a review of IDS Skincare… by a skincare noob (#1)

Everyone wants good skin, and I am no exception.

And so on the fateful day that IDS(!) reached out to me for this collaboration, I took on the challenge towards achieving a #Beautiful Bare Face. This will be a three-part series, and you are reading the first post. Here, I will chronicle my initial visit to the legendary IDS and review the skincare products they recommended me.

The big question: So, did my skin improve? The answer, for now, is a tentative yes – but why take my word for it? See for yourself and decide!

Mandatory disclaimer: I received products and services from IDS in exchange for this review. Nonetheless, I will strive to provide a fair evaluation of what worked for me and what didn’t, where applicable. Although I am a skincare noob, rest assured I compensate for it with my research skills.

look at how they sparkle! OwO

A brief about the test subject before we begin:

  • My goal is to have a Beautiful Bare Face (BBF hereon). I aim to function without makeup as much as possible. Currently, I use makeup only for important events, which is at most 6-8x a month (not even on dates – my man has to contend with my natural beauty). Everything else is filters and facetune.
  • I don’t have good sleeping habits (see: eye bags). As a maximiser, I masochistically occupy myself with multiple responsibilities, e.g. research, doing an internship, leadership responsibilities, and writing this blog. So, sleep is a luxury. This also means I spend the bulk of my time exposed to blue light from screens, which could spell trouble for both my sleep and my face.
  • I don’t (didn’t?) have great skincare habits either. Admittedly, I know a lot less about skincare than I should, considering my face is my asset. Hell, I don’t have good habits in general. Read on to see me get lectured by Dr Ian… (sniffle)

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Gwyn’s Guide to NTU Psych Modules (or: PSYCcess)

Update 12th Aug 2021:

WELCOME WINNERS (back) to a new semester of striving and suffering in AY21/22! This update brings additional reviews for HP4103 Forensic & Criminal Psychology (previously HP4106) and HP3203 Conservation Psychology. Also, with this update, I come forth with a new opportunity for YOU…

click for social media

We are the Singapore Psychological Society Youth Wing, bringing psych opportunities to you(th) 🤙🏽! We aim to advance psychology as a science and career among youths in Singapore 🇸🇬. Follow us on social media to be notified about our latest psychology initiatives. ❤

(Full disclosure: I’m the President so rest assured we’re legit.)

+++ END UPDATE/NOTICE +++

welcome to SUCCESS

Hello to all my fans. This post is a comprehensive review of modules I have taken in NTU. For each I briefly discuss the lecturer’s style, content, assessments, and personal tips if any. Ctrl-F is your friend here – enter either the year/semester (e.g. Y1S1), course code (e.g. HP1000), module name (e.g. Introduction to Psychology) to jump to the relevant section directly. I also indicate the type of module (Core/Major-PE/Ger-Core/Ger-PE/UE) and number of AUs. All the psych mods are presented first, followed by the GER-PEs/UEs/BDEs.

Background: I majored in Psychology with a 2nd Major in Sociology. That’s a normal workload for psychology + 35AUs in sociology courses substituted from my UEs.

Disclaimer: Module syllabus differs by year and is especially contingent on the lecturer so what you read here may not be what you get. My module trajectory is not a guideline – I just did whatever I wanted. It is your responsibility to do your due diligence. Just because I said a module was easier for me doesn’t mean it’s easy to score because of how the bell curve works, and just because I said something was hard doesn’t mean I didn’t do well. I discourage selecting modules based on how easy they seem; I recommend selecting topics that interest you.

PSA: You can find most course syllabi at this page (under the courses block).

If my posts helped you and you’d like to show your appreciation, consider making a donation here! It keeps my blog running and my energies focused on writing LOL. You will contribute to my monthly subscriptions to Share The Meal. More details and contact information here.

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compassion in teamwork?

Part 2 of teamwork, or lack thereof

I was interviewed by a therapist a few months back for some program. (Not for therapy, but I’ll get there.) She was a genteel lady who spoke as if soothing a newborn, yet I could sense iron will beneath that demeanour. And that intimidated me. I felt that she could see the weaknesses of my being: when her gaze penetrated me, I found myself wringing my hands under the table.

We started with the typical questions. Tell me one interesting fact about yourself. How did you become interested in psychology? What are your career goals? The two other interviewees flanking me answered with practised ease: well, I’ve always been interested in counselling…

Everything was manageable up to the pièce de résistance. Having sat silently beside her until then, her assistant peered at his notes as he recited the question.

