In an alarming move, the Indian government has taken a first step towards getting extremely close to the over three crore students across colleges and universities in India.
Under the pretext of creating ‘social media champions’ across every educational institute associated with HRD Ministry, the government has proposed connecting students, colleges and the ministry to monitor and celebrate their achievements.
According to The Telegraph, a ministry circular has already been issued (a copy of which you can find below in the story), which aims to connect close to 900 universities and 40,000 colleges in the country through this guideline.
The Higher Education Secretary of the Human Resource Development Ministry (MHRD) sent out a circular instructing all high education institutions (HEIs) to set up a post for a ‘Social Media Champion’. This SMC could be a faculty or non-teaching staff member, but they have a few specific functions:
1. The SMC has to operate the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for their institution, opening new ones if they don’t exist.
2. They have to network these with the social media accounts of other HEIs, and the MHRD.
3. They have to “connect all students” social accounts with those of their college and the MHRD.
4. The SMC has to publicise at least one achievement from their assigned HEI om social media each week.
5. They have to retweet the positive stories posted by other HEIs.
Basically, the MHRD wants to set up a social media manager post for every higher education institution in the country.
They’re also apparently so sure that the job is going to be so mind-numbingly boring, that they’re already set up temporary KRAs and networking mandates.
We’ve also been able to independently verify that at least some HEIs have received this circular and are also making a move to comply.
That’s fine. It’s a little lame but whatever, baby steps. The real problem comes with number 3 on that list, where the SMC’s job depends on getting students to network with their institute’s handles.
As of right now, that’s technically just a part of the SMC’s job, probably forcing them to beg students to follow their college’s handle. It’s not any sort of rule per se. But think about it again.
Why this could be a problem
Most colleges in India will not shell out extra dough to pay a social media manager. They might even think the job itself isn’t worth their while, and force it onto one of the teaching staff. At which point that teacher isn’t likely to ask students to join. They’ll just demand it.
Schools and colleges in India often get away with quite a bit. All they have to do is tell students their grades depend on something for instance, and at least half will fall in line. And for this particular instance, that’s enough to make it a problem.
The MHRD has set a July 31 deadline for HEIs to appoint a social media champion. The details of these will be forwarded to the ministry by the end of the month. Why the short deadline? Maybe it’s because it’s not a major thing to set up? Or maybe it’s just a way to put this system into practice before anyone has a chance to react.
Responding to The Quint’s report on the same topic, the HRD Ministry confirmed that “it is not compulsory. They need not share if they don’t want to.”
Is there any benefit to forcing students to like their college Facebook pages? That’s debatable. The MHRD seems to think it might result in some kind of positive effect for students. But what we can’t help but worry about is whether this is a subtle attempt to keep tabs on the social media discussions of students.