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In the context of issues plaguing the Training and Placement section, more than 300 students consisting primarily of final-year and pre-final-year students gathered in front of the administration building at 5 p.m. on August 23rd for a peaceful protest.
The protest was the culmination of weeks of futile discussions by the TnP Associates (abbreviated to PA or Placement Associates) with the TnP team and college administration, several close calls with cancellations of recruitment drives of reputed companies, inability of students to sit for companies due to delay in upgradation of CGPA by exam department, publication of Facebook posts from current students and previous PAs highlighting their warnings and grievances, and with a final failed meeting with the Director in the afternoon, the call for protest was made. The message was circulated through various Whatsapp groups, though the exact origin of the message couldn’t be accurately pinpointed. We at NMC, conversed with the Placement Associates to understand what really went down on the evening of the protest and the days leading up to this momentous event.
NITW is no stranger to student protests, both violent and peaceful; and one against the draconian rules of the TnP section was not the first of its kind. A protest took place last year for similar reasons. One of the PAs had made it clear that the protest was never a usable option in their plan of action.
“We initially met the Director, and were called for a meeting in the afternoon on the day of the protest to listen to the solutions decided by the panel of Deans and other senior professors.” said the PA. “The meeting was mainly focussed at conveying a supposedly beneficial ‘solution’ to us than actually listening to the student coordinators. Despite our refusal to accept any proposed solution, we were asked to leave and told the ‘solutions’ would be implemented soon. Only after the students gathered in the evening, were we taken seriously by the panel and our points were given due consideration.”
The Demands Proposed
The main demands of the protest were removal of the Superset software and provision of increased autonomy and authority to the Placement Associates.
Superset in its own words, “is a platform that enables colleges to automate campus placements end-to-end…” As of 2019 Superset boasts an expansive clientele of 115 colleges and over 350+ registered companies, including BITS Pilani, SRM University, IIT Delhi etc. Then why did such a successful startup fail to take off in NITW?
“In order to invite companies, we had to give the details to the TnP faculty coordinator and only then the mails would be sent via Superset. This process was laborious and ineffective. The initial solution proposed in the afternoon meeting was appointment of three additional faculty coordinators. To invite or respond to a company, each time we’d have to meet the faculty coordinator at an hour convenient to them and then send the mails. We did not agree to this proposal because of the obvious delay in invitations that this system would create,” the PA explained when questioned regarding the pros and cons of Superset. “There were also problems such as incorporation of last-minute criteria changes in job profile etc. Our initial demand of complete access to Superset was denied because admin level access will allow students to change profile details such as CGPA, tenth and twelfth percentages etc. and hence we changed our demand instead to complete removal of Superset.”
The PA further elaborated, “Superset could have been useful to use on the student end if it didn’t have all these issues. It was also frustrating for HRs of companies to fill the profile on Superset compared to the earlier system of Campus Placement Notification Form (CPNF).”
Student Placement Coordinators/Associates were previously selected before the closure of the pre-final academic year. However, in 2019 batch, the list of names were finalized at the beginning in August, with not enough time for PAs to be properly trained to work with the usage of Superset and other lengthy responsibilities.
The second demand was higher autonomy to PAs. The need for this arose when this previously unrestricted authority to Placement Coordinators was taken away last year (Placement Coordinators were replaced with Placement Associates to further cement this removal of power). “We weren’t allowed to contact HRs to fix dates or barter for changes in eligibility criteria, and had to wait till our faculty coordinator did it, which was time-consuming. Our demand was to return to the status quo of previous years. NITW was having amazing placements with the old system. We failed to understand why a perfectly effective system was being changed, when there are other things in college that can be improved instead,” said the PA.
The reasons for removal of this autonomy included complaints of manipulation by the previous years’ TnP teams. Predictably, this demand was met with resistance by the Director and the rest of the panel.
Timeline of The Protest
“Once the students had gathered; we presented our demands along with few student council members to the panel. Initially we were reprimanded and falsely blamed for riling up the students. This was followed by discussions with the panel where we elaborated on our reasons for the multiple demands we put forth.” The PA reiterated on the change in the demeanour of the Director and the panel post the afternoon meeting, when the students had gathered below and were protesting in earnest as on unit, in solidarity with the PAs.
“Whenever the noise would get out of control, the discussion would be paused and we’d be sent down to ask the students to maintain decorum. This usually gave the professors time to mull over our demands. This whole cycle of discussions kept going until our demands were finally accepted by the panel of professors.”
Ultimately, the demands of the PAs representing the student community were accepted by the panel at around 8:30 p.m. after multiple rounds of discussion, and the protest was called off when they announced that all the demands had been accepted.
The protest resulted in the removal of Superset and return to the usage of good ol’ Google forms for this year. The second demand of increased autonomy and subsequent authority to the PAs with regards to communicational dealings with companies was also accepted. As part of the quid pro quo for accepting the demands, the PAs had to provide an undertaking on behalf of the students that the CGPAs will not be manipulated and no student would indulge in malpractices.
On a concluding note, the PAs further added, “The entire protest could have been avoided if students had been consulted in the previous academic year itself. But instead decisions were taken unilaterally and our placements were put in jeopardy.”
The PA also observed, “Also, it has been a general trend in college to reduce student autonomy; for example, changing the title from Placement Coordinator to Placement Associate, removing the post of President and appointing secretaries instead. They’re just words and titles but they make a huge difference in the way we’re treated when we speak to the Administration.”
With the end of this saga, it is now in the hands of the Placement Coordinators who have fought so hard, to prove to history and future generations that their fight to retain the old system, which boasted impressive placement statistics, was the right one; as this year’s placement statistics will determine whether NITW can finally join back in the top tiers using the old mechanisms of students power that have long coloured its rich history.