I'm sure all of you have had to work in teams in the course of your study. Can you share one instance where you had a teammate who did not participate as much as you would have liked, and what you did in response?

Unsurprisingly, nobody had issues answering. We shared our misadventures with our own flair. I started with an academic definition of social loafing, which her assistant noted with some alarm; someone detailed a more placative approach, and the other had a heartwarming ending to their story. But the details were irrelevant: deconstructed, our stories were identical. There is a slacker, there is retaliation, and perhaps reconciliation.

I thought the interview would end following our earnest sharing. But I was wrong. She leaned forward, her body language incongruent with the killer blow she was about to deliver.

What are your thoughts about… showing compassion to these people? 

Just like that, I was ensnared.

My mind was racing. I’d never encountered a question like that before. Whilst I spluttered trying to parse together a coherent response in real-time, my psyche was going through a saga of civil war. Tons of if-then sequences, buts, and rebuttals to those buts battled each other.

Should slackers be shown compassion? Do they deserve compassion? Who’s to say who deserves what? Isn’t it right to show compassion to all, for better or for worse? Everyone’s bound to make mistakes, and the least we could do is be understanding, right? Isn’t that what I’d want from others – empathy in difficult times? But what about situations where someone leeches off the team the whole term with a shitty work ethic? And what if it happens most of the time? What about the others left shouldering the burden of work then?

What about me?

My first instinct was to reject the notion of compassion. Being primed with the thought of slackers already brought forth ugly memories from the recesses of my mind. To further expect me to swallow that resentment and extend loving acceptance to those who brought me suffering? If received offhandedly, the question could even be construed as an insult to those who actually put in effort (or, if I dare say, one could “take umbrage” at the statement). We bear the brunt of the work, they get the grade we worked for with minimal contribution, and we still have to extend compassion to them? Am I supposed to benevolently and passively endure as people take advantage of me for the rest of my life? To accept such an arrangement would be absurd. I can’t help but bitterly wonder if graders consider our feelings when we raise such instances of injustice only to hear “it’s just like that; get used to it”.

I should qualify my statements with a disclaimer that I don’t think of myself as The Most Valued Contributor Of All Time. I have done less than what I could potentially do, once in a while, albeit never regularly. Nevertheless, I continue to find myself appalled when I repeatedly encounter instances where people simply do not seem to care. They’re not even pretending to try. And others become notorious for making loafing a habit and their defining characteristic. I may not have the complete picture – thing is, nobody ever does – but I sure as hell can tell when you’re making an effort.

I’d be happy to extend compassion to everyone if it meant that loafers would actually start pulling their weight in projects, except I don’t recall that working out. Pragmatically speaking, compassion is a lofty ideal only attainable to the enlightened who have unlimited patience and time. And in this pressure cooker of a society, we have neither to spare. I have neither to spare.

Why then, indeed, should we show slackers compassion?

I guess that her counterpoint was designed to be discovered within that internal tirade. Her argument was that with sufficient support and unconditional positive regard, anyone could be motivated to contribute. Keywords: anyone, unconditional. I must admit that this optimistic view doesn’t sit well with my assumptions of human nature, which tend to lean toward the direction of self-centredness. But that could very well be a distortion manifesting from my personal insecurities. If there’s anything I’ve learnt from group work, it’s that our expectations of others are projections of our expectations of ourselves. I demand from others as much as I demand from myself, and I inevitably find myself disappointed because I am chasing unattainable perfection. And expecting others to act in the way we want is maladaptive at worst and naive at best.

It’s easy to attribute this dysfunction to the environment. We exist in a system that pits people against each other, and where the default mode of exchange is transactional rather than relational. My corresponding preoccupation with equal contributions bleeds into everything I think about and do when it comes to work. And my self-centredness hurt me and the people around me in the process. I’d immediately dismissed compassion as a fruitless endeavour on the basis that it wasn’t tangibly productive because I think only in terms of results when it comes to this issue. In this view, people are only worth as much as they can contribute to the outcome – precisely what she was attempting to challenge when she presented us with that thorny question.

Of course, resentment at inequitable contributions is instinctive and natural. But we can choose to rise above those. At least theoretically. And it’s not a have to, as she reiterated – nobody is obligated to show compassion to another. But perhaps we would be better off doing so. In extending compassion to others, we could be doing the same for ourselves – something we often neglect in the pursuit of conventional success. In fact, we probably need this compassion more than ever during these difficult times. Still, I believe we can further advance the conversation by considering other layers of the issue, including distributive justice, and I look forward to encountering more nuanced takes in the future. 

