Being a president can be hard especially when you’re trying to juggle between your final year and presidential responsibilities.
In this series, IGNITE presents you an inside scoop on the SA President herself- Tormalli V Francis, and how she has been handling the office so far.
How has your transition been from Educations Officer to President?
Tormalli: The transition has been quite tough because being the Education officer was completely different from being the president. When I was the Education officer, I had my own tasks and network to work with. Basically, I had a rough picture of what my position entailed, but being the president is quite difficult because I must be everywhere.
I not only need to oversee my executives’ plans by checking up on the events they are organising, but also keep track on their progress- whether they do their supposed tasks, or not. Furthermore, I am charged with keeping up with issues that are mostly P&C, including campus-related issues, where they need to be solved by the president. I am also responsible for the budget and the SA grant- how the money is being spent and allocated. As you can see, it has been quite difficult going from being an executive officer to being the SA president.
Frankly, though it may seem like a very minor role, many responsibilities and duties entail in this position.
So, I would say the transition was not easy, but I have fortunately gotten used to the routine of how things are done. It was, in fact, an advantage for me since I have worked closely with the previous SA Executive team, and therefore gave me some direction on how things work for my role as president. In that sense, the transition has been good since I already created a good relationship with people, especially with the SA staff who have already known me for 2 academic years.
During your campaign previously, you mentioned that there were three areas you wished to work on as your vision: Connect, Collaborate and Celebrate. One of your other goals is to have all the SA execs connect and collaborate, did it work? If it did, tell us more on how you came to achieve it.
Tormalli: As the president, personally, one of my main goals is to make sure my team works together to their utmost capabilities and learn more, since the whole experience of being an executive officer is to learn more about themselves and give back to the student community. So, teamwork is very important for me. To encourage good team work between the executives, I always hold weekly meetings to try and connect better with them. As a result, it has been a good few months as we have learnt so much about ourselves- our strengths and our weakness.
I have also witnessed many collaborative events organised by the SA execs themselves. For instance, our sustainability network has collaborated with the welfare network, fitness club, stress relief society and Buddhist society to hold a range of activities in conjunction with Chillax Lah, which include incentives like a self-expressing corner, nap room, meditation session, and many more. The home student officer also helped to conduct the Shower’em with Kindness event, where people can send chocolates anonymously to a friend. We also have another collaboration coming up soon between the welfare and activity network. So, there has been many collaborations going on between clubs/societies and the executives who have a shared idea on an event. Nevertheless, I still made sure that everyone in the team has a say on whether an idea, that is brought up by an executive during a meeting, can be executed or not.
Personally, I feel like my team has been doing a good job as per their capabilities because it has not been an easy ride for them this year. They each gave their best, especially when suggesting ideas. I would always encourage them to go ahead with the idea, as long as they: do their research, ensure the whole event is executed well, and most importantly, impact the larger community. I mean, if you are not going to leave a good impact, why waste time and energy?
In your manifesto, you mentioned about generating more revenue from the Freshers’ Week, did you manage to achieve the goal?
Tormalli: As far as I am concerned, I have never mentioned this in my manifesto, but I will just talk about Freshers’ Week. Freshers’ week is the first large-scale event held by SA and we try to include as many activities as possible. However, our main goal for this year was to have Fresher’s Week and CS Fair on the same week. So, the first two days were freshers’ activities, followed by two days of CS fair, and myFest on the last day. We tried keeping our events at minimal loss, where usually the most money is spent on the outdoor events. We could not exactly bear much loss as we give subsidies to some clubs and societies, so we try to ensure that the events that we are organising to, not necessarily have a profit, but to at least break even. It was tough in the beginning, as we needed to push people to attend and get the new students to join, which was difficult. Fortunately, there were more people who came and joined Freshers’ Week this year.
The societies/clubs did not exactly collaborate and synergise like how you promised it to be in your manifesto. Why is this happening?
Tormalli: To be honest, from last year and this year, we have seen so many clubs and societies collaborate. Like even this year, if you have observed closely in most of the events, clubs and societies were collaborating to obtain a bigger impact. This is the actual reason we organised the Clubs and Societies Executive Camp (CSEC) which started off last year. It was held again this year to help create a platform for all clubs and societies president connect, bond and build a relationship.
