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What To Expect From Monsoon 2020: An Interview With The VC

Anjana Ashok, UG 22

Photograph Credits: Asiket Dhillon

With only a month left for the Monsoon semester to begin, The Edict sat down for a virtual conversation with the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Malabika Sarkar. The idea was to hear from the administration itself, the steps taken to meet and address student concerns. Following the mails sent by the administration, we have tried to give voice to the issues brought up by students, through this interview. Excerpts:

Q: What are the improvements being made to make the online teaching process smoother next semester?

VC- “We are actually hoping to get back to campus in October, although we cannot be sure. I have set up a committee to fine- tune and improve online teaching. They have also met students, you know, reps of each department, other students, students from the student government, etc. And of course, they have met faculty. A series of concrete steps will be taken, now that we know that half the monsoon semester is going to be online. We will go through a lot of trials during August to be ready before semester begins.”

Q: We would like to know if you have any kind of updates on what these improvements are?

VC- “They are meant to be completed at the end of this month. So, I don’t have any details as yet.”

Q: Since the first half of the semester is online, what accommodations will be made for those students who were facing issues at home last semester, such as an abusive environment or lack of resources?

VC- “As soon as I realized we were going to have half the semester online, my first move was to say that those students who could not participate in classes due to connectivity issues and issues at home must come back to campus. With the help of the OAA, Office of Student Affairs and the Student Government, we have collated a list of those who wrote to us last time, saying that this system was difficult for them. With the help of the Registrar, we are working on locating where the students are, and by which route they will return to Sonepat. Wherever necessary, we are paying for their travel. First, we bring them to somewhere near campus, early August into a safe place which belongs to Ashoka University, where they will be kept in isolation and quarantined for 14 days, after which they will move into campus. But we can’t bring too many students, because again, they have to stay in individual rooms, not in shared facilities, to still feel safe. By the first week of August, they will be on campus.”

Q: Will there be a provision for P/NR in the coming semester?

VC – “As of now, we haven’t thought that out, for the simple reason that, as part of our online teaching system, we are also rethinking online assessments. So, we are not looking at the P/NR immediately, but if it needs to be looked at, we’ll look at it.”

Q: In case the situation does not improve by 10th October, what is the alternative plan? Is there a plan for a hybrid system?

VC – “I don’t think we are going to that step, because we’re all very hopeful that we’ll be back in October. Top universities across the US and UK are going completely online. We have to ensure that every student is safe. We are going to review the situation and take a call sometime in September, but we are not taking a call on this before that.”

Q: What will the size of the incoming batch be? What are the steps taken to welcome the freshmen into the Ashokan Community?

VC- “The size of the incoming batch will roughly be the same as last time, because don’t forget I was planning for an on-campus semester and they have to fit into SH5. So we can’t have any larger numbers. But I have to say that this time around there have been a lot of excellent applications, many people who could not leave the country are now looking at Ashoka.

Elaborate planning for an online orientation and related events are in process, keeping in mind the fact that here are students who have not been to campus and will not be on campus till October- and yet, they must have a very deep sense of what Ashoka is all about. It’s a lot of planning that has begun and is going on, but we don’t have all the pieces in place yet.”

Q: What are steps taken to provide resources for ASP students who are doing their thesis or ISM? What are the research facilities provided to them and how is this process being made possible for them, especially lab researchers?

VC – “For those subjects where labs are required, the departments are altering their trajectory. Having more theory now, because students can’t come to campus, and more of the lab work later, when students do come back. There are also virtual lab programs that are available. So maybe a virtual lab in the early part, and the actual lab work has to be done when they are back on campus.”

Q: What about the arrangements for the graduating batch?

VC – “I have written a personal letter to each one of them. That’s the only compensation I could give them at this moment. However, I have promised them a convocation, and I’m staying with that promise. Let us hope that in the winter months, maybe early December, we will have an actual convocation. I would also like to have a senior week on campus, after the other students have gone home for the break, when there is space. The other part is in terms of placement. Our CDO is going to stay connected with students for much longer than other years to make sure that each and every student gets a placement.”

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