NTU vs NUS Psychology: The Lowdown

Considering Psychology as a degree, but can’t decide between NTU and NUS Psychology? We’ve got you covered! With 4 friends from NTU and NUS Psychology, we answer 10 frequently asked questions about the experience as a psychology student in both institutions. We also provide the nitty-gritty details, and offer some tips on how to thrive if you do choose to pursue Psychology in either university!

copped from @nus_memes

Questions to be answered (Ctrl-F to jump to the question straight, e.g. “Q3”)

  • Q1. Did you choose NTU/NUS Psych, and why?
  • Q2. What were your expectations for the Psych course when you first entered? How has the actual experience been similar and different?
  • Q3. What is the process for getting modules in NTU/NUS Psych like, and how has the experience been for you?
  • Q4. What are your favourite modules so far, and what modules have you not taken but want to?
  • Q5. (Because NUS allows seeing grades before S/U) How has the S/U function helped you? For NTU students, what are your opinions on this? 
  • Q6. Share one favourite memory you made in university.
  • Q7. If you could give your younger self one piece of advice before entering university, what would it be?
  • Q8. What research opportunities are available for students in your batch, and have you taken up any of them? How was the experience like?
  • Q9. What career opportunities have you been exposed to? 
  • Q10. What resources do you recommend for incoming students to your university’s Psych programme?

Profiles of our guest interviewees (names tagged to social media profiles)

Gwyneth (NTU): Year 4 doing Psychology and Sociology as a 2nd Major at NTU. Spends all her free time blogging or reading specific genres of manga (yes very boring). PLEASE support her by sharing this post/blog with ALL your friends. Find her @gwynethtyt everywhere.

Tarif (NTU): Year 2 NTU Psychology Major, pursuing a minor in Youth Work and Guidance. In his free time, Tarif enjoys taking long walks amidst nature and scrolling through TikTok and Facebook for funny content. A pragmatic idealist, Tarif can often be caught contemplating life, seeking greater meaning in the work that he does. Beyond his musings, he lives by the phrase: all is well!

Terance (NUS): Year 2 NUS Psychology undergraduate. Doesn’t like balloons.

Ye Rui (NUS): Year 2 NUS Psychology undergraduate. Enjoys watching shows, gaming, and playing soccer. HATES cucumbers.   

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weekly jam, #11

I have a sacred duty to share this song with as many people as I can. The moment the opening chords hit, I was compelled by an external force to drop everything I was doing and simply close my eyes and feel my existence channeled via every note of this melody. I have NO doubt that it was a spiritual experience (the last time I felt this way was watching John Mayer live). Good night and may we all find our good places within ourselves through this song.

the (briefer) art of thinking clearly

I read The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli a while back. It already is a summarised version of 99 common thinking errors, but I took it upon myself to simplify it even further. So here we are. I haven’t completed it, though, so we’re only up to 30 for now.

