IIT Madras is set to implement a facial recognition attendance system and a parent-app coordination initiative as part of its suicide prevention approach following four student suicides that occurred between February and July 2023.
Starting in the upcoming academic year in August, IIT Madras will introduce the two new practices. The first is a face recognition attendance management system aimed at identifying students who are absent for extended periods. V Kamakoti, the director of IIT Madras, assures that this system will not intrude on anyone’s privacy. It will simply consolidate attendance data from various places like classes, mess, and the gym to observe patterns.
The director emphasizes that these approaches were developed based on observations from previous suicide cases. By using the data collected through the face recognition attendance system, they hope to identify warning signs such as students not eating regularly and then promptly intervene to offer support.
The second initiative involves an app that facilitates regular interactions between parents and their children studying at IIT Madras. Kamakoti explains that the competitive environment at IITs cannot be changed, as it maintains academic standards. However, the institute wants to ensure that students do not feel overly pressured. The app will remind parents to talk to their wards twice a week, record their communication, and ensure the well-being of the students.
To further combat stress and foster a supportive environment, the institute has introduced an eight-step initiative. It includes time-bound grievance redressal, strict policies against caste discrimination, on-campus professional counseling services, and off-campus partner resources for students who are uncomfortable seeking help within the campus. Additionally, IIT Madras will conduct comprehensive wellness surveys and provide training to teachers to identify potential suicidal tendencies.
Moreover, the institute has formed a team of “listeners,” comprising faculty or alumni volunteers who have been trained to attentively listen to individual students’ issues and provide support.
With these initiatives, IIT Madras aims to strengthen its suicide prevention approach and create a safer and more supportive environment for its students. The automated attendance system and the app will play crucial roles in identifying potential signs of distress and facilitating timely interventions, while the eight-step initiative will address various stressors and foster mental well-being within the institute’s community.