic racism and police brutality across the world.
- 24th June: the House also sent out a petition for signatories to demand justice against the acts of police brutality in Tamil Nadu.
- 15th September: the House issued a statement of solidarity condemning the arrest of activist Umar Khalid under the UAPA.
…fought to prevent and reduce gendered violence…
The Student Government co-signed the Feminist Collective’s statement demanding accountability from the university as Professor Mitul Baruah was going to be a part of the YSP and summer semester. The professor ended up not teaching in YSP, after several meetings with VC Sarkar and Professor Baviskar.
On 5th October, the House sent out a list of petitions and statement of solidarity condemning the acts of violence against Dalit women in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The Ministry of Academic Affairs also succeeded in its endeavour to have NoCs (no objection certificates) from CASH and ARC incorporated in the process of appointing Peer Tutors.
The CASH Policy Research division of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs launched a campus-wide Sexual Harassment Climate Survey, to assess the prevalence, incidence, perceptions, and characteristics of sexual harassment on campus. The survey, which had IRB approval, is the fruit of two years of laboring research and consultation by the team. Its results will be analysed to help shape the university’s policies to tackle sexual harassment.
…militated for the welfare of contractual staff…
In the spring, the House stressed that the support staff should still be paid their salaries and that safe and hygienic conditions must maintained. Furthermore, they looked to it that staff members were allotted classrooms for accommodation and allowed to avail free meals and health services. After the coerced resignation of two staff members of the laundry department, arrangements for their return on 31st August were made with the SG contributing Rs 10,000, half of the cost of their transport. The SG also ensured that they received their full salary.
Following the email sent out to the student body on 30th July that detailed the issue of coerced resignations, the Ministry of Community Well-Being, along with the House and the Democracy Collective, mobilised students to mass email the administration. The trio also organised a fundraiser for the workers who were laid off or facing financial difficulties, raising more than Rs. 4 lakhs. Furthermore, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, in collaboration with The Comic Relief, organised the roast of the 5th SG, raising a sum of Rs. 15350 for their fund. Ultimately, the SG negotiated a reversal of all coerced resignations and workers were brought back to work on a 15-day rotational basis.
…strived to make Ashoka more equitable…
Following the extension of the lockdown at the end of March, the House met with the Vice-Chancellor and ensured that all students on exceptional financial aid who were travelling back home got their tickets reimbursed. In addition to this, students who could not return in time were permitted to stay on campus. Addressing the matter of partial fee refunds for residence and mess fees for the semester, the House negotiated for a portion of the fees being carried forward to the next semester.
In the summer, the House pushed for cancellation of fines for late fee payment, in response to the late communication of the VC stating that aid will be applicable starting Summer 2020 rather than Monsoon 2020. The Pro-VC agreed to cancel all the late fee payments on 24th July, and the SG’s request for a delay in the deadline to apply for aid was considered for exceptional circumstances. Furthermore, the House pushed for staggered payment of fees for students whose financial situation has been impacted by the pandemic. The Pro-VC agreed to allow, on a case-by-case basis, payment of the fees in upto five instalments for students who requested it.
The Ministry of Academic Affairs also had some its representatives participate in the Academic Bridge Programme as Academic Mentors this year.
…pushed for reforms in academic policies…
Some of the most notable achievements in academics include the following:
- Implementation of the optional Pass/No Record policy for Spring 2020 and the Pass/Fail policy from Monsoon 2020 onwards.
- Increased course caps for UG22 Sociology students by 5 and increased the number of electives cross-listed by the department.
- Implementation of academic accommodations such as the extension of deadlines for converting Credit to Audit and Withdraw (“W”) extension for online semesters.
- Pushing for a more spaced out examination schedule, which resulted in several departments modifying their timetables.
The Ministry of Academic Affairs also curated a list of academic resources on its new website, which also contained information on how to book virtual appointments with the CWC. The Resources Department launched an e-Resources Spotlight, bringing to the student body key resources helpful for specific departments. To aid those students who left most of their resources on campus, a Google Drive folder was created in which students could upload any notes that they had. Tutorial videos on how to navigate the LMS and Ashoka’s library portals were also created.
…made the newest batch feel more welcome…
As the first Ashokan batch who began their university journey online, the House organised the Cohort Leadership Program during O-week, conducting selection and training. The House put in place a screening process for House members, ending an unknown practice in the last two years of making House members cohort leaders without screening. This year, House members were screened by a panel of ex-House members who were also former cohort leaders. Other events include:
- The environment ministry, Tarang, organised a sustainability lecture during O-week.
- The Ministry of Community Well-Being conducted a Mandatory Sexual Health/Hygiene Workshop for the batch, in collaboration with CSGS.
- The Ministry of Academic Affairs, to make up for the absence of ICTs, created citation tutorial videos and, along with the CWC and UWP, conducted academic writing workshops. They also organised an academic societies fair as well as helpdesk with AAB during O-week.
- The cultural ministry, Jazbaa, collaborated with Counter Culture to hold an online freshers event on 27th September, and with The Intersection, to create a memento book to aid in the process of the incoming batch getting acquainted with the physical spaces of the Ashoka campus.
- The Sports Ministry introduced the first-ever Sports Expo in O-week, with separate sessions for people to attend & get to know each sports team and discover what interests them. It also organised a Sports Evening in the extended O-week, which included the virtual Ashoka Run, in collaboration with Ashokraft.
…contended with an online college experience…
Early in the year, the security of the process to join the UG Facebook group was automated by the Technology Ministry. Meeting with the CASH, CADI and ARC student representatives, members of the House discussed community guidelines for the group. Post the events of doxxing of Ashokan Students on various social media platforms, the House temporarily disabled the group and subsequently removed all members from it. Following open house meetings with the student body, the house decided to retain the existing UG facebook group and agreed on not removing alumni from it. The house formalised the procedure for appointing moderators for the Facebook group and approved official Community Guidelines.
The Campus Life Ministry also sent out an email and circulated a form that collated the responses of students who were in need of returning to campus due to their current circumstances. Furthermore, these responses were shared with the VC and Registrar to be shortlisted by them. The ministry also pushed to raise the deadline given to the women from the ASP 2020 batch to clear out their rooms from two weeks to a month.
…and fostered a fighting community spirit.
The cultural ministry, Jazbaa, organised a virtual senior week as well as a summer ball on Ashokraft with a R3spawn livestream. They collaborated with Alma Mater to roll out official Ashoka hoodies, and also completed the first-ever online Jashn-e-Jazbaa, ensuring smooth passage of events with clubs being able to market well.
The Ministry of Community Well-Beng organised an event with therapeutic dogs, gatekeeper training sessions, support groups, and screenings. They collaborated with the Office of Learning Supports for a session on remote learning, and with Neev to help the children engage with issues of mental health by producing videos. They also regularly publish the S(Well)-Being newsletter.
The environment ministry was involved in organising Dungeons and Dragonflies with Eestho, nature photography with Caperture, conversation circles, articles, film screenings, an online thrift store with Ashoka Thrift, and a student environmentalist platform, among other things.
The Sports Ministry formed a chess club that held several tournaments, formed a track & field team for the very first time, and held a webinar with some of India’s most experienced athletes. Look out for the launch of our new, updated, dynamic mascot and get their merchandise, which will be available this weekend onwards, in collaboration with the Ashoka Store.
– Reporting contributed by Kalyani Garud and Deep Vakil