Saturday, April 10, 2010

Almost “Acad Secy”

I was sure that I won’t be getting into politics ever in my life. I was wrong! When in B-School you would never know what you will do. After joining B-School, I did many things which I never ever thought that I would be doing. One of them is contesting for the post of academic secretary.

At B-School you don’t learn avoiding risks because it is infeasible. You learn managing risks. The fundamental approach to manage risk is to anticipate it, and address it. Anticipating involves understanding the system you are handling and thinking of possible ways of going wrong in it. This is something similar to what software testers do, exploring the boundary cases, alternatives to break the system. Addressing is not a onetime exercise. It involves educating (regularly talking) all the stakeholders about the risks and use (for the lack of better word) them to manage the risk. This is exactly the job of academic secretary. The risks involved are related to the academics. Some of them are minimising danger grades, regularly talking to professors & students on various issues and last but not the least elective allocation (ensuring that all the students select the electives of their choice for the second year. This is the exercise that happens at the end of first year in more or less every B-school).

I was Class Representative (CR) of my section. Generally CRs are known as bakras (scapegoats) because they got to do all the mundane tasks for the class/section they represent. As usual, I delivered my responsibilities to the best of the satisfaction of my class mates and professors. To my surprise everyone liked me so much and called me “Super CR “ J

When the nominations for academic secretary were opened I didn’t care about it. Later my friends, section mates constantly compelled me to contest for the post. I gave a thought to it and decided to contest, for the sake of experience and of course a CV point :P.

I put the nomination. I did all the ground work required for the manifesto and campaign. I talked to senior academic secretary and understood the old elective allocation system and other major issues. I came up with a manifesto which (I should say) was average with no grand promises and radical systemic change. My plan was to first address the basic things like elective allocation, danger zones and ensure that there is STRONG communication channel between students and academic secretary. I always felt that 99% of the risks can be prevented if there is a proper communication channel.

After the display of manifesto to the student community the contestants are supposed to address the queries on their manifestos in an open forum. Before delivering the speech, there were lots of butterflies in my stomach. Once I started with my speech I don’t know from where I got the confidence I answered the questions posed by audience confidently. Some of the audience congratulated me for a good speech which gave me a lot of “feel good” sort of thing.

Ooh! The game started. I campaigned in almost all the hostels. I went door-to-door knocking, asking for votes. I was not aggressive, making statements like, “Dude! I know your vote is mine”. I tried to pitch myself based on my credentials talking about what are the duties of an academic secretary and how can I fulfil them! I attempted to create confidence in me ensuring that, “I am a sincere worker. You can get proof of it by asking anyone from my class how I performed my duties of CR. Please make a judicious decision in selecting your academic secretary”. Here there is a catch in my argument. I projected myself to be a good worker but also as the one who may not create magic. I adhered to the scope of the duties of academic secretary. I tried to manage the expectations conveying that something beyond this scope may not be really feasible.

The campaigning was a great networking experience. I knew only 70% of my batch. Now I know 95-98% of my batch. It doesn’t mean that the campaigning went on calm and smooth. Some of the students I met were really supportive. They welcomed me into their room, talked about many other issues. They showed a sense of trust in me. I was overwhelmed with joy at their simple indication of support. Some were neutral. I could make out nothing out of their response. May be they chose not to vote.

Now! It is the turn of the ones who took lot of my campaigning time. They are the ones who are very careful in doing anything including selecting their academic secretary. They screwed me up big time. They want me to change the entire educational system. They asked a lot of questions “Why is this like that? Why not like that? What the hell are you going to do about it?” Initially, I mumbled. I myself didn’t have answers for most of their questions. I calmed myself down and tried not to give “smart ass” answers. I said, “I don’t have much information about your questions but my plan is this”. To that I got response, “Dude! We are talking of survival and you are here giving us some crap”. I realized that this was going to end with both of us shouting at each other. So I tried to end the conversation saying, “Thanks for bringing this point out. I will make a note of this. As soon as I get elected I will come back to you. I hope you will give your 100% support in addressing these problems”. To this I got this surprising response, “You know XYZ. He is the real worker. He is the Mahatma. He is working for all these issues. He never wants to be a secretary to deliver his responsibility. Why can’t you do that? Why do you need to get elected to do this?” I was shocked! This guy was not willing to let me go. I desperately wanted to cut the conversation. I said,” I am here for campaigning as a potential candidate for secretary. Holding the post of secretary gives me autonomy to work on various issues although I have righteous intentions to straighten the system as a normal student. The issues you are talking about are critical, sensitive and generic whose spirit should not be spoiled by too many cooks working in isolation. The secretary has some duties. I am confident about performing them very well. Bringing radical changes is not something a secretary can do. No single person can do it. It needs a lot of planning and a dedicated team to work. I won’t promise that I can bring all these changes. As an academic secretary I can work in mobilizing a team under the leadership of your XYZ. Thank you. Convey my regards to XYZ. Bye.”

Thus my campaigning saga ended. Thanks to all those who helped me in my campaigning. I completed it to the best of my satisfaction.

The D-day arrived! Initially, the voting turn-out was poor but later the numbers increased. There was finally a decent turn-out of numbers. The very same day we gave farewell party to our seniors. I was enjoying the fare-well party. My senior got a call saying that I lost by a single vote. She conveyed the message in a positive tone saying, “Guys! Shadab became almost acad secy”. I felt surprised, oh shit and lot more. My friends tried to console me although I was not very disappointed. I thought that I will give a decent fight to my competitors but I never thought that I will be so close to the winning line. How does it matter? “Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander!”

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