Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The IIT LAN Ban Saga

Unlike other things in IIT, the LAN Ban issue didn't die ... It was supposed to have been effective on Feb 26th, but like all other things in IIT, it started a bit late. That's one thing about IIT: outside the campus, people run faster than a local, but inside, you enter into a time/culture-warp. The "IIT culture" is so different - people wearing jeans, t-shirts and chappals going fashionably late to the class, and this considered as norm.

The DoSA (Dean of Student Affairs, in IIT lingo :-) seems to have taken this up as a personal crusade. The suicides of a couple of IIT students are mentioned in the same breath, so probably, he was under pressure to be seen as doing something.

My view hasn't changed much - the AOE folks started to play cards yesterday night, and for that, they all had to come to a single room. If the "authorities" are looking for more social interaction, they got it. It appears that IIMs too have the problem. I personally have met quite a few depressed people who really have fun when they go into others' rooms. My hostel, hostel 13 is built in a way that makes socializing more forbidding, as compared to the older hostels. The empty wings are depressing.

The departmental situation isn't much better. Since everyone has a computer/laptop in the hostels, the libraries and department labs, the traditional social places, aren't used, and hence not maintained. People try to rush to the hostels after classes. In all projects that we do (and we do quite a lot), we go online for any paper or journal access. Why bother to go to the library ? I really can't understand how people did projects before Google! Consequently, socializing (how much ever little it may be) happens only in hostels (and on Orkut), and therefore, the interaction among the PGs, UGs and PhDs is very low, since we all stay in different hostels.

This is similar to the corporate debate on cabins v/s cubicles for employees. When I joined my job, there was a cabin system, and I always felt a bit insecure about what was going on behind the closed doors (oh, not that way): were they leaving me out of a deep technical discussion, etc. When we shifted the office, we had a cubicle system for everyone (including the GM), so there was an incredible feeling of camaraderie. Though the distractions were high and irritating, I think our team started being more transparent and helping out each other, even if we didn't ask for it. People became more approachable. The feeling of transparency more than offset the bad effects of the breaks in concentration.

So, in a limited way, the "LAN Ban" is a good thing.

On the other hand, if the objective is to get people to attend classes, then the move is pretty stupid. Despite the hype, a lot of the profs are pretty ordinary (bet the profs think we are ordinary too). The classrooms are huge communal dormitories. It is really tough: how are you motivated to teach students, who stare at you glassy-eyed ? Really, the boot is on the other leg - most of what the profs teach is present in the books or can be got from the Net, so why bother attending classes ? Very few profs are worth attending. Very few can teach what is not in the books.

In the meantime, a lot of noise is being generated in the blogosphere: the issue got dugg. My blog got linked to the DNA India front-page. Once again, the IIT newsgroups have been bombarded with tons of posts.

One thing is certain: though a review has been promised after a month, a lot of sensitive egos are on the line. I don't think there is any going back on this decision, how much ever people try to raise hell. Of course, since I'll be finishing my MBA in scarcely 45 days, I really wouldn't mind a 24-hour ban after I leave :P

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