This is not intended to be a proper commentary; instead, I am looking to compile a list of queries or areas of concern that can / should / will be explored in the coming semesters (which naturally means that this piece will be updated accordingly). I think it’s important to articulate these perspectives, because the status quo – while functional – has tremendous room for improvement, especially in terms of how the NUS Students’ Union (NUSSU) Executive Committee (Exco) positions itself within the institution, and how NUSSU is therefore positioned within the Singapore society. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to posit that the Exco has the ability to go beyond the mere organisation of welfare activities and initiatives, and be more proactive in terms of championing the for the rights and views of students.
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I have written about Rag and Flag in a feature piece (The Ridge, here), and my main contention is that while the endeavour is well-intentioned, and has historical or cultural roots worth preserving, improvements should be considered.
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2. Financial Aid and Assistance
– Financial Aid In Universities: Is The System Robust Enough? (here)
Generally, more transparency is desired from the school administration. We know that there are financial aids and assistance schemes, but could we quantify them? Are their increases in tandem with the fee hikes, and do students know about these programmes available? The NUSSU Exco should facilitate more dialogues, to understand the specifics of how the school is going to help students from lower-income households. I am slightly disappointed that – at the point of writing (April 7, 2013) – the Council has said nothing about the announcement that fees will increase for future students.
I liked Yu Qian’s (former President of the Union) piece to The Straits Times, when he contended that “more can be done to broaden the coverage and increase the quantums of existing financial aids, which predominantly cover only the basic academic programme and/or its associated expenses.” (Aid For Poorer Undergraduates Should Go Beyond The Basics, Forum, March 11, 2013). Yet, my question is why these viewpoints were not published when he was in office? Surely his repute and stature as the President would have allowed his arguments to be communicated to a larger audience in Singapore.
It would be unfortunate if the NUSSU Exco is not allowed to generate discourse surrounding these socio-political issues, before presenting them in a public sphere.
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3. Transparency of Expenditure
– What is the premise of the “non-faculty clubs”? Can a new club that grows in size and stature “apply” to be part of the existing 4 clubs? Apparently so, according to some sources. Nonetheless. the justification for the four non-faculty clubs is based on the broad themes of sports, politics, the arts, and community work (to create vibrancy and promote interests).
– How exactly are the funds disbursed? Is it based on the population of the faculties?
– Why does the school hold the funds? Does it mean that if the administration rejects a proposal – on any grounds – the NUSSU Exco can do nothing?
– Contending that the “statement of accounts or financial statements” is available on the official NUSSU website is a bit of a stretch. The AGM minutes have not been optimised for navigation, and one would not get a proper breakdown of the amount of money spent on each event. The presentation of financial information is as important (if not more) as its mere “availability”.
The breakdown for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) Club can be accessed (here).