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Monday, January 16, 2012

Why student associations selections/competition rankings methology need to be opaque

Days after the final selection process of a IIMA 'elite' club was done, I noticed emails from unsuccessful applicants asking for the evaluation criteria and/or their performance during the process. My first impulse was to reply with a frank response, but then deeper reflection and some discussion with other club members led me to the conclusion that 'Silence was golden' in this case.

Supreme Court judges have famously said that 'sunlight is the best disinfectant', or that transparency is the best way to ensure a clean and healthy system. Well, that is fine but only till a point. For some 'club goods' like higher education, club memberships,  etc, the demand will invariably outstrip any possible supply by far. And rather than judge the intrinsic value of the good/their own suitability for it, applicants follow herd mentality and apply en-masse for that. Now, the best the selecting person(s) can do is to widely list their expectations from candidates, activities etc. But to enumerate their desired profile down to the finest detail like marking scheme, candidate performance etc, is going too far. Once someone releases information publicly, that can be ground for challenge under some law. Allocation decisions necessarily are arbitrary, and involve some degree of discretion/judgement/public policy. Disclosing the basis of that would lead to delaying tactics(filing PILs), gaming the system(Kota like coaching hubs) etc. And disclosing applicant results may lead to bitterness against the evaluators, which is much more impactful in a student body selection where the evaluators are likely to be one's own seniors.

And the same is true for competitions. Releasing the detailed methodology AND the final scores sheet, would takeaway the discretion from the organizers/judges to tweak the ranking approach in the last minute. Also, disgruntled elements could point at selective components to buttress their case for better rankings, and point fingers at organizers. So for the above reasons, this post title seems justified, in larger good.

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