NUSSU The Ridge guest column jun yi (k) .pdf

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15

OUTSPOKEN * GUEST COLUMN

GUEST COLUMN
With his term of office nearly over and the
elections looming, the President of the
students’ union, JUNYI HO pens some of his
thoughts on the challenges he faced in the
past year.

A

bout this time last year, I
was busy rallying a team
which eventually became
the core leadership of the
31st NUS Students’ Union.
The 31st NUSSU Exco has
since overseen about 100
Union projects to ensure that
students’ interests and welfare
were safeguarded.
A very significant step that the
Union took was the adoption of
a vision coherent with NUSSU’s
constitutional objectives – to be
‘a representative, inclusive, and

credible institution to promote,
safeguard, and uphold
students’ interests and welfare
in NUS’. The vision seems so
simple that some might even
question its practical value.
But is it really that obvious?
One of the most urgent issues
that I had to deal with was to
rationalize what NUSSU meant.
Shortly after being elected into
office, I sent out an introductory
message and a series of
congratulatory emails followed
and among them, one stood

out saying, “Congratulations on
being elected, Mr. President.
Are you joining the PAP to
exploit the people next?”
The curt email highlighted
one common misconception
about NUSSU, perceiving
it as a student-run version
of a government, being a
bureaucratic organization
‘up there’ with the main aim
to govern over the student
community. It implies politics
and in-fighting where the order
of business is primarily to

ensure a submissive student
population abides by law.
Many times during my term of
office, I found myself having to
explain that NUSSU resembles
more of a ‘NGO’ purposed
to serving the students. For
example, NUSSU bears more
resemblance to an organization
like AWARE – a membershipfunded NGO purposed to
promote gender equality.
There already is an NUS
Administration present and in
this bigger scheme of things, it

OUTSPOKEN * GUEST COLUMN

might be easier to understand
NUSSU’s role, which is
to ensure that students’
voices are heard by the NUS
Administration or any governing
body.

within the campus. I was
puzzled by such allegations
because I never knew NUSSU
had the authority and power to
stop whatever fellow students
wanted to say.

could not be completed in a
single year. We understood
that from Day 1. What the
31st Exco did, as best as it
could, was to achieve progress
and archive major decisions
to facilitate continuity for
Of course, the NUSSU Exco,
Indeed, THE RIDGE revamp
subsequent generations of
being autonomous from the
was only part of the 31st Exco’s NUSSU representatives.
NUS Administration in terms
larger efforts to streamline
of budget and operations,
NUSSU committees and
Very soon, I would be
inevitably plays a supervisory
projects to ensure wise
passing the baton on to the
role in the allocation of Union
allocation of resources so
32nd NUSSU President. At
funds to various projects
as to ensure relevancy and
this point, I take immense
organized by its various working strengthening of the Union.
comfort knowing that there are
committees. Unfortunately,
The fact remains that NUSSU
individuals currently running
this is often mistaken as a
is a voluntary organization
about the Faculties trying to
‘governing’ role rather than a
wholly run by full-time students, rally support and identifying
managerial one. The distinction functioning within a quality
good people, doing the same
between these two perceptions education institution which
things I was busy with this time
is not merely academic. One
uses final examinations as
last year. The fervor for NUSSU
rather publicized example is
the main form of assessment. leadership has strengthened,
the NUSSU EXCO’s attempted
Lacking material incentives,
as evidenced by the prospect
revamp of a badly-run RIDGE
how do we attract fellow
of contests for various Union
Editorial board in 2009,
students to actively volunteer
leadership positions this year. I
resulting in the eventual sacking in the Union in such an
know both President-hopefuls,
of the former RIDGE Chief
academically competitive
and take further comfort that
Editor and the formation of a
environment? Considering our both are worthy people able to
new team.
limited resources, how do we
lead the Union well.
ensure that existing volunteers
The NUSSU EXCO had noticed, do not get exhausted and
Nostalgically, I recall the time
substantiated by feedback from discontinue their services to the when approached by the 30th
many students, that the content Union simply because there are NUSSU President to take
and quality of THE RIDGE had
so many other opportunities
over his baton. I remember
deteriorated. Board meetings
elsewhere (such as NOC, SEP, him telling me that I was not
that the NUSSU EXCO called
Internships)?
his first-choice candidate. He
for never materialized and with
sub-standard articles, many
The problems mentioned are
missed-deadlines, and a lack of recurring issues in the Union
communication by the former
ever since its inception. To
Editorial Board, a new RIDGE
tackle these, the 31st Exco
team had to be assembled.
spent much effort trying to
identify niche areas for each
The Ridge reshuffle was a
committee so as to facilitate
managerial decision that the
injection of resources enabling
NUSSU EXCO made to upkeep the committees’ and their
the standards and strong
volunteers’ growth and
tradition of THE RIDGE - a
development, and to ensure
committee under the Union
that every entity under the
which was also the longestNUSSU works together as one
running student publication
Union with each fulfilling its
in NUS. Amazingly, however,
intended role to complement
word spread about accusations each other.
of NUSSU EXCO wanting to
curb the ‘freedom of speech’
Obviously, all these initiatives

16

had to come to me because
previous candidates whom he
had earmarked had somehow
or another, been unable to
run for election. In a way, I
‘stumbled’ upon this NUSSU
experience by accident.
What would I like to tell the
next President? Never give
up trying for it is going to be
a very difficult year for him.
As I have tried to put forth
in this article, NUSSU is a
complicated creature. The
discourse on what NUSSU is
about, or should be, cannot
end here. It should always be a
work in progress, because only
when this is so, can NUSSU
constantly stay relevant and
strong.
Junyi Ho is a 5th year
student in Law. He will
be studying Master’s in
International Relations at
Geneva, Switzerland in the
University of Geneva. Junyi
would like to thank all student
representatives and volunteers
that have taken part in this
difficult discourse, and served
NUSSU well along the way.


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