  1. Survivorship bias: success cases are over-represented, leading us to overestimate our chances of success
  2. Swimmer’s body illusion: selection factors are confused with results
  3. Clustering illusion: tendency to perceive patterns where there are none
  4. Social proof: predisposition to follow others’ behaviours, esp. in uncertain situations. Combat with being skeptical and challenging norms
  5. Sunk cost fallacy: reluctance to abandon an undertaking due to incurred costs, though that has no relevance to future outcomes (irrational). Consider only the latter
  6. Reciprocity bias: social predisposition to respond to actions in a similar manner (e.g. kind behaviour is returned, so is hostility)
  7. Confirmation bias: we disproportionately focus on evidence that confirms prior beliefs and disregard contradicting information. Seek out disconfirming evidence and clarify milestones to ensure we do not overlook failures.
  8. Authority bias: information with authority is perceived as more credible/influential
  9. Contrast effect: the effect of an object is enhanced/diminished when perceived in relation to another, though it should have no bearing (beware discounts, cheap add-ons, beauty standards).
  10. Availability heuristic: evaluation of a concept is determined by how readily examples come to mind, which distorts actual risks and decisions made. Make effort to consider relevant but less accessible information, e.g. alternative views.
  11. Narrative bias: illusion of causality; tendency to connect disjointed, random occurrences into a cohesive, controlled narrative (stories). Consider omitted elements (via negativa) and be wary if the bias encourages risky decisions.
  12. Hindsight bias: hindsight is 20/20; we modify our cognitions after an event such that the event seemed inevitable and logical, although we are poor forecasters in reality
  13. Overconfidence effect: person’s subjective confidence in his/her judgements is reliably greater than objective accuracy of those judgements – even pessimists.
  14. Chaffeur knowledge: vs. real knowledge – people who have invested time and energy to genuinely understand a topic. Chaffeurs merely repeat it without real understanding. Know your circle of competence and recognise when you fall outside.
  15. Illusion of control: tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events
  16. Incentive super-response tendency: people respond to incentives by changing their behaviour (e.g. if you pay per hour, people prolong their work). Reward both intent and result, and watch out for ways people may exploit the system.
  17. Regression to mean: the natural tendency for phenomena to even out towards the average. If an extreme event happens, it is likely to return to the average in time (think normal distribution).
  18. Outcome bias: tendency to evaluate a decision based on its outcome (good/bad) rather than the decision-making process. This is an error because no decision-maker in the past ever knows for sure how the risk will turn out. To avoid the influence of outcome bias, one should evaluate a decision by ignoring information collected after the fact and instead focus on the quality of the factors at play.
  19. Paradox of choice: more choices decreases quality of decision-making, and leads to lower satisfaction. Set a list of criteria and stick to them; recognise that perfection is unattainable; and learn to love what you choose. 
  20. Liking bias: the more we like someone, the more likely we are to trust and help that person. Influenced by 1) attractiveness, 2) similarity to us, and 3) they like us too. To maximise this benefit: send people compliments and make them think you like them.
  21. Endowment effect: people’s willingness to pay for a new object is typically lower than the amount they are willing to accept to give up the object. e.g. people lowball for textbooks on Carousell but sell it at high prices. Related to loss aversion. Related to mere ownership effect – owning an item makes one evaluate it more positively. Endowment effect applies even to near-ownership circumstances. Don’t cling to things and consider whether the relationship you have to those items really matter.
  22. Groupthink: phenomenon where desire for harmony in an ingroup leads to dysfunctional decision-making processes and irrationality. Symptoms include: illusion of invulnerability, illusion of unanimity, pressures toward conformity.Question tacit assumptions and always appoint a devil’s advocate to break consensus.
  23. Neglect of probability: we respond well to the magnitude of an event, but lack intuitive grasp of its likelihood (probability). Zero-risk bias: we prefer 0% risk even when the alternative may have better outcomes. When faced with emotional topics or serious threats, we respond more poorly to risk reduction stats.
  24. Scarcity error: tendency to place higher value on an object that is scarce and lower value on those that are in abundance. The more difficult an item is to acquire, the more value that item is perceived to be. Arises from social proof and commitment. Reactance: when we are deprived of an object, we deem it more attractive. To counteract, assess products solely based on their qualities. And remember that most things will come back – like sales.
  25. Base-rate neglect: when people are given generic information (e.g. statistics) and then specific information (e.g. anecdotes), the mind tends to focus on the latter. Disregard of fundamental distribution levels. Specificvariant of extension neglect – cognitive bias whereby people ignore size of the set during an evaluation in which the size of the set is logically relevant, e.g. ignoring sample size and variability.Watch out for anecdotal information.
  26. Gamblers’ fallacy: the erroneous belief that if a particular event happens more often than normal in the past, it will “balance out” by occurring less in the future. This is problematic if the events are statistically independent, e.g. a dice roll. What happened in the past is unrelated to the future.
  27. Anchoring bias: cognitive bias whereby an individual relies too heavily on an initial piece of information offered (the “anchor”) to make subsequent judgements. Once this initial value is considered, subsequent negotiations and decisions will align towards it while dissimilar values are discarded. The more uncertain the value of something, the more susceptible people are to anchors. Use anchors to elevate your value, but also be wary of them when it comes to sales.
  28. Induction problem: inductive thinking is the tendency to draw universal generalisations from specific observations. However, these generalised certainties are always provisional – think Black Swan event.
  29. Loss aversion (Daniel Kahneman): people fear loss much more than they value gain, and are much more motivated to avoid loss even when this comes at the expense of potential gain. Exploit this when advertising by appealing to how a product may help you avoid losses/disadvantages.
  30. Social loafing: the tendency for individual effort to depreciate when in a team setting. Groups’ total productivity is less than the sum of its individual members working separately. Increases proportionally with group size, due to diffusion of accountability and deindividuation. Combat this by making individual contributions visible (measurement), and motivation. Related to risky shift.

