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  • Aneesh Sriram

First Years Council 2023-24: Finding representation for freshers

In an email dated November 1, 2023, the Vice President of the Student Government, Tamanna Parikh (UG’24), announced the creation of a ‘First Year’s Committee’ (FYC), a constitutionally mandated (Part IV, Chapter II, 35.) advisory body. It consists of seven representatives from the UG’ 27 batch chosen after “scrutinizing a wide pool of applicants”, the mail stated. The FYC intends to foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for first-year students.

Regarding the rationale behind forming the council, Tamanna said, “Annually, every Student Government takes office before the freshmen batch arrives, which can effectively isolate the batch from the SG. They must wait until the Spring semester to exercise their right to vote and therefore, get involved with the workings of the Student Government. The body has been added to the Governing Code by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) to prevent this from happening and ensure freshmen concerns and opinions are accounted for right from the start.” 

The SG email also states the committee will conduct weekly office hours. During these hours, first year students can schedule appointments to discuss various aspects of their lives at Ashoka with the committee members, thus opening channels of communication for the freshers with the SG and other batches. 

Furthermore, it was specified in the mail that the committee had planned to enhance its outreach by organizing a meet and greet event in the weeks following its establishment. “The body was not able to secure OSA’s (Office of Student Affairs) permission to use the venue desired for the event. Nonetheless, the FYC participated in the second SG open meeting where they met some freshmen. The Committee now plans to host an event soon after we get back on campus in the Spring Semester,” said Tamanna to the Edict.

Regarding the selection-appointment process, Tamanna said, “A 2-step process was followed for appointments. A Google Form was rolled out, asking several questions revolving around their vision for the Committee, feedback for the current SG and diversity. 60 candidates applied.” 

Following the selection, an interview was also conducted by the Vice President and Aditi Warrier (UG’24), the Speaker of the House. In this round, Tamanna said, “We prioritized diversity and difference in backgrounds in order to represent as many perspectives as possible. These members were also asked to submit a No Objections certificate (NOC) from the Registrar. The final list of names was sent to the House of Representatives (HoR) as an accountability measure too. HoR members were kept in the loop about the progress of inductions.”

Madiha Tariq (UG’27), a member of the incumbent council said, “Over the next two months, the committee met three times in person and participated in the open meeting organized by the Student Government before the semester's end in December. Since the committee works in the back-end as an advisory body, again, as per the Ashoka University Student Government (AUSG) Governing Code, most of the work done is ideally on a case-by-case basis.” 

Though the first years have placed a certain degree of trust on the AUSG, seen in previous reportages of The Edict, it still appears the UG’27s are not well acquainted with the workings of the Student Government or the FYC’s role within it.

Noor Sabharwal (UG’27) said, “ I remember receiving one email introducing the council but no further information on what they are doing or how they are engaging with the needs of first years”. 

Noor is still unclear on what the FYC does, as are several UG’27s she has conversed with. “From what I understand their work remains majorly undecided. So essentially I think there is a general lack of understanding of the purpose of the council,” she said 

Few individuals from the senior batches seem to have had any intimation of this body prior to the mail dated November 1, 2023. A student from the UG’25 batch, wishing to remain anonymous said, “Is the first year's council a part of the Student Government? I’ve heard bits and pieces about it, vaguely, but I have no tangible idea what it actually is.” 

Given the advisory nature of the FYC, input from the senior batches would provide a well-informed gateway for first-years into student politics. However, inter-batch communication seems to be low. 

Of course, the Student Government, under whose ambit the FYC falls, is a mixed-batch body.

However, a sense of general alienation extends to the Student Government as a whole, particularly among UG’27s. Noor says, of the newly released SG website, “I think the website is updated but lacks pictures, quotes, or anything that makes the names feel like voices and people.” 

As the first semester for the new batch concludes, two lingering questions arise. Firstly, considering the unprecedented size of the 2023 intake, were the newly appointed council members adequately provided with resources to effectively manage the influx of requests or demands from the new batch? Additionally, despite the advisory nature of the body,

Nevertheless, it seems elusive to place the first year’s council within the framework of the Student Government.

With the Committee currently in the process of formalizing the rules of procedure they have been following in order to set precedent for subsequent committees, it is crucial to note that the body cannot exist in isolation without interaction and inputs from the freshers and previous batches.

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