I posted this note on the afternoon of 31 January 2011 on the Facebook Page of NUSSU and when I checked it again at 1918hrs, it has been taken down/ deleted by NUSSU. According to the NUSSU website, it is stated that “[NUSSU] hopes to be an approachable Union that can be useful to NUS students during their time in University [. . .] NUSSU strives to amplify the voices of the students and at the same time act as a bridge between the students and the university administration to promote students’ interest and welfare in NUS.”
I am writing this note to put down on record information I received from sources close to and within NUSSU about an ongoing negotiation that the NUS administration is having with NUSSU and the 14 constituent clubs.
I understand that NUSSU and the 14 constituent clubs are currently in talks with the NUS administration to allow the administration to use monies accumulated in the reserves of each constituent clubs for purposes of investment in existing investment plan(s) that NUS currently holds. Which particular investment plan, NUSSU has no idea. The negotiations has been ongoing for at least 6 months now. The monies in the reserves are built up over the years from the annual subscription fees that students pay to NUSSU for “Student Activity and Services”. Each student has to pay $24 every academic year. According to the NUS State of the University Report in 2010, there are currently 25,168 undergraduates enrolled in NUS. This means that every year, NUSSU collects $604,032 from its students. Each constituent club would then be allocated a sum of money for its activities and services throughout the academic year. Any funds that are left over would be channeled to the reserves for use under “exceptional circumstances” such as the purchase of fixed assets or any shortfall in funds in the planning for student activities. Till date, I understand this reserves amounted to a figure worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I understand that NUS and NUSSU and the 14 constituent clubs are close to making an announcement. In other words, stay tuned for a big hongbao from NUSSU after the Lunar Chinese New Year.
It is clear to me that NUSSU and the 14 constituent clubs are guardians of the monies on behalf of the students. The monies in the reserves have been painstakingly built up over the years by different batches that have studied in NUS. With this in mind, these monies do not belong to NUSSU per se and thus NUSSU has to be accountable and transparent to the student population in instances where these monies from the reserves is being utilised. Sadly, this is not the case. The question is why?
I have a couple of questions that I would like to ask NUSSU and I hope any NUS undergraduate who comes across this note would similarly posed these questions to NUSSU and their respective student representative(s)
- Why is NUSSU so secretive in its communication with the student population and
- What’s the point of quietly going about this negotiation with the NUS administration without mentioning a word to the student population?
- Are NUS undergraduates not qualified to know what exactly is happening? Are we not stakeholders of these monies?
- How can the students trust NUSSU to carry on with the negotiations when it has been unaccountable and nontransparent in its conduct as seen in the recent issue over the tuition fee hike?
- How much monies are there in the reserves?
- How is these monies going to be invested and what are the returns like?
- How would the students benefit from the investment?
- In the event of a failed investment, are there any safeguards that NUS can promise to the student population?
- Has the negotiation been conducted on a equal basis? Has the administration been exceedingly forcefully in trying to obtain an agreement from NUSSU and the 14 constituent clubs?
- Can undergraduates in NUS trust NUSSU?
I would like NUSSU to stop the negotiation with immediate effect and commence with the consultation process with the student population in each faculty, with the objectives of (1) explaining to them what this entire project is all about; (2) seeking the acquiescence of the students to represent them in any future negotiations with the administration. In the event that no consensus/ decision can be obtained, this issue should be put forth in a form of a student referendum to chart the way forward (i.e. to accept OR reject the use of the monies for investment)
Such behaviour of the union is deeply deeply regrettable. In the first place, no undergraduate has agreed to allow the use of the reserves for purposes of investment. NUSSU was created to serve the students, its biggest stakeholder and not to impose its collective will upon them.
Where’s the accountability, transparency and representation?
You may find some difficulties in trying to contact the 32nd NUSSU Executive Committee as you would realised that their website has not been updated since assuming office in September 2010.
NUSSU website: http://community.nus.edu.sg/nussu/
Please spread/ forward this note and let us work towards 500 “Likes” for this note and send a strong message to NUSSU that the time for accountability is now. Thank you.