Science, Technology and Campus Politics as Observed by the International Student (Pt. 2)

“Let us look at the seedy underbelly of cane sweetened diplomacy
That invites voices to speak and leaves some feeling unheard
Let us hear the masses that rage, deaf and blind to the law of the world
Cocooned in summer stories that forgot their rights
Let us speak of delegations gone past on wings of hope and joy
Cherry picked and blossomed, to be renewed come rain or shine”

While we have been making leaps and bounds as a society when it comes to innovation, where are we on the spectrum of honesty, fairness, and equality? The sequel to the article “The International Student Observes the Rise of the Technological Era” expounds on the UNMC politics revolving around the International Student Summit 2017 that took place earlier this semester at the Nottingham UK campus.

The International Student Summit is an annual, student-led tri-campus collaborative event between the University of Nottingham’s three campuses in the UK, China, and Malaysia. The ISS 2017 theme was “The Global Student in a Technology Age” and presented delegates with the chance to debate about current tech-centric issues and the future of our world, take field trips, as well as speak with industry leaders.

What Happened at the ISS 2017

70 students from the UK, China and Malaysia campuses convened for a week-long session of debates, talks, and conferences about the current technological impasse we are occupying. Experts from Microsoft and IBM Watson as well as an ex-minister from the UK were invited to speak to the students. Student delegates paid tribute to the topics in a hands-on manner with a trip to Sutton Bonington’s dairy farm to witness a cow milking machine as a part of the automated future discussion. In relation to the week’s technology-centered debates, a jet propelled sky taxi was tested in Germany. The summit also featured a short trip to York and a formal International Ball dinner sponsored by the ISS.

The ISS 2017 culminated in a Model United Nations style conference with cross-cultural perspectives from students on the interaction between science and technology with the topics of Society and Ethics, Innovation and Development, Teaching and Learning and the Industry.

Student delegates from UNUK, UNNC and UNMC celebrating the end of the week-long ISS 2017 debate. Source: Twitter

The UNMC delegation was thrilled and contributed positively to the summit. One of the ISS 2017 delegates provided insight on his experience during the Summit as a representative of the Nottingham Malaysia Campus.

ISS 2 (1)

Abdelbari Bennani Lahkim, ISS 2017 delegate from UNMC

Abdelbari Bennani Lahkim (Year 3 Economics): “Personally, ISS was a very enjoyable experience. As a delegate I was able to network with delegates from the UK and China campus which allowed me to learn ideas and perspectives from different students. I truly felt that this was a global atmosphere where I was able to interact with different nationalities in different fields. ISS was more than a summit, we were able to listen to lecturers from different ideology, fields, and careers such as Microsoft. We were also able to use their knowledge and turn it into a heated debate. Finally we were able to form lasting friendships through social activities and daily encounters. I would strongly recommend ISS for future potential delegates because it teaches you life-lasting competency lessons such as the art of networking, the ability of effective communication and the skill of debate, public speaking and finally the patience to understand the differences in opinions.”

A Selection Process Not Transparent Enough?

The ISS 2017 was created as an opportunity for global interaction that  would be truly beneficial in terms of exploring current issues with other students in a constructive manner that would contribute to the world in a positive, enriching manner. However, the requirements and constraints of this event were not provided upfront with clarity, causing multiple students to feel mislead, discriminated against, and under-represented.

Considering that the ISS was an incredible tri-campus opportunity with the prestigious chance to influence change in the technological society sector, more than a hundred students from UNMC applied. The application process was quite lengthy and thorough, indicating that the mini-essays written were of critical importance to the applicant’s potential chance to be a part of the delegation. However, practicality ensued and many shortlisted hopefuls were regretfully turned down.

As a result, some applicants who did not become a part of the delegation were understandably upset. The SA management later released a statement explaining the selection process which takes into consideration a wide range of aspects that were perhaps overlooked by students when eagerly applying, and possibly also by the management which neglected to make the eligibility and requirement criteria clear to all applicants.

Applicants who were interviewed regarding their experience of the ISS 2017 application process responded with strong feelings.

Ahmed Abdelaziz Hamdi Hanafi (Year 3 Chemical and Environmental Engineering):

“I thought ISS 2017 was a complete waste of time and unyielding since filling the application took a tremendous amount of time. I took it very seriously when in reality I never stood a chance.”