weekly jam, #10

peach tree rascals – water

fell in love with ideas of you
roll up then we look at the view
hold up, do you think of me too?
nowadays I don’t know what to do
why you go when I needed you close
back then I messed it up, yea I know
without you is when I go through the most
but it’s okay when I got you close

reflections of a “student leader”

Just around this time in 2018 I was eagerly awaiting Union Day. For many of us, it’s an otherwise ordinary day with a minor perk: classes, by law, are not allowed to be conducted between 10:30am-2:30pm. For me it was a day of reckoning, where my fate as a “student leader” lay in the hands of my peers. In the month leading up to the big day, I had applied for the role of Union Representative (now “Union Executive Committee Representative”) in SSS Club, and had my plans all laid out for a corresponding role in the NTUSU Exco as Corporate Communications Executive (Relations). On Union Day, undergraduates are empowered with the ability to vote and elect a handful of representatives to their school Club, as well as the Big 3 (CAC, SC, WSC). And I was one of those hopeful applicants, filled with dreams and grand visions of a building a better place for students.

look at this sellout!

Fast forward two years and here I am – no longer a student leader of NTU, but a student who can say she’s had the experience of being one. Still, I remain invested in the election affair every year not only because it is an event of personal significance, but also that many of my friends have opted to contest for various positions in the clubs/societies they identify with. But enough about me – this piece wasn’t written for me, but for NTU students.

I aim to answer two questions, broadly:

  1. What is the significance of the student leader?
  2. More importantly: why should you care?

I will juxtapose two perspectives: as a leader from my experience in my junior years, and as an observer watching from the crowd following “retirement”.

The contested role of the “student leader”

What do you think about when you hear the phrase “student leader”? Responses range from the apathetic/nonchalant to mild approval to aggressive frustration. The last one is typically the most salient, perhaps because of the negativity bias. (In other words, we are more likely to recall unfavourable information, and we are tea-loving drama hoes).

There is a murkiness that surrounds the exact responsibilities of student leaders, though I will endeavour to state that this is largely deliberate – this is so that leaders can absorb a range of functions without being unnecessarily restricted. But while its abstract nature offers freedom, it also means little guidance and the leader is left to concretise it themselves. In my role as CCE(R), my overarching aim was to “bridge the gap between students and administration”. That could be anything. I opted to build U-Insight and U-Feedback, since they were the main channels of communication. But if there is not enough key initiatives or functions achieved that distinguish the role, then it is easy for onlookers to claim that the leader is not doing enough, or even that the role is redundant. They’re not necessarily wrong.

I’ve observed a disjuncture between the perceptions of students “on the ground” vs. student leaders on the issue of what they actually do. As a leader, it’s easy to list out all the things that I did – craft and disseminate timely information, manage social media channels, provide copywriting for all publicity materials, respond to students’ concerns… the list goes on. On the other hand, ask any cynic what they think student leaders do and you might get a diametrically opposed view.

this is not uncommon to see. it is not exclusive to the SU.

A compilation of some strong criticisms of the so-called student leader. I address all below:

  • Selfish; only out for ourselves and our resumes, without real intention to benefit the student community.
  • The image of the porcelain doll is apt here: filled with an air of unwarranted self-importance, yet not serving any real purpose other than to look pretty.
  • Limited in power, yet corrupted by power. (Make up your mind!)

I personally believe there is a positive correlation between individuals driven by power/achievement and the likelihood of taking up leadership positions. But this does not necessarily mean they will be selfish. The ability to make a change is imbued with power, yet this proposition attracts different kinds of people. Some are motivated by a real desire to do good, and I also know of others whose ego is wildly out of proportion to their capability. It is unfair to make broad generalisations of the entire character of a group based on a few eye-catching examples. The best way to know is to judge for yourself, and this is not via hearsay. It is about hearing from the candidates themselves. I elaborate on this later.

Another common accusation is that clubs and societies are merely extensions of the administration/upper management. Here is where I recall an article I read in a module on organisational structure (HS2005) by Kanter (1994). It addresses issues of power. I took it the same semester I was in the Students’ Union, and thus found it particularly relevant. Kanter proposes that there are three sources of power in any organisation, and I attempt to contextualise them here.

Power

First is lines of supply – the more capacity a leader has to bring in new resources such as money and materials, the more powerful. It is important to establish here that virtually all events are funded by the school/SAO. Thus, proposals by student organisations are subject to multiple layers of approval and careful consideration of costs and benefits. This means that bargaining power is relatively limited, especially if it is not in line with the consensus from management.

