Admissions to one of India’s premier media institutes this year witnessed chaotic scenes with delayed interviews, ‘legal ragging’ and the director allegedly asking female students for hugs. Surya Ragunaathan investigates.
Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communications, Pune (SIMC) is one of India’s top destinations for students who aspire to become media professionals. But students who were shortlisted for admissions to SIMC this year allege the process was grossly mismanaged.
The admission process, scheduled from January 24-27 2008 invited over 1,000 students to the campus for the final round of group discussion, personal interview, peer interface and assignment submissions. However, students allege that interviews were delayed by more than 24 hours after their scheduled time. Students from outside Pune had to reschedule travel plans resulting in stress and loss of money. In fact, interviews stretched on till Jan 28th, although 27th was the last day as per schedule.
SIMC had arranged for seminars on the 24th, 25th and 26th of January for those who had free time until they were called for their interviews. But students say the auditorium was full and many weren’t allowed to enter and attend the seminar. They were forced to spend the rest of the time on the on corridors with no electricity and leaking coolers. They were also not allowed to go back to to their hotel rooms until the scheduled time of their interview.
Students have also complained that the Director, Mr Ujjwal Choudhary insisted that the assignments be submitted to him personally, which meant 1,300 students standing in queue for the entire day. Shortlisted student, Smita Dakhore, recalls, “We couldn’t even go for lunch because then we would have to join the line again. Moreover, when the electricity went off in the evening, the director came out of the cabin and abused the waiting students, stating that we don’t deserve to be shortlisted; that the college had given us an ‘opportunity’ like it was favour.” The director’s insistence on every candidate personally submitting the assignment resulted in interview schedules went haywire. Students were standing in queue for submission till 2 am on the last day. Some female students also allege that the director gave them a ‘hug’ in the cabin for having done excellent assignments.
Agitated students posted their complaints on online forums such as Pagalguy.com and Orkut. One such post on Pagalguy by FMSDude, dated 27th Jan’08 reads:
“I would also like to share my experiences of SIMC my interview was scheduled at 1 pm but took place at 8 pm… project submission was in Directors Cabin…I was warned by girls outside that the director is asking for hugs I went inside… Director Mr Chowdary says he likes people form my area and he is happy that I am there,He says I come from fun-filled place and in the end asks for a hug. ” Come give me a hug “…didnt expect this from a director of reputed institute He asked hugs only from girls and not from guys …incase anyone’s feels it is an elderly hug…Is it correct ? or is it SIMC culture? if culture then why not hugs to guys?”
Lastly, students say that the peer interface was completely mismanaged and was
nothing but legal ragging by seniors.
When JAM contacted the Director, SIMC, Mr Ujjwal K Chowdhury regarding these
allegations from students we got a prompt point-to-point email response. He clarifies, “900 candidates were invited over four days for the interviews, and there were 600+ seats in the audi. Hence, when all seats were filled and even aisles, etc, during Alyque Padamsee’s talk some students had to be asked not to crowd in anymore as the hall was jam-packed, for the safety of all. Anyone can go anywhere till the scheduled time of interview, obviously.”
Regarding the allegation of ‘hugging’, Mr Chowdhury says, “Among 900 candidates called, this being a media institute, 60% or more were girl students and no complaint was there on campus on this, and out of 240 students selected from the process, 65% are girls, almost all of whom have taken admission. If there is any truth in this, girls (with their parents on campus) would have complained, or refrained from taking
admission. (see box for his complete response)“ He adds: “We had Alyque Padamsee, Vidya Shankar Aiyar from CNN IBN, Sumit Awasthi from Aaj Tak, Pushpinder Singh of Amul Macho ad fame, Bhaskar Das of TOI group (Group President), Deepak Jolly of Coca Cola and 20 more speakers over 4 days addressing the students/ candidates. For the learning and exposure even before students were selected and admitted, we have hundreds of students telling the seniors and writing letters thanking us.”
Mr Chowdhury says in conclusion, “I hope you do not fall prey to a few complaints by some not selected candidates long after the process… And, now, on complaints two or more months later, by a few not selected students, you are asking questions.”
However the complaints we have received are not from a single disgruntled individual but from a cross-section of students, including those who secured admission. Even though the admissions process concluded in January, JAM is bringing up the issue because it is a serious one. Students are always reluctant to come forward fearing their chances of admission may be hampered and simply because they feel it’s best to stay clear of controversy.
Says Smita Dakhore, “One of the girls I knew was hugged. She was a journalism student from Chennai. She went in and submitted the assignment and the director asked her a few questions. Apparently he liked the way she answered and he asked her to give him a hug ‘because he was happy with her performance.”
