Clubs@IITK: Who is the coordinator?

Who is the most suitable person to become the club coordinator?

Is it not most obviously the person who knows the best about what club is supposed to be doing? So, the coordinator of astronomy club should be the one who is best at astronomy, that of the book club should be the one who has read maximum number of books and knows the best about them and that of the electronics club should be the best person at electronics at the institute…

But somehow despite all these best selections, the clubs do not seem to work so well. The participation remains low and even what we consider the best times in the clubs are not sustained for long. What is it that goes wrong?

Well, if I could put it in simple words, not every CEO of a great technology company in the world could have written even a single line of code of the product their companies make! There is something more, in fact, much much more to running a club successfully than just knowing all the things about astronomy/books/electronics.

The most important of these is the ability to understand people: simple as it might sound, one of the most complicated phenomenon in the world. Its not enough to know all the electronics of the world for the electronics club coordinator, it is more important for him/her to understand as to what is the problem people face when they start learning it for the first time, what is it that makes them sleep in the Esc202 (now Esc102) lectures and can be avoided here in the electronics club lecture. If a person has not really been an avid reader what will be the best point for him/her to start, with his/her literary abilities, personality and taste? What fascinating things can you bring to the people who take the pains of coming for an observation session at 10.00pm on a cold night? Idea is not just to give information, but also give a taste. Its not just about making them locate the stars and deep-sky objects, but to tell them why is it so fascinating. And if this comes down to giving a lecture, refer to my earlier article about the “Lectures do work”!

And how can this taste be provided? Who can do it the best? Well, the person who has developed the taste for himself/herself during his or her stay at this place. (S)He may not be as informed about the topic as some other really talented people in the field. But (s)he should know what exactly ticks the common people, who might not have got a chance to see the things earlier. And also, how can things be communicated in steps in a fulfilling and interesting manner?

Another very important ability for a coordinator to have is that (s)he should not feel bogged down by the few formalities, bills of purchases and some forms and signatures! Mundane as these may sound, if not handled properly they will not let the experts of the subject do anything they can. A coordinator must not make them the excuses for the club not working properly. (S)He must be know how to handle them properly and it is not so difficult. Few simple observations about how people at these various administrative positions behave and like you to behave and you will find things are trivial to handle. A little care since the beginning and you will not have make unnecessary rounds of Dean’s office. But if you do have to, do make it when it is still time and you do not end up realizing that your term as a coordinator is over and nothing has happened in the club so far.

I do not intend to undermine the importance of experts! They are very very essential to the working of the club as is the case with any organization in the world. All I wanted to point out that the best coordinator of the club and an expert of the subject need not necessarily be the same person. Given a choice between an expert who would give up at the first instance when nobody seems to understand the lecture or when a bill comes back from the Dean’s office, and an astute person, who has good relations with people in Dean’s office or TV centre or LHC, has a good network amongst students and has moderate knowledge of the subject, I would vote for the later person. Of course things can not be better if a person has both these qualities, but that, more often than not, will not be the case.

Politicians would not like it. How will you make the experts work if you do not make them the coordinator? But then, it is all about putting a line in the resume and not the excitement to work for the club. Ideally one should feel good about what he/she can do in the club and a hype should not be created around the post of the coordinator. But fine, if you have to deal with “practical” concerns of people, you can always devise posts. How many votes would it need in the senate? But let the leader lead the team to get the best results for everyone.

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