Why is an Open House need of the hour?

Organising Protests, conducting class-boycotts, running social media campaigns –  in some way or the other, the KGP community is in a state of turbulence. Our Director could offer little relief with a series of unofficial statements about the administration’s approach to reopening campus but students are yet to receive a concrete plan. The student’s senate has urged the administration to conduct an Open House but no positive response is received yet. A few days back we contacted the Department Representatives(only a few from current and mostly from the previous academic year since a complete UG council hasn’t been formed this year) and requested them to contact the students from various batches of their department to document the problems faced by the students in an online semester, problems that are specific to a certain group of students.

We did so because in case the administration plans to call only a certain percentage of students back within the next few months, then specific problems of the specific groups should be known beforehand to plan the phases and group the students accordingly.

We have received crucial and extensive information from the Department Representatives that we have summarized and grouped together based on certain classifications. Based on these points we will request the administration for an Open House to discuss a plan with the objective of solving the most number of articulated problems.

Laboratory courses and computational infrastructure 

 In all the responses provided by the DRs, the most common and elaborated concern was that the students are missing their Practical Training. 

To cite a few examples- 

  • 3rd year UG students in EECE Dept. both the digital and analog communication lab have been postponed indefinitely, both of which are believed to have a lot of experimental subtleties one should know.
  • Students enrolled in the MSc course in GG Dept. claim that their field requires them to properly hone their skills in handling many types of equipment that they will be using in their future jobs or research. 
  • Students enrolled in UG and PG courses in Physics Dept. recently convinced their faculty to not conduct their labs through video demonstrations on the condition that they will be conducted in the next semester at any cost. So next semester they will have many labs pending(i.e 4 for the 3rd year UG batch), which if conducted online would be a huge loss. 
  • Students from the Architecture Department are supposed to build physical models in different courses and not just digital ones, which are also group assignments sometimes. These assignments are being waived off till now and if the next semester is online again it will just cut a larger void in their training.
  • A few students also shared concerns over the lack of computational resources saying that some of the projects that they are working on for some course or research require high-end GPUs and high memory RAM, the specifications available only on the workstations present in a few labs at IIT Kharagpur.

These are just some specific cases while the problem faced due to online conduction of labs is a generic problem for all the students across all the departments. 

Internet connectivity issues at home

It has been a well known concern since Autumn 2020 that many students, especially those living in rural areas, do not have an internet connection with proper speed and data limit to attend 6-8 classes and periodic tests smoothly. Colleges like IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi took initiatives(appeal by the IITB Director, IITB’s Donation Drive, IITD Director’s statement to press)  to help those students and it was also proposed by the student’s senate before the Autumn semester, but no initiative was taken by the administration even after 2 semesters. People have shared their plight and it gives immense pain to cite one such story. 

Waheed Ahmed Sheik, a UG student in Physics Dept., hails from Baramulla(Kashmir) where the socio-political conditions have led to very poor internet connectivity with even 2G bandwidth being a boon. There are jammers in the locality making the situation even worse. In this scenario, he is devoid of even a very basic college education that he has worked hard for most of his teenage years to make himself deserving of it. Quoting what the batch shared- “Waheed is one of the many students towards whom the institute has turned a blind eye”, we would urge the administration to consider their situation before forming a “concrete plan” studded with dates and numbers that might just mean nothing to students like Waheed. 

Summer Internships in KGP 

Every summer many students(mostly from 1st and 2nd year UG) stay back on the campus for more than a month during the summer vacations to either work with research groups or some faculty member on some project to get trained over the practical skills, teamwork and problem solving that they have always witnessed boosting their academic and career pace. Many of the 3rd year UG students tend to apply to research internship programs conducted by institutes like TIFR, IISc, RRI etc. which have been cancelled or are on hold this year due to Covid-19, so the aspirants are willing to intern in KGP. In light of this, the administration should plan to allow the project students on campus during the vacation period just like some IITs have already ensured.

Pending project work

The situation could be best explained by the specific case of the team that brought laurels to the institute from Smart India Hackathon(hardware) 2020. They had a half-built prototype before the pandemic and won the hackathon due to several fronts, gaining an opportunity to get incubated by the Government of India into a startup. But if the college doesn’t reopen before it is too late, they might have to abandon the entire project. 

The PG students from the Department of Geology and Geophysics claimed that in their final year for their dissertation/thesis work, they have extensive lab work is essential. That is true for many other students who will be doing their BTP or MTP from next semester onwards.

Similarly, there are many such teams and individuals working on some project that might be a great milestone in their career and potentially an impactful innovation too, but they require a physical presence in the campus to either work in the team or use the infrastructure or both. 

Offline conduction of CDC internship drive

Apart from the fact that it is not equally easy or difficult for all the students to prepare online, from the response of a DR and from various other sources, it has been reported several times that the competition goes drastically unfair and unethical due to acts of plagiarism during the written round of selections, that is always potentially a huge loss for the honest class of students applying for the position. 

Apart from these grievances, we hope that the administration understands that a college is much more than the sum of coursework taught to its students. Lack of peer interaction and a pause in the propagation of KGP’s famed culture threaten to shake the foundation of the success that IIT Kharagpur has enjoyed over the years. It cannot be denied that the rampant use of unfair means during exams not only dissuades people from studying but also poses a seemingly insurmountable challenge of fair evaluation. Also, the issues of deteriorating mental and physical well being are well documented; after more than a year of online lectures, these issues are only worsening.

We again emphasize that many of these issues are generic to many students though we have mentioned only those that seemed to demonstrate the plight better. We hope that the administration finds these points helpful, considers them seriously and discusses them in an Open House session as also requested by the students’ senate. 

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