IGNITE interviewed Jason Ong Jin Hui, the Student Association Vice President 2016/17. He discusses the fulfillment of his manifesto, and the gap between international and local students.
As one of the most experienced SA officers, you have served two terms with the SA. What was the difference between these terms?
My first term was a learning stage of SA protocols and procedures on running the committee. The second term was about bringing that experience forward to assist the other execs in achieving their goals. Once you know how the SA runs, it is easier to work with the management and deal with issues.
In your manifesto, you emphasized bridging gaps between international students and local students. How has that progressed?
In these two years I think it has significantly improved. For previous years, there has been the impression that international students rule the SA. Whereas, for these two years we have seen a huge change with more local students joining the network. So now, it’s a mixture of both local and international students running the SA together.
What about outside SA, for example the student participation in events? Has it increased?
Student participation in the events still largely depends on the interests of the students. For example, the recent Speed Dating event. Speed dating had a turnout consisting of a mixture of local and international students, with the purpose of making friends. But during events like International Cultural Night, there are still more international students compared to local students. Yet, it’s good that we have seen local students’ increased involvement. So yes, we are growing little by little, and I hope that after my term we can achieve at least 50 percent of each party running the SA together.
“It’s not like we are differentiated into locals and internationals, the important thing is that we are all here as UNMC-ians.”
What were the significant challenges of the Vice President position?
Working as the Vice President is like being in a grey area. There’s no specific job description, you can work behind the scenes, but also be right at the forefront. For this year, Linur is focused on external affairs while I am focused on internal affairs, which includes assisting execs or portfolios that need help. Communication problems were the most challenging part. Every single one of us in office are leaders, so we need to properly coordinate and communicate between one another because we have our own personal preferences. Imagine all eight of us in the office. I need to communicate with each of them, understand their portfolios and events to ensure that we achieve our goals together.
So what do you think was your greatest achievement as SA Vice President?
I think my greatest achievement will be that this is the best year in terms of communication between execs. Previously, execs were performing their jobs individually. But this year, we worked as a team. As evident from the Fresher’s Week event which we coordinated with all the execs and supported each other. It wasn’t only under the Activities Officer. So I think that the greatest achievement was in connecting everyone. Not only the execs but also in other networks, including the Clubs and Societies (CS) Execs Camp, which was meant to improve communication between CS presidents and the SA. They are our direct feedback between the student body and the SA.
During your campaign you emphasized the importance of marketing and communications to the student body, what steps have you taken to implement publicity and has that helped you increase participations in your events?
For Nation’s Cup, we updated the results daily to keep people up to date. The same was implemented for Fresher’s and other events. We wrote event reports in the SA Nottingham website. Regarding publicity, MACOMM is doing a good job updating the website and Facebook at least twice a week. I think my aim to increase publicity also helped achieve transparency, because information is available freely on our website. For publicising events, we have a rule that only major events can be requested to be posted on the SA’s Facebook page, in order to avoid spam. In terms of our SA network I think we did a great job: Fresher’s week broke last year’s record and Nation’s Cup’s participation rate increased. Hopefully, International Cultural Night, being the first major event this semester, will also break last year’s record.
How did you improve and increase traffic flow to the SA website?
Ahmed Afrah Ismail initiated this last year, when we established the new SA website. We requested IT services to automatically display the SA website when Internet Explorer is launched. More information has been added, such as important links and SA council reports. We also connected our Events Calendar to the Facebook feed. Additionally, we created a feedback form that takes up less than five minutes. This is available under the Feedback column on the website. It will be anonymously sent to the respective departments, so that Campus Services will get direct feedback from the students. The first one is for Catering services, which is a trial, and we hope that we can create more forms for all other services under the Campus Service departments.
What steps did you take improve transparency?
In my hustings last year, I did promise one Let’s Talk episode every two weeks, but we couldn’t achieve this because we don’t have a video production team. Nevertheless, we did collaborate with the Corporate Marketing Team for Let’s Talk. There were two episodes out this year, and hopefully we can make it three episodes for our term. We are working on it little by little, and it depends upon the next SA Committee to continue this. We hope they will brainstorm more creative ideas in their term that will improve things step by step.
What has the communications team been doing this year?
Last year, the Communications team broadcasted only SA network events. This year, we tried to reach out to the SA Clubs and Societies major events as well. Usually, we don’t broadcast minor events; it is just open to the committee and members themselves. So we publicise events open to the public, so that people are aware of what the societies did throughout the year. We use Facebook, and as of this year, we’ve introduced Snapchat. The team does not handle the SA website as that requires an understanding of WordPress. I taught the head and the editorial head of MACOMM to just edit the posts. If it’s a technical issue, Afrah and I settle it together. We plan to train the next VP on the use of the WordPress system.
Do you have any advice for the candidate that will succeed you as Vice President?
Actually, if you look at the committees in the UK and Ningbo campus, there is no Vice President. Only in Malaysia does the constitution state there’s a Vice President to assist the President. It really depends upon him or her to move and think outside the box. There is no defined role, but once they take initiative to do something different in their term, their successors will follow in their footsteps.
The Vice President (VP) doesn’t just have to be a supporter, they can also be a leader. Also, it is very important to have good coordination with the President, because the President has a lot of workload. The VP needs to know how to share that workload. After all, the VP is the medium between the President and the execs, and also the society Presidents. They need to listen to feedback from these groups and relay all this to the President, so they have to be good with people too.
Written by Delyn Choong and Nafisa Choudhury.