2021 Presidential candidates battle online

With the 2021 fall, STUCO elections around the corner, The Woodstocker interviewed the 4 candidates for presidency.

The female candidates are Kalsang Yangchen and Taruna Kakkar.

The Male candidates are Darsh Aggarwal and Vir Kanwar. 

What is your vision for the school?

Kalsang: When we come back to school there will be a huge transition from online to offline learning. Therefore adaptability is very important. It’s crucial to be able to work and improve student- teacher interactions. Another part of her vision is to bring and recover Woodstock’s identity where all cultures are identified and appreciated. 

Taruna: Her vision for the school is to continue the traditions that have already been happening in the school. Since there has been a gap year for physical school, it is important to not experiment with something new and ensure stability. Making sure that interactions are encouraged along with rebuilding and redefining the unity of the school is also important. 

Darsh: Woodstock’s culture sets it apart from other boarding schools which needs to be brought back- like the student-teacher relationships. Along with that working on the small things is also equally important. Since the school administration has changed drastically, working to bring back the informal student-teacher interactions and actually getting back the Woodstock culture. Lastly, working towards the necessary approvals are obtained, even if the implementation takes time. 

Vir:The Ib should be implemented to the point where students feel comfortable with the program and feel like they are in an effective board where they have a diploma that’s useful. Another part of his vision is for the school to be more sustainable and become aware of the impact that Woodstock has on the environment.

What are your main goals?

Kalsang: There are 3 main goals that will be worked on. The first is the ECC which is the Environmental Conservation Committee. This is a step to be mindful of where we live and starting a movement to improve the world. The second goal is the IB support group that is going to be an online platform that can improve distance learning. This will be a set place where there are IB resources for students. The third is bringing privileges to Woodstock as students won’t be able to go out because of COVID guidelines- so improving and enhancing what is already there.

Taruna: It is important that the student body’s voice is heard and taken into account while making decisions. Another goal is to smoothen out online-offline learning for international students also as timing is an issue. Another goal that is necessary is to make sure that everyone in STUCO has a voice as many juniors may feel uncomfortable. Therefore, making an environment where the team can talk to each other and work together. 

Darsh: Darsh wants to continue the work of this year’s STUCO and how it functions because it has been effective online in order to include everyone. Another goal is to make sure that there is transparency in not just the main members but also the sub-committees like NHS and AHC that make the major changes of the school and make them aware of the decisions that take place because usually decisions only reach students at the last stage. Therefore, it is important to include and involve them. 

Vir: Vir wants to work with the school to ensure that students are able to return to the campus safely while following the COVID protocols of the school and the Uttarakhand government. He is working on the Environmental Conservation Committee which is a step to be mindful of where we live and starting a movement to improve the environment. The third goal is the IB support group that is going to be an online platform that can improve distance learning. This will be a set place where there are IB resources are available for students. 

What makes you a capable candidate?

Kalsang: The longest boarding student in the class of WS 2022, SAC representative 10th grade, PAC representative 10th grade, DECA President, Member of GAIL and TEDX.

Taruna: 9th-grade dorm president, Active member of Community engagement, Class governor 7th grade, Member of TEDx organisation.

Darsh: Head intern for alumni and development project, Menu head 11th grade, Member of TEDx, Head of CFI greenhouse cafe, Member of the graduation planning internship.

Vir: DECA president, SAC representative 10th grade, PAC representative 8th and 9th grade, Class governor 9th grade, IB student since grade 3.

How are you going to tackle STUCO transparency?

Kalsang: Kalsang wants to continue what this year’s STUCO has done with IG lives. Using social media to connect with students because it is effective and easy to connect during social distances. Open STUCO meetings and a weekly update with the things that are done and future tasks for the STUCO is also another way to handle STUCO transparency.

Taruna: Arranging open STUCO meetings is a way to tackle transparency. Also making sure that students have a voice in major decisions that include everyone is also extremely important. This can be done by not rushing decisions and communicating them with the students for their thoughts and opinions through assemblies, homerooms, and emails. 

