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Thursday, July 14, 2011

IIM Ahmedabad's 2010 Exchange criteria-was it justified after all?

Ask people about the importance of extra curriculars in IIM-Ahmedabad, and you get mixed reviews. Some cynics claim that IIM-A(cads) does not value other stuff, while yet others(including a recent media article) claim that extra curricular activities get the pride of place here. The truth lies between these two extremes, as people try balancing both these things. Extra curriculars can mean
  1. Organizing intra IIMA activities/events/contests etc as part of various clubs/bodies
  2. Participating in outside activities/competitions. This is mostly individual driven
In the exchange program selection criteria for exchange for the PGP 2010-12 batch, academics hardly made a significant difference compared to weightage for membership of clubs/SIGs/events. People who were part of multiple clubs/had taken part in outside contests hit the jackpot nudging out the academic toppers for the coveted exchange program seats/scholarships. As for any other change, the losers protested and the winners were happy. At that time, I broadly agreed with the concept but opposed the timing(not informed in advance during induction) and non discrimination(awarding both free loaders and hard workers).

After the summer internship and some events on campus, it occured to me that the criteria was probably justified, in the interest of the campus culture. IIM-A's festivals like Chaos/Confluence/Insight, and its Clubs(Beta/Consult/Niche etc) have carved their own place in the sun. To take that tradition forward, encourage new events and reach greater heights for brand building, IIMA does need students to actively participate in events to build the brand. Thanks to the recruiter/role mix during Summer placements and Final placements, extra curricular activities do not get rewarded, in proportion to the time invested on them. Perhaps realizing this, the institute took a conscious decision to rework its exchange program criteria, to reward those who contributed to clubs/events.

But this noble initiative is in danger of being gamed by
  1. Few students hogging memberships(80:20 rule):- There is an informal limit in place of 3 club/event/SIG memberships. But still, people desirous of working will not get a role
  2. Non transparent selection:-This is inevitable because disclosing the criteria etc will open a Pandora's box and encourage gaming of system in later years. But Exchange program being an academic activity, it is surprising that a student activity of club selection is allowed to affect that. There is a TINA(There is no alternative) thing here because faculty cannot(will not?) get involved in the club selection, and the problem is larger than it looks because by far club selections are fair. But those who network less/find out less information are at a disadvantage. This problem will persist though for the near future.
  3. Free loaders benefiting:- If all activities get the same weight-age, then the differentiation ceases to exist. Perhaps, the outgoing club coordinators can award differentiated CV points to their club members, to penalize those who free loaded during the year, so that they do not benefit.
In conclusion, I would think that the criteria will probably do its job, if it is ensured that people get into atleast one activity, and that they do not free ride. 

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