We do live in strange times!
It is placement time at IIMA but no red carpets are being rolled out for the recruiters! The hustle and bustle of placement activities continue, albeit in its virtual avatar. Candidates check-out from the virtual candidate pool and proceed to check-in and enter the virtual interview rooms. Central trackers and wing trackers still monitor every single step of the way, the control room is still a buzz of activity. However, the P.P. Gupta Auditorium in the New Campus wears a deserted look with a handful of placecomers talking over intercoms and peering into the desktop monitors. Could we have even dreamt of such a surreal placement landscape? Yet, everything is under control and the Placement Chairperson is as cheery as always. Welcome to the new normal.
Classrooms are abuzz too with voices but very few footfalls. Hybrid classes are in progress with a camera tracking the movement of the instructor inside the class. A handful of students are inside the classroom, seated while maintaining social distance, while the rest are joining in through Zoom. The instructor writes on a whiteboard and students in the classroom speak into a microphone or a laptop to enable online participants to listen to the arguments. The class is as insightful and action packed as always. The Academic Associate scans through the Zoom videos to check for the late entrants, the clever ones who have found out ingenious ways of beating the panopticon or the tired ones meditating during the class. Alas, the ability to be a backbencher has vanished on Zoom, but that does not deter students from creative ways of sleeping with their eyes wide open. Leaving a class was never easier, just blame it on poor internet connectivity. Welcome to the new normal.
The admissions too are online with interview panelists seated in separate rooms in IMDC and the candidate joining in from a studio in another city. The questions are probing as always, distance does not lessen the intensity of the interview. Interviews are organized across multiple cities on the same day, without the panelists stepping out from the campus. Welcome to the new normal.
And suddenly it dawns on you that so much redesign of existing processes is possible if we are forced to handle a changed reality. Could the alumni activities too change with the advent of new technology? We could draw inspiration from the PGP 1990 batch, who did not allow the pandemic to rob them of their scheduled reunion. Instead, they used an interactive online event hosting platform (not Zoom!) to not only connect virtually with batchmates but also to felicitate the retired faculty members living in different cities.
Could we welcome the new normal in alumni activities too?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Prof. Saral Mukherjee
Dean, Alumni and External Relations