Darsh: This year’s STUCO did a great job in making the STUCO transparent, and communicating the agenda with the students on the website. Another way is by making sure that students have access to the progress that happens every week where everyone can see the goals of their representatives and what leader has made what progress to involve everyone.

Vir: Increasing the number of open STUCO meetings can really help improve the transparency between the student body and the representatives. Also, making sure that the notes that are taken in STUCO are available to students. A combination of this could increase STUCO transparency and also make students aware of what their representatives are doing.

What are your plans to improve distance learning?

Kalsang: The IB support group will help improve distance learning. This will be a platform where most IB resources can be there that will help students both online and offline to study. This will be a set place so it will help students to locate resources and use them effectively while studying. 

Taruna: Since there will be a hybrid model most likely, it is important that everyone gets the same opportunity whether they are online or offline. For example in the case of experiments, students in school will have access to more materials so it is important to consider what is available to everyone regardless of where they are living. Another way to improve distance learning is to have more group activities that involve everyone since there are a lot of lecture classes already.

Darsh: Distance learning can be improved by actually using tools that are available to everyone which are online. Pushing the school to get the subscriptions for such tools would be helpful for the students because everyone can be involved equally. Apart from that, being more interactive for online students so they are able to have a change in their normal routine. 

Vir: Distance learning needs to be more engaging and active for students because sitting in front of a screen can be boring. It is also important to raise motivation and boost the morale of students to actually wake up in the morning to go to classes. Using tools online and being more hands on like drawing graphs for subjects like maths and economics can really engage more students.

What struggles did you face while campaigning online?

Kalsang: Since campaign week took place before exams, it was hard because there was a lot of work to be done. Apart from that, being original was hard because this is the second year of STUCO elections that is online, so finding original online ways was hard. However, her friends: Ira Ahuja, Nysa Bhatia, and Luke D’souza helped her to manage all of this. 

Taruna: Since mostly the campaigning was online, a lot of people had their camera off which made it very difficult to know their reactions to ideas. It is also harder to spread the word online and interact with people through social media since a lot of students didn’t have any social media- which made it hard to communicate informally. 

Darsh: It is harder to approach a person online to have an informal discussion like it can be done in school through lunches or study halls. It was also hard as the timings of many sessions clashed which made it hard for him to give equal time to all sessions and also reach as many people as possible. Many people were also not willing to interact. 

Vir: Campaigning online was hard because meeting people online is tough. Even though the ideas were presented in homerooms and other sessions it was hard to reach people across the school and communicate the ideas since a lot of students don’t show up to these meetings online. 

If there is a hybrid model where half of the school is on campus and the rest is online, how will you make sure that your decisions include everyone?

Kalsang: The hybrid model will improve with trial and error but by talking with Ms. Jamie Wiiliams the mistakes from last year can be improved and new things can be implemented. Apart from that- communication is key. It is also important to take the help of class representatives to get feedback as they are more approachable. It is also important that everything is communicated both online and offline to include everyone. 

Taruna: Since a lot of people will have privileges at home that students in school won’t have it will be easy to balance out the privileges in terms of living. However, it is important to ensure that everything is done both online and offline. This can be done through live streaming assembly if it is in school or encouraging people to participate through zoom in activities that are in person. 

Darsh: After talking to 10th and 12th-grade, mixing students in groups that were in different places made it harder for the students to study. Therefore, making sure that people at homework at their own pace while people in school work in a different way can be done. Students would also get equal opportunities with practicals as a whole. This can be done by encouraging teachers to help students with videos and using breakout rooms in events so everyone is included.

Vir: On a STUCO level it is important to make decisions that include everyone which can be done by continuing the STUCO meetings on Zoom so everyone can attend. In classes also it is important to use projectors and zoom to involve everyone and connect with students. Communication is important so making sure everything is communicated both in online and offline forms.

May the best candidates win!

Riya Gupta is the editor in chief of The Woodstocker.

Edited by Ira Ahuja.

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