By HoDs and Members of the 3 departments
by Co-heads, Prakriti Chopra and Harshit Kumar
If our department were to join Tinder, its bio would read as follows: “If you’re looking for a connection, you needn’t look any further.” Before you cringe, we’ll have you know that we’re an enthusiastic, sticker-for-every-occasion bunch of humans — who utilize their arms to collectively form shapes on Google Meet after having wrapped up our work for the day. However, while you may see a poorly formed heart, we’d like to think that this heart reflects our dedication to deepening our connection with the world around us — particularly within the communities that we inhabit as students.
Mental Health is on every manifesto during every election. Well, with the expectations that this term brings it was essential for us to keep up with those expectations while keeping ourselves healthy throughout the term. We started working as a department during the pandemic itself where mental health was raising concerns of a different pandemic. Our first event as a department was a collective rant session owing to finals week (Spring’20). Recordings of which still crack us up. Following this, the department worked on a survey to understand student grievances/appreciation feedback involving the services of the ACWB. Over the course of the summer, we worked on analyzing the survey and subsequently pushing for our suggestions to be incorporated.
During Monsoon’20, Saturday nights we had our department meetings, and not going to lie, every time someone showed up late but compensated with efficiency and wholesomeness, no grudges were held. We started working on Peer Support Groups, Professional Support Groups, Gatekeeper Training Sessions with the help of ACWB and on (S)Well-Being Newsletter (with its first issue initiating from the mental health department). A big thanks to Dr.Arvinder and the ACWB for not just facilitating extremely important intra-university community engagement but for working with us and Neev to create emotional well-being awareness for the children living in Asawarpur. Eventually, we expanded our scope and for the first time, we created a space for Ashokans to engage with Animal Assisted Therapy through Therapeutic Paws — and we organized the comic making competition, both in collaboration with Team Pawsitive where our very own Prakriti came first. Oftentimes, our meeting would have special members like Juno (Prakriti’s pet dog) who would just divert everyone’s attention and then a low of “Awle(s)” and SIMP emoticons would follow.
In a nutshell, we had a productive term with the kind of initiatives the department could take up given the history and the kind of expectations that came with it. The future seems very uncertain just like the question “When we will go back to campus?” But, a ray of optimism — the audible conversation around mental health within the student body and the legacy we’ll leave behind for it to be heard on various frequencies.
INFIRMARY AND SEXUAL HEALTH
by Member, Harshit Kumar
The Infirmary and Sexual Health Department began its term with all its members. This adorably small department wasn’t expecting to just do it because its members had been sidetracked by Mz. (Co)Rona and miles away from the infirmary at Ashoka University. However, each of us was passionate — the Zoom squares were bursting with excitement. Soon enough, we rolled out the infirmary survey in order to understand the kind of grievances and/or issues that students were facing with regard to the services provided by the infirmary. With an exhaustive analysis of the results in hand, we pushed the administration with proposals. The mandatory sexual health and hygiene workshop and infrastructural changes were our primary focus. Later on, we moved to reimbursement and insurance policies, making information accessible. We are extremely grateful to Alankrita Anand (Ex-CSGS) and Sonal Jain (Boondh) for helping us on various occasions — workshops to newsletters.
As work took off, we brought in new members, and with them, an abundance of new ideas. During my time with the department, I was most surprised by the new thoughts, creative spirit, and passion that each member brought to meetings — be it Irtiza with her mind-boggling ideas for articles and interviews for the (S)Well-Being newsletter or Sharanya for social media posts. It was particularly heartwarming to see our inhouse first years — Aryaman and Qudsia take the lead on several occasions. The all-wise and astoundingly calm Gayatri would gently bring our focus back to the agenda at hand if the casual conversation left swept us all away while Bhavya — our Minister Sahiba — would be all smiles.
The booked 6:30 slot on my Google Calendar will be sorely missed — .as will the wholesome energy of every member of the department!
STAFF WELFARE AND HEALTH
by Co-Heads, Tanvi Krishnakumar and Sanjay Sudarsan
It has been a difficult year for almost everyone. However, the less privilege that an individual is ascribed or has access to, the more difficult the year becomes. This holds particularly true for our support staff at Ashoka University.
The support staff at Ashoka has been adversely impacted by the myriad of difficulties the pandemic has brought in its train. In our individual capacity as students and collectively as a department, we have been grappling with these difficulties in our attempt to establish how the support staff’s needs can best be met. While we were an SOS call away, raising funds within hours, verifying conditions, being alert and approachable we came up against several obstacles in our earnest endeavor. How can we mobilize and organize a student body that is separated from the support staff and each other? How can we sustain action when communicating effectively becomes a pertinent concern?
To be honest, our contributions compared to workers’ plight, do not align. There is a lot more that could have been done in order to reduce the negative consequences of the pandemic on the support staff at Ashoka University, from both, the administration’s end and the student body’s end. What we have learned in the process, however, is the increasing need for convergence. During difficult times such as these, we cannot hope to effect substantial change without the concerted efforts of multiple individuals and groups. In fact, it is a convergence that has enabled our department to ensure that workers get, at the very least, an evening on which they are thanked and valued for keeping Ashoka afloat. A short token of our appreciation was delivered to the support staff with the extremely driven — Shweta Siddhu’s help and her dream team of volunteers who helped us organise an event on a very large scale! We collaborated with the administration and held a movie screening, served snacks and played games with over 300 staff members over 2 days. This brought with it smiles, tears, laughter and speeches by staff members — reflecting and discussing everything under the sun.
Speaking of reflection — with convergence as our inspiration, we hope that the following year will be utilized to invest in meaningful communication and collaboration as the key to sustainable action.