Pastoral Care and YIF Concerns: A Recap of the Proctors' Townhall
By Aliya Sheriff (YIF'23) and Sidharth Wagle (UG'25)
A Proctors' Townhall was conducted on 3rd November for the entire student body. The current proctors, Dr. Anup Padmanabhan, Dr. Anuradha Saha, and Dr. Rama Akondy, were present to cater to the students questions. The proctors, who were nominated on 6th December 2021, are nearing the end of their one year term at present. However, the audience was constituted by only nine students with no Student Government representatives present.
The Townhall commenced with Dr. Padmanabhan opening the floor to questions on the role of Proctors, feedback, and the issues that they could help tackle.
The first question was with regard to the ‘pastoral care’ that is delineated in the roles and responsibilities of the proctors. This phrase had generated backlash following the initial announcement of the proctor system. The professors were asked to specify its exact meaning and limitations but they simply reiterated their initial response regarding the issue. Further, Dr. Padmanabhan explained that pastoral care meant voluntary assistance, saying that if the students “won’t cry, [the proctors] won’t feed”. Dr. Rama Akondy repeatedly emphasized the negative connotation attached to the term and the proctors’ disagreement with the same. Essentially, the proctors would “intervene” to ensure processes occur “in a fair manner” and to “stop things from going out of hand”. This was followed by the proctors stating that they cannot define all situations and that care would be given to only those who ask.
The next student query was regarding how the grievance redressal process would work if a student had a grievance against, or felt a bias from one of the proctors. The proctors asserted that they operate independently of each other, and as such grievances against any one could be taken up with the other two.
Next, some issues faced by YIF students were brought up. However, given that YIF students don’t fall under the purview of the proctors, the proctors admitted unfamiliarity with the exact specifics of the program. This raises the question of why the proctor system has been restricted to just UG students as opposed to the larger student body.
Further, some students raised concerns about missing lunch due to restrictive class timings, coupled with the limited lunch hours. Multiple constructive solutions, such as paper meal plans and packaging, were brought up and discussed. Most of these solutions, however, entailed the student body directly approaching the administration, which raises questions about the role of proctors as points-of-contact between the admin and the student body. In an update, Dr. Anup informed the students that Ashoka administration was seriously considering adding another floor for the mess to reduce overcrowding.
Finally, when asked to specify the proctors’ disciplinary mandate, the professors clarified that the proctors would serve as a kind of “middle ground” and a neutral body “not under the influence of wardens or admin”, to ensure a fair procedure is followed in cases of differing perspectives between students and the relevant authority. However, later they also mentioned that if the case comes under either CASH or CADI, the proctors would have no capacity to intervene.
This townhall helped in raising questions such as why this system was required when the proctors have seemingly not needed to intervene since their inception, and why the details of the executive function of the proctorship are obscured by a vague, ‘handle-them-as-they-come’ policy. However, the practical effect of the implementation of the proctorship is yet to be seen- until then the above questions remain unanswered.