Desperate for support, SC/ST students at IITs reach out to alumni group for help

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Students at IIT are reaching out to an alumni group for personalized mentoring sessions, counseling and help with job search after a string of suicides across the country.

Students at IIT are reaching out to an alumni group for personalized mentoring sessions, counseling and help with job search after a string of suicides across the country. , Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

With a string of suicides at IITs across the country this year – most of the victims were from the Scheduled Castes (SCs) or Scheduled Tribes (SCs) – students at the premier institute are now reaching out to an alumni group for personalized mentoring sessions, counseling and help with job search.

The alumni group, the Global IIT SC/ST Alumni Support Group, comprises about 500 IIT graduates, who are now based across the world and are working in their respective domains.

The group started its work by organizing support for families of SC/ST students who died by suicide in the last two to three years. Eventually, delegations from this group started engaging with administrations of several IITs over the increasing issues of caste discrimination and alienation on campuses. The group had raised funds for the families of three SC/ST students who died by suicide at IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi this year.

In the process of engaging with the administrations of IITs over issues faced by SC/ST students, the group had also formally suggested to IITs in Delhi and Kanpur about starting a mentorship program for SC/ST students, especially given that existing support systems in the The institute was unable to address their concerns.

With no response from the administrations, the group went on its own earlier this year to help dozens of final-year students who could not get placed after this year’s placement interviews. “We were able to prepare and get 25 of these candidates a job in their fields,” Dheeraj Singh, one of the people who started the initiative, said.

Similar background

Mr. Singh, who has graduated from IIT Kanpur and later from IIM Calcutta, said that based on the responses from these sessions, the alumni group had decided to start a mentoring session this year for final year SC/ST students set to graduate in 2024, to prepare them for placements.

“The unique aspect of this mentoring session is that the mentors are from the same backgrounds as the students seeking help. They have had similar experiences inside the campuses and are hence naturally better placed to help SC/ST students deal with issues they are facing,” Mr. Singh told NEInfo.

He added that the idea began in WhatsApp groups and soon students from across IITs in the country started reaching out to them independently once word got around. Around 100 final year SC/ST students from B.Tech, M.Tech, M.Sc., Ph.D, and Masters in Public Policy have already signed up for the programme. They are from IITs in Mandi, Dhanbad, Gandhinagar, Bombay, Delhi, and Kanpur.

Mr. Singh said that more than 50 alumni in their group have already agreed to mentor the students – two students to each mentor – for specific help with resume and interview preparation.

Reaching out

In a social media message being circulated among students at IITs, the group has said, “Kindly spread the word especially to those coming from marginalized backgrounds and feeling less connected-less belonged-less valued on the campus due to low CPI, low confidence, introversion, English language issues, family issues, financial issues, physical or mental health concerns etc.”

Mr. Singh hoped that this program can at least help them reach out to SC/ST students who might be in vulnerable positions because of hostility they face on campus. “The idea is to try and prevent any more Darshan Solankis, Ayush Ashnas and Anil Kumars,” Mr. Singh said referring to three students who died by suicide at IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi this year.

Mr. Singh added that the mentoring club is looking to divide mentees into three groups, based on the kind of specialized attention each requires. Consequently, the group hopes to be able to mentor at least 200 students each year.

Since the idea of ​​the mentoring session is to pair alumni with students from similar backgrounds, Mr. Singh said that for now, they have limited the program to SC and ST students but they intend to eventually help out students from OBC and General backgrounds as well.

“We know that somehow, the problem is more unaddressed and pressing when it comes to the SC and ST segment of students. And for now, we have been able to engage SC/ST alumni only as mentors. But eventually, we would like to move into helping other segments of students as well,” Mr. Singh, who works for diversity in education, said, adding that the hope is to be able to go beyond IITs as well.

Despite the University Grants Commission mandating procedures to ensure inclusion and discourage caste-based discrimination, most IITs are yet to have formal SC/ST Cells set up as per the UGC mandate. Students at IIT Delhi and Bombay say that even the institutes that had such cells did not authorize them to act in the interest of SC/ST students and faculty.

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