Hostel 6: far from election (rules) and main gate

We are almost halfway through the autumn semester but Hostel 6 still does not have a General Secretary or a Hostel Council, student representatives crucial to the proper functioning of any hostel.

The current student elections of H6 are scheduled to be held on 14th September, Thursday. However, they are going to be conducted without a black box, manifestos and soapboxes. The rest of the election process (which includes the period for nomination, nomination withdrawal, the silent day, and the polling day) remains the same. Candidates had to file their nominations along with a Statement of Purpose but without a manifesto. This format has been adopted due to time constraints and delays in the formation of the council.

But why did it take so long to conduct these elections? And is this changed format a justified compromise for the normal election process?

This article talks about the timeline and the procedural changes implemented to the election process of Hostel 6 this time. In the latter half, Insight’s opinions on the same have been expressed.


In April of 2023, elections were going to be held for the position of General Secretary for Hostel 6. However, the candidature of contesting candidates was cancelled. The reasons for the same are not clear.

Then, in May 2023, another candidate stood for the position. His candidature was also cancelled. At this moment, we are inconclusive of the reasons for the same despite various rumours. He is also contesting in the current elections.

The election process for the council’s selection was supposed to start right after the beginning of the semester, when sophomores were inducted in the new hostels. However, it was delayed. The reason given by the Warden of H6, Prof. KS Mallikarjuna Rao, was: “At the start of the semester students were settling down. Hence we waited before starting the process”. He acknowledged that ideally, the process should have started by mid-August.

When asked why elections were being held instead of nominations, the Warden replied that he did not want to “micromanage hostel affairs and interfere in the election processes”; he wanted the decision of choosing council representatives to lie with the students. Now, the third time around, the elections for a General Secretary in H6 are being held without any manifestos and soapboxes.

The Warden stated that time constraints are the reason why these crucial steps of the election process were eliminated this time; he wanted to ensure that a council is formed before the Ganesh Utsava.

When asked about how accountability of student representatives could be ensured without manifestos, he was of the opinion that “accountability comes from one’s conscience, not from their manifestos. Many times, the elected representatives do not commit to these manifestos.” He suggested that after the process was complete, he or the students could ask the elected rep to draft a PoA and work on it in his tenure, thus having an equivalent of a manifesto.

A major change that has been made to the process for this current election is a revision of the eligibility criteria which now allows 3rd year students to compete for the post of Hostel General Secretary. According to the warden, there are fewer 4th year students left in the hostel which significantly reduces the pool of eligible candidates. Hence, this decision was taken after discussions with the Dean SA in light of the problems encountered with the H6 council election this year. The Warden expressed that this decision allows an equal opportunity to all senior residents of the hostel without imposing any age barrier; he also stated the example of 1st year hostel residents where first year students are council members, with the GSHA and/or ISHAs heading the council to provide assistance. As of now, this change is only effective for elections this year and may or may not continue next year.

Insight Opinions:

The tradeoff here is very simple to identify. It is between forming a council immediately and not having a council for a few more weeks, possibly further exacerbating issues which hostel residents currently might be facing. Insight is of the opinion that this delay is a worthwhile choice.

Elections procedures like framing a manifesto, participating in groundworks, black boxes and a soapbox have the following benefits:

  1. Manifesto
    • It helps residents understand and align with the issues being prioritised by the candidate. Additionally, it provides clear metrics to judge the performance of the GSec later on and question their work during the tenure.
    • Candidates are required to make an active and conscious effort to plan their tenure from the point of view of what will be best for the hostel residents. We believe this will help select the most representative candidate.
  2. Groundworks - Groundworks are the primary medium of information transfer from previous councils who have first-hand knowledge of managing hostel affairs.
    • This does not happen after elections since the elected GSec will be busy with council work. Even if they intend to do it post elections, it will delay council work and change their plans based on feasibility. The willingness of the candidate is not a sufficient driver of incentive, especially in a hostel where a candidate was rejected due to lack of groundworks.
    • It acts as a filtering process for candidates who are committed to the position. Manifesto preparation and research via groundworks require an investment of time and mental space. This acts as a test for their commitment required to carry out the duties of a position holder in a tenure.
    • The current mechanism of a statement of purpose is ineffective, because it does not take into account the previous tenure and does not ensure any concrete deliverables that the representative can be held accountable to.
  3. Blackbox - A Blackbox is a manifesto vetting process that the previous council conducts for the candidates before the soapbox.
    • They help determine the feasibility of various initiatives in the manifestos. Since previous council members have first hand experience, they can evaluate the feasibility effectively. In the absence of this, residents voting cannot ensure that all points in the manifesto can be implemented in the first place.
  4. Soapbox - The soapbox is an open platform where the candidate answers student queries.
    • This is a unique way to ensure public accountability since candidates will have to defend the choices they have made within the manifesto and their plan of action.

The absence of these factors has short-term and long-term harms. Having an unprepared representative for a hostel is detrimental since the autonomy that they have over decisions makes the effect of their influence on a student’s life very high.

There are examples of a few specific events that will clearly highlight this aspect:

  1. Maintenance
    • The tradeoff between dealing with bad maintenance for 15 extra days is worth considering when the outcome could be dealing with inadequate maintenance for the rest of the year.
    • Hostel maintenance teams are required to be proactive, know workarounds and rules and be very regular in their work. These aspects can’t be tested without understanding their plans for the tenure or the intricacies of the position that they hold (through groundworks).
  2. Mess Issues - There have been incidents reported of bad mess quality in the previous tenure in the hostel. While officials elected with proper procedure are not guaranteed to work in an adequate manner, it does allow students the opportunity to question them on what approach they will follow through the tenure to ensure past mistakes are not repeated. This has a large-scale impact on the populace given that students eat in messes every day.
  3. Cultural and Sports GCs/ events - With the GC season starting and the early phases ongoing, the 15-20 day trade-off of not having Cult-Cos and Sports-Cos will have a lesser impact than appointing ones that lack a plan of action for the tenure. GCs require meticulous efforts from councils for selections, practices and budget allocations.

We would like to highlight that the minimum number of days required for the completion of the entire process is not very high. Groundworks - 10 days, Nominations - 3 days, Blackbox - 1 day, Soapbox - 1 day, Polling - 1 day. This adds up to a total of 16 - 20 days as opposed to the 7 that the Hostel Council is currently utilising.

A potential reason behind rushing the process this time was to form a council before Ganesh Chaturthi. We understand that hostel councils play an important role in organising events for community bonding. However, for short term events, such as Ganesh Chaturthi, a temporary form could be floated to appoint a 3-4 membered planning committee just for the festival. We believe that a lot of members of the hostel share the sentiment to be able to contribute to the same. Compromising the quality of the election process that can have long term effects on the hostel’s functioning does not seem justified.

In conclusion, we believe that democratic processes must not be suspended, regardless of any circumstances. However, in exceptional cases, if such suspension becomes necessary, the residents of the hostel should, as a fundamental right, be informed of the reasons behind such a decision. It is imperative that they are given a clear understanding of why they are being asked to choose their G.Sec and hostel council outside the process laid down in the SAC constitution.

Despite that, the 15-20 days extra required to adhere to a well-structured procedure may be an inconvenience and might not even ensure accountability. However, this time investment is not a delay but a crucial phase in aiming to create a competent, representative, and accountable council. This could set a dangerous precedent for skipping due process in the following years and changing eligibility rules. The meticulous selection of council members ensures diversity of perspectives, the incorporation of residents' voices, and the ability to address various needs effectively.