Rowida Khaled Abdelaziz Mahmoud (Year 3 Chemical and Environmental Engineering):

“I felt that for ISS 2017, people were selected based on diversity and past experiences instead of taking into account how valuable their contribution is. So the selection process was not clear and unfair.”

A number of students felt that while the university and SA strive to offer the student population with myriad opportunities, and provide a welcoming stance, we should be cautious about looking gift horses in the mouth. It is understood that in the future, a clear declaration of requirements and a statement on the eligibility of candidates would avoid disappointment from the applicants’ sides. Also, a review of the application process efficiency would be helpful in removing lengthy requirements from candidates to determine linguistic skills like English proficiency and instead choose more efficient methods. This would also cut back on having to read long applications from the management side.

 

Source: SEARCH

Source: SEARCH

The Different Factors in Selecting Applicants

On the flip side, the application process for UNMC was managed by the Student Association with the SA President Linur Chubaev leading the team and coordinating efforts for the large scale project of compiling a UNMC delegation.

The application management team has addressed the issue of students questioning the legitimacy of the selection process by sharing how it went. They had to ensure that the delegation was as diverse as possible since this was a tri-campus event that required input from students representing different races so that as many nations as possible would be represented in the debates. The diversity factor was not only restricted to ethnicity and racial profiles but also includes gender, age, background, study course, and the students’ interests. All of the above factors combined would determine how suitable a delegate a candidate would be since the UNMC ISS 2017 management team had to consider how the whole delegation would represent our campus. Hence, they were not just choosing students to go to ISS, but also a delegation to represent the Malaysian Nottingham campus.

Source: LinkedIn

Source: LinkedIn

When interviewed regarding ISS 2017, Linur Chubaev (Year 3 Economics) provided the following quote:

“For me, ISS has been a very interesting experience, since it was the first time I was in charge of organizing and preparing a delegation as well as representing student population of our campus. After hectic days of preparation and trying to solve the issues on our end, I was not able to attend the conference, due to visa issues. Nevertheless, I have learnt a lot about interviewing, working with a delegation, and, of course, improvisations at work, without which ISS wouldn’t have seen a Malaysian delegation.”

The UNMC ISS 2017 management team have released the following statement through our SA President Linur to clarify any remaining concerns from students: “We had to be slightly discriminative towards international applicants. Because, while choosing amongst international students who need to apply for UK visa (especially students, who are coming from the countries from which it is hard to get visa, such as myself) we have to make sure there is someone to substitute them, in case they are rejected during the visa process. So, we had to be careful with our selections. Apart from this minor precautionary bias, the application process was successful, in my view, and rather unbiased, thanks to other interviewers – Shazereen, Mavis, and Aqeel.”

Linur Chubaev handled this challenging project with honesty, grace, and aplomb characteristic of his term as the UNMC SA president. He was unfortunately unable to attend the ISS 2017 due to visa issues but graciously provided a quote regarding the event itself as relayed to him by the delegation: “The UNMC delegation found ISS 2017 conference great! Despite having a bit too much of learning material during the debate days, the conference was well-balanced, full of exciting activities and they got to know many rather interesting and enthusiastic students.”

On the situation of the application process and disgruntled students Linur concluded with pragmatic advice. “Regardless of whether you will make it or not, by filling up such an extensive survey, where you watched several videos and researched topics, that most of you wouldn’t even look into if not for the application, you have opened new horizons on certain aspects of your life, that you didn’t initially expect to affect you as a person (unless you keep up with technologies and/or are a computer science student). So, yes I urge student applicants to look at things positively and take the best that you can from this interesting learning experience.”

Source: LinkedIn

Source: LinkedIn

The fact of life is that every good opportunity has its under-blanket of darker strands and every bad scenario holds silver linings. The application was undeniably lengthy and time-consuming which makes the concerns of student applicants valid. However, looking at the bigger picture prompts us to understand that there are various factors at play, and if for any reason we feel slighted we can always provide feedback to the managerial heads to urge them for further clarity in future opportunities. Meanwhile, let us look for the silver linings in the dark cloud of one day and create our own opportunities until the tropical sunrise bursts through. It is the shades of grey mornings and dusk that navigate in this world, and so our compasses cannot be made of analogue numbers.

Written by Ayesha Shaik

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of the editorial team at IGNITE.

Featured Image Source: https://twitter.com/issnottingham/status/852564861695520770

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." (George Orwell, in Animal Farm, 1945)

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