The presidents have been elected as leaders by their people and it is their responsibility to ensure that they achieve their goals in the respective clubs and societies. By building a good relationship with the presidents from other clubs and societies, they are able to know each other better, thus giving them an opportunity to collaborate on future events. And trust me, I have been here for four years and there’s definitely been more collaborations going on since last year. For example, the swimming club and fitness club have just collaborated a few weeks ago on an aquarobics event, while there have been many other clubs and societies that have collaborated this semester.
There are also plenty of upcoming collaboration events where some clubs and societies approached some of the executives to collaborate. However, we also need to understand that they can only collaborate with each other when they share the same goal. So, to answer your question, there has definitely been an improvement in collaboration, although not a major one, among the clubs and societies.
Tormalli addressing the concerns raised during our interview
Many students had been sceptical when you took up the President’s post as you failed to accomplish many of your promises stated in your manifesto during your term as the Educations Officer. What is your take on this?
Tormalli: When I first came to the SA, I really think that some things could be changed and the process could be easier. People were sceptical that I wouldn’t be able to achieve certain things as an Education officer- yet, I had my goals that were pushed for during the first semester.
For some things that I pushed for, I see it is difficult to happen so that was why I decided to not to put my energy into that, and started to focus on my other goals, in which I could see myself change.
People voted for me and I don’t know why they voted for me. Maybe they did see something in me, or they did not see something in me, but some things can be changed and some things are difficult to change. Students need to realise that we are trying and it hasn’t been easy trying to push things, especially with management. We are trying to get things done. It might be small and they can’t see it, but things are being changed and some can’t happen in a year. All the executive officers are in term for nine months which is a very short period of time to see major changes, but these changes will be happening in the following years to come.
The Student Association has been receiving quite an amount of criticism this year and it can be seen on the confessions/expressions page. How do you plan to approach this issue?
Tormalli: To give my honest opinion about this, students need to realise that we are also students, we are not doing this full time.
Yes, we are getting paid but they need to realise we’re students too.
We have our personal life and academics. I know it’s good to give us criticism and we are ready to accept it but people don’t need to go on confessions page and share things when they don’t really understand the full thing, or not making the initiatives to understand it. We at SA love criticism. You can email us what’s wrong with us but you don’t need to go on a platform to talk bad about us. This is why we started the whole initiative of making the individual platform in Facebook, where there are executive officers’ pages to show people what we are up to, who our team are, and what we work on so that there are some kind of transparency with the students as well.
Come try to understand us, rather than saying it on platforms like that.
The issue about first aid has been brought up for the past two years, where proper first aid has not been available for events such as the recent one, Nations Cup. Why there is no ambulance at the event, and if the SA has talked to the management, why has there been no outcomes? What changes have been made for this issue?
With Nations Cup, for the past two years, Nations Cup is fully run by the SA. First aiders are usually obtained from the PharmNotts to help us out, however, we did not have any as they pulled out. That is when we had to ask the staff or whoever had experience with first aid on campus to help us out. We do have staff who were on standby. I have brought this up to the management and we are looking into it to improve the first aid on campus. By giving first aid training to the staff and students, we can easily get help from them when there are events like the Nations Cup. In terms of the ambulance on campus, it is not on standby on any campus in Malaysia. We have phonelines to call, but maybe for events, we could get ambulance on standby requested by the organisers. In any case of emergency, security and the hall wardens are always there to make sure there’s a vehicle that can take them out.
In regards of the recent case of the student who committed suicide, e-mails were sent to the students saying that the well-being centre is there if attention is urgently needed. But with Ms Shamini (the university’s counselor) gone, who do they need to refer to now? How is the issue being tackled?
The well-being has always been there for everyone. I know Ms Shamini had left, but there are still people you can talk to. You can just drop by and talk to them about what your issue is and how you’re feeling, and they’ll set an appointment to anyone you can talk to. In the e-mail by Professor Graham Kendall, he had stated that if you have any problems coping with anything at all, you can always go to well-being. To be honest, I’ve been to well-being and if I have issues, I’ll make sure I’ll go there to talk to them. We are also talking to them about how we can help students who are coping with stress or any other mental health issues, because mental health is a very sensitive issue that not everyone wants to talk about, which is also why the wellbeing is not out there. We live in a culture where mental health is something we don’t talk about. Still, there are hotlines that the students can use to seek for help.
Written and interviewed by Harishma Remanan and Khairina binti Khairul Nizam
Featured image taken from SA President 17/18 Facebook Official Page