But why haven’t there been complaints? Adds Smita, “Somehow neither parents nor students are coming out with the fact because they are afraid and also they need an admission desperately… What’s most disturbing is that however much a seat is important to you, there is a line of dignity you must not cross.”
Students at large are dissatisfied with the whole admission process at SIMC. At other reputed Bschools and communication schools like MICA shortlisted students are called in batches and expected to spend maximum of one day on the campus. The interview, GD and any other procedure is wrapped up on that day, at the times specified. Having to arrange for a four day stay in Pune, with one activity scheduled every day is unique to SIMC. Extra days means more time and money spent by students.
Lastly, although SIMC says it had arranged for seminars to give exposure to prospective students, they say these seminars were part of an ongoing festival and their interviews just happened to be scheduled then.
SIMC is one of the most reputed media institutes in the country and we do hope any glitches in the admission process are ironed out so that complaints of this kind do not make the rounds next year. Seats in reputed institutes may be much in demand but
students deserve to be treated with courtesy under all circumstances.
Director Ujjwal Choudhary replies :
Regarding long queues: THERE WERE FIVE ROUND OF SELECTIONS: ASSIGNMENTS WERE TO DIRECTOR, INTERVIEW BY A PANEL OF INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS AND DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE INSTITUTE, PEER INTERFACE BY THE SENIOR STUDENTS, VERIFICATION OF CERTIFICATES BY THE REGISTRAR, AND GROUP DISCUSSION BY A SENIOR FACULTY MEMBER. THIS WAS THE DIVISION OF WORK, AND THERE IS NO QUESTION OF “FORCED” OR “ADAMANT”. THIS IS THE DIVISION OF WORK OVER THE LAST THREE YEARS, EVERY ADMISSION.
Regarding the ‘hugging’ issue – IT IS VERY USUAL FOR SOME STUDENTS, AFTER NOT BEING SELECTED, AFTER RESULTS ARE DECLARED AND ADMISSION PROCESS CLOSED, TO COME OUT WITH ALLEGATIONS THIS WAY. SO, NO FURTHER COMMENTS. I HAVE STATED VERIFIABLE FACTS. WE CAN SEND YOU LIST OF SHORTLISTED, SELECTED, AND FINALLY ADMITTED STUDENTS TO PROVE MY POINT HERE.
Regarding peer interface – THIS IS A UNIQUE AND HEALTHY PRACTICE IN WHICH FOUR TO FIVE SENIOR STUDENTS, IN THE PRESENCE OF A SENIOR LADY LIBRARIAN, TAKES 10 MINUTES INTERVIEW OF EVERY JUNIOR CANDIDATE, TO BREAK ICE, MAKE THEM COMFORTABLE AND AT TIMES HAVE FUN AND JOKES ALSO. IN THE PROCESS, CONVEYING THE MESSAGE OF STUDENTS DRIVEN MANAGEMENT AND PARTICIPATION PRACTICES HERE.
IF SOME OF THE STUDENTS DID BADLY IN THIS, THAT IS THEIR INDIVIDUAL PROBLEM. BUT, A HUGE NUMBER OF CANDIDATES AND EVEN PARENTS LIKED THIS SYSTEM OF INVOLVING SENIORS IN THE PROCESS OF SELECTION OF JUNIORS (ONLY 10% OF FINAL 100 MARKS TO THIS PART).
(the director replied to us in ALL CAPS)
Smita Dakhore: “All four rounds were scheduled to happen simultaneously on these four days for students belonging to three depts, namely PR, Journalism and Advertising. All of us were asked to register at the same time on the 24th and obviously there was a serpentine line at 9am that day for registration.”
Kapil Mohanani: My PI was scheduled at 7 pm but due to their poorly managed schedules they asked me to come the next day at 2pm. The GDs were just extempore sessions. We were called inside the classroom in groups but were individually given topics, had to speak on them for a minute… Where is the ‘group’, where is the ‘discussion’ part?
Sunneith Revankar: I walk in for the interview; the first thing I was told was that I am not eligible for the course as I had graduated from distance education. I was asked ‘Did you go through the website/ brochure?’ I said ‘Yes, and there is nothing mentioned there that says you are not eligible if you are distance learning student.’
I filled the form, gave in my details, which college I graduated from, etc everything required. If I was not eligible, they should not have shortlisted me in the first place. I spent close to Rs. 6,000 on the project and close to Rs.10,000 during my stay in Pune for 5 days.
The strangest bit is they did interview me. They said I am not eligible but since ‘you are already here let me go ahead with the interview’ like they are doing me a favour.”