This week our SA Activities Officer, Sarah Soe Jia Wei, discussed with IGNITE about her tenure so far, including issues such as Freshers’ Week, the feedback from the events calendar of the SA website, and…the revelation of the upcoming ball’s theme!
How would you describe your experience so far as the Activities Officer for 17/18?
Sarah: Being under a complete assignment-based course, it’s been pretty hectic. I certainly didn’t realise the stress that comes when I signed up for this position simply because one would think that an Activities officer only works with the activities of the clubs and societies. However, there is also the responsibility of serving as a Student Association (SA) exec, such as discussing and producing our portfolios. I am glad that the execs this year are more family-orientated, it has given me the confidence to seek for guidance.
The expectation I had prior to upholding this position certainly did differ, it was a huge learning curve for me; professionally and ethically. The main reason as to why I took upon this role was to raise more awareness about the clubs and societies and create a good relationship with the presidents. Except for two academic presidents, I have met up with the other presidents on a one-to-one session to discuss with them. I did not want to do any redundant events. My focus was to prevent any conflicts in terms of communication with the presidents.
Did you manage to take over the events calendar on the SA website? Has it increased the number of views for the website?
Sarah: As of right now, we have been able to put up most of the events on the SA calendar despite certain delays. In terms of the student traffic, it’s about 50/50 on my part- I am not quite certain about it. I would need to ask John as he is the one who is in control of the entire SA website.
Do you think there has been a rise?
Sarah: I know there has been a rise due to the promotion for freshers. Most of them wanted to check for the clubs and societies and they clicked on the calendar to view the previous events. I also urged the students, especially the freshers to check the calendar for the updates of events on campus as there isn’t much space to use on posters.
I also think there has been a rise because of the students who use the computer in the Core or the TCR as some of them do click on the calendar on the SA website. There has been no word on it but I think that could create a significant rise.
You mentioned in your hustings that non-SA clubs would be allowed to have booths during the Freshers week and CS fair, why did this not take place? What could have been done better?
Sarah: A lot of things could have been better but the CS fair is one of my proudest events. Although the student traffic was hectic, the feedback received from the CS fair was better than last year’s, which a lot of people didn’t realise.
In regards to the non-SA clubs and societies, it was a mistake on my part. I came into office only in August and had no communication with the non-SA societies then. IEEE, LADS and PHIR Notts should have gotten a space but I did not reach out to the presidents in time for the event, so that was my mistake.
However, I have a planned a layout to be used next year, if the SA Activities officer wants to continue it. I have included several ideas into the portfolio for the next officer to check as we aim to create a new system. The handover from the previous SA to the current SA was not smooth as I did not receive enough information as per expected. Thus, I have decided to communicate with the next Activities officer before my term ends and give suggestions on projects that can be continued such as the EMT system and the CS fair and how they can be improved.
Did any of the non-SA clubs reach out to you, to set-up a booth?
Sarah: No, they did not reach out to me.
There were mixed reviews regarding your decision to combine both the Fresher’s week and the CS fair. Do you think this outcome aligned with your initial vision as per your manifesto?
Sarah: Many people complained about the price than the changes made with events combined. If anything could have been better, it’d be the sponsorships as I did not get any sponsorships for the year. I sent out about 500 emails, contacted and met them personally but it was to no avail. Many of them blamed the economy and stated they had not enough funds to provide, so much so they could not even offer any products. The SA had subsidised RM5 for each ticket and so, I plan on posting my budget online so that the students will know that they received activities that suffices for what they had paid for.
Also, due to MYFest, I had to reduce the price of the Freshers by RM10 as we wanted this new event to be equally successful. That was where the huge loss came from causing many to not quite understand how my budget worked although, I did try to subsidise. The loss was about RM 2,000, which did not turn out to be as bad as compared to two years ago. However, the flow of the events combined (Freshers week, CS fair and MYFest) worked out well and it was a very smooth process as I had amazing volunteers throughout. The initial process to the idea of combining the events were not supported but since the transition from the previous execs weren’t smooth enough, most of my proposals were original. Personally, I am very disappointed with Freshers due to the loss, no sponsorships and the lack of resources. I did not carry out the events as highly as I could have.
In your manifesto, one of your proposals indicated that the CS fair would be held throughout our campus. However, this did not happen and instead CS fair was held at the UG room, which was arguably limited in space. What do you have to say about this?
Sarah: I took the feedback of the hustings into consideration. I don’t think the students of UNMC would want to walk around the campus to participate in the CS fair, especially for sign-ups. CS Platform week (Sports Carnival) was a week before Freshers and everything had gone wrong in that event. CS Platform week was supposed to be dedicated to every category of the societies (cultural, religious, special interest, sports and academic), one category a day. This was a resolution to not having the CS fair around the campus. The presidents knew about these booths but they did not have their committee back in time with the major issue on the emails. There were participants from foundations but the planning could have been improved. I created a schedule and constricted the presidents to follow certain regimes, which was a great drawback. Since the CS Platform week did not receive good response, the traffic for the CS fair remained the same. If the next officer wants to carry out this event it can be planned better.
I, however, did improve the layout of the CS fair this year. The tables were arranged in such a way that it did not hinder traffic and allow students to sign up at the booths. Booths at the corners of the UG had certain issues and they were noted down. Managing 4400 students and 76 clubs and societies, the feedback received was highly positive.The Great Hall or Trent building was not used as I thought the SA should use the SA. The initial plan was to have the booths from the UG room up to the Security Office but it would have been widely spread. There would be a high chance of students skipping the booths due to the various entries/exits. I also wanted healthy competition between the clubs and societies to encourage them to setup their booth more creatively.
How much money was spent on the Freshers’ week and other events? Were you able to replicate the previous year’s success, profit wise?
Sarah: If I’m not mistaken, the total expenses were around RM20, 200. Oddly enough, based on the staff, it was not the worse amount spent but I am still not proud of the loss given. Last year, they had a RM5,000 profit because of the multiple amount of sponsorship they got. Anyway, there was a part of me that didn’t feel bad as the loss was subsidising the ticket prices.
What do you plan to do henceforth?
Sarah: My team has started planning the ball. Being an Activities officer so far, I’ve adapted to my responsibilities and the danger that may come in my way. So, I’ve decided to not depend on sponsorships, with my past experience and proceed with the planning. If sponsorships do come by, it’ll be good as we can reduce the ticket prices. For now, we’d be taking a safety precaution. We have decided the theme for the ball and it’ll be Hollywood: Red Carpet! The last time this theme was used was on 2008. We are looking into details of the event to make it successful.
Written and interviewed by Suchitra Sugumaran
Featured image taken from SA Activities Officer’s Official Facebook page