On the 13th of March, the hustings for SA Education Officer took place with two candidates running for the position. Their manifestos can be found here. The question and answer sessions for both were very intense.
Imsa Shakir, School of Economics.
The first candidate had selected three main events and six main improvements from her manifesto for her hustings. The six improvements encompassed the education network, learning community forum, coursework submission systems, academic societies as well as accessibility to more learning spaces.
First, Imsa started with the events she wanted to implement. She wanted to involve lecturers and students in her Education Networking Events. This was so they could give advice on their journey from undergraduates to lecturers. This would also be a good opportunity for students to get internships. Next came knowledge transfer groups where students within groups could share or communicate knowledge to students who were transitioning from one discipline to another. Following that, she mentioned the two parts of the interschool cup competition she planned to organise. The first would be an academic competition between different schools. The second was an interschool sports competition.
In terms of improvements in educational programs, she stated that she would address complaints and feedback with the ‘most votes’ first, through the Learning Community Forum (LCF). However, she failed to explain the relevance of this system. She also (like the outgoing SA Education Officer, Tormalli) pledged to implement a system of recording lectures in order to make them available online.
Imsa then touched on her idea of providing more learning spaces for students, especially during exam periods. Learning spaces were later clarified to be computer labs during the Q&A. She then elaborated on her Coursework Submission Systems – by barcoding coursework – to facilitate submissions.
Question and Answer Session.
The policy of ‘recording lectures’ had brought about many questions. It appeared that the askers were specifically concerned with its ethics.
It was pointed out by one audience member that some lecturers might not feel comfortable with teaching whilst being recorded. Imsa unconvincingly replied that the system’s implementation would only apply to “teachers who want to be recorded.”
Another question raised was the copyright problem. Imsa responded that cooperation between the school and faculty representatives would be facilitated to ensure that lecture recordings are only available for the students who were enrolled in the respective modules.
Much controversy revolved around the technical features of the policy, with many questions raised concerning Echo 360, notably due to the vague explanation by Imsa herself. In fact, several audience members debated the technicality of Echo 360 before the situation was defused by the RO. Imsa remained largely silent on this issue.
Another issue with Imsa’s manifesto was the Interschool Cup, as people were concerned about the fairness of the ‘academic competition’. The audience was concerned that students from different academic disciplines might not be able to compete on an equal platform. Imsa then clarified that the ‘academic competition’ would be built around questions of “general knowledge” and everyone “would be able to answer”.
Omar Ayman, School of Civil Engineering.
The second candidate started on a less enthusiastic note. He gave an extensive explanation of his cultural background and spent approximately a minute on an emotional narrative of his experiences in university and Malaysia. This included problems he had with his personal tutor and grudges lecturers had against students. He explained how these issues led to his manifesto.
Omar wanted to offer more resources for representatives. It was later clarified that these resources were ‘training’. Whether it constitutes anything else is unclear. He also wanted separate training for the different faculty reps. The reason for this was again not made clear. The subsequent three points were to a large extent a reiteration of what was in his manifesto.
Question and Answer session.
The issue of electing representatives within the first two weeks of the semester had raised some concerns. However, Omar reiterated that it would take place without any mishap and that the allocation of a maximum of 3 weeks was possible. According to him, even if some students came later in the semester for whatever reason, they were likely to be a small number and the other students could still have their elections.
This raised a second concern about the fairness of this issue but he countered by saying that people could not wait that long just for a few latecomers.
Following the same train of thought, newcomers to the university may find it difficult to understand this unfamiliar system. So, an audience member wanted to know how he was going to bridge this gap of knowledge. Omar repeated his previous statement, which was that training would be provided. However, the implementation of this was unclear.
After that, someone raised the point that everything in Omar’s manifesto was already in practice. Hence, a question was brought up concerning what was supposed to be new about his four suggestions. He replied that his fourth point on using technology was new. Despite this, the systems’ usefulness still remains to be seen, as students can speak to course representatives at any time. Hence, Omar has yet to convince his potential voters that a 24-hour system could make a difference. However, he was insistent that the anonymity was important.
Omar was then asked about how he planned to address complaints, as it appeared that nothing was currently being done about this. He said he would look into every complaint across all the courses, schools and years personally and speak to the respective deans about it.
Finally, Aqeel Shums Deen, the SA President for the 2015- 16 term, asked Omar about his opinion on taking action on anonymous feedback. Omar replied that it would depend on the problem, and an investigation would need to be carried out first.
Written by Lhavanya DL and Teoh Sing Fei.