April, 2016

An introduction to the Undergraduate Student Government

By Kaagni Harekal

The undergraduate student government at Ashoka University has been envisioned as a liaison between the student body and the administration. Simultaneously, it acts as a catalyst for student initiatives and interactions on campus. The undergraduates follow a parliamentary structure, wherein candidates can contest either as individuals or members of political parties. Fifteen members are elected to form the House of Representatives (HoR). The HoR then elects a President, who forms the cabinet. The cabinet or the executive body is known as the student government.

The aim of the student government is to increase student participation in administrative decision-making and in building an enduring campus culture. The students and leadership team agree that a university cannot operate solely on a ‘consumer model’. It is more than a simple relationship in which the students pay a fee, receive basic services, and leave. It is the responsibility of the entire Ashoka community, including students, to actively participate in shaping the University experience. The HoR facilitates a healthy dialogue between the administration and the students as well as among the students themselves. The long term vision of such a structure is to form strong partnerships with student organisations of other universities, increase interaction among various groups on campus, and strengthen our networks through constant communication with other stakeholders in the Ashoka experience, such as the YIF Alumni Association and the faculty.  By working in coordination with clubs and societies, the government has to ensure that each student finds his or her place in the Ashoka community.

Student Givernmentres

Bottom Row[L-R]: KC Sachin, McPherlain, Samridh Middle Row[L-R]: Manasi, Kaagni, Sanat, Manjari, Shivani Top Row[L-R]: Chirag. Apuroop, Shreyas, Zoheb, Jibraan, Harish

In the university’s first year in 2014, elections were held on campus post the drafting of the Constitution by the first Constituent Assembly, which comprised students from several indigenous political parties. Throughout this process, the students were advised and mentored by Gilles Vernier, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University.  The Office of Undergraduate Programmes and the Office of Student Life played a crucial part in organising the first HoR elections. Paras Bhattrai, a second year student, designed the electronic voting system, ensuring free and fair elections in both years. The first HoR was elected in 2015, and consisted of 15 members from the founding batch of undergraduates. The second House of Representatives has 15 members, from 4 different political parties.

Several members hold specific portfolios and form the Cabinet under the aegis of the President. These members undertake department-specific projects to address pertinent student issues to make Ashoka a safe and thriving space. The House of Representatives meets regularly to debate and discuss issues on campus and initiate reforms. The House aims to be a forum where contrasting views from the student body can be presented and discussed and multiple opinions can be voiced. The current HoR is also working on constitutional reforms, coordinating with different bodies on campus, and setting up an online portal where students can submit e-petitions and complaints anonymously. Accountability is key for the functioning of such a body, and we believe that the students must be kept informed of any decisions taken.

In the past two months, the government has performed a variety of functions. These include proposing student spaces in the upcoming building, coordinating with YIF committees, organising sports and cultural events, looking into the condition of workers on campus, running campaigns for water conservation, collecting and collating student feedback on courses, putting forward student suggestions for library books, and proposing modifications to residence life and academic policies. A major target that this year’s government wishes to achieve is to create work opportunities for students on campus. For instance, the government is currently seeking proposals for running the residence documentation centre as a student start-up. Not only will this give students additional managerial experience, but they can also benefit from services that are more accessible and creative.

President Sanat Sogani concludes, “Ashoka is a safe space to make mistakes and we want to make the most of it.”

You may contact the student government directly by writing to sg@ashoka.edu.in.

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