Next we have lines of information – knowing current affairs and relevant news. The club has a bit more power here if they can manage to conduct surveys that assess members’ opinions, which they can then use to strengthen their claims to the administration. However, due to the inherently hierarchal structure of the system, information on school policies is often ambiguous or not conveyed to student leaders altogether. The opacity of the decision-making process at the highest levels of NTU is common knowledge – only when decisions have been confirmed are they announced to students. While there is an effort to include representatives in this process, this is not always a guaranteed. Furthermore, the rapidly-changing nature of key events such as Covid-19 means that things are constantly in flux. When students write in asking for certainty in uncertain situations, there are a very limited range of responses student leaders can pursue. It takes time to clarify.

Last we have lines of support – the power to call for extraordinary, innovative, but risky events without having to worry about resistance. This is arguably the most complicated. A bureaucratic structure is naturally predisposed – by design – to maintain the status quo as far as possible. The life cycle of any ambitious uprising against the current order is like that of a bug’s – short and usually quashed before it can grow into anything bigger. Irreversible upheavals are anathema to the existing order. Even at the policymaking level, many initiatives may be delayed with the rationale that “more research is required to avoid unforeseen consequences”. And that is rational to say considering any change has implications on up to 24,000 undergraduates at an institutional level. But that is not to say extraordinary things can’t be achieved. I don’t believe that the history of NTU has ever seen a fully S/U-able semester until last year. And that was achieved because students were able to collectively galvanise their interests, providing the sufficient momentum for student clubs to campaign for changes. However, it comes with great difficulty, and you need the right time, place, and people.

Agency

One note to make is that our system of (school) governance is not universally applicable to other cultures. When I was in McGill University I saw critical reports on existing practices all the time. But that’s not how it works here. It seems like a very cop-out answer but I believe it is best understood within the broader climate of Singapore’s political ideology.

Student leaders, by virtue of their position, are agents created to perpetuate the existing order. This is not their fault. They still do their best with the resources and constraints they have. There is a lot going on behind the scenes that members sometimes take for granted. Those “welfare pack” events every year that some mockingly disparage even as the same people readily join the thousand-strong queue for them? They take months of planning and logistics. Not to mention that there are tons of other activities occurring across the year. And even event-running is pivotal to maintaining school culture. We take student activities for granted until they disappear.

Leaders as just “overhyped event planners”? I recall the time my colleague showing me a 50-page document reviewing a school policy based on a large-scale survey that he had teamed up with another colleague to implement (hi A if you’re reading this, pat on the back for you). I would have disseminated it but got shot down before I could. His partner (also A, love y’all fairies) worked himself half to death over policies relating to student life, personally tailoring thoughtful 300-word responses to students who were flagging issues they faced. He finally saw his ideas come to success after months of back and forth, but was it worth it? Either way, I know he did his best.

The student not immersed in this reality only has a partial view into what leaders actually do – but that’s not their fault. The student-member doesn’t see what’s going on, because they don’t have access to this privileged information. I argue that this is due to the limitations on the part of clubs (and perhaps by default the system as whole) in measures to ensure accountability and transparency.

Accountability and transparency

I had the pleasure of attending the SSS Union Rally last Friday via Zoom. I noted a discrepancy in the recruitment emails and final rally line-up sent earlier that week by the club, and thus I sought to clarify the matter as a Concerned and Invested Member. Unfortunately, I picked an inappropriate time to do so, during the transition between two candidates — the Returning Officer appeared visibly thrown off by my question. Seemingly offended by my indiscretion, he first spluttered that I should have “done my research beforehand based on the information available” (but I did, or I wouldn’t have a question to ask in the first place…). He then proceeded to inform me chidingly that it was rude and unbecoming to unmute and show my face in a rally(!) without seeking permission to do so.

Throughout this lecture, he did not answer my question nor seek to clarify what I meant. He did say it could be asked at the end of the rally “when the questions are open to the floor”, but I left because I have better things to do than sit in for another three hours. Still, don’t take my word for it – verify it with the recording of the rally! If they make it publicly accessible, that is. (Maybe if a Student Advisor was present, there might have been a better outcome to this? Hahaha!) Of course, there are many potential innocuous explanations for the discrepancy. The club is welcome to respond to my question and I will revise my account where necessary.

every voice, always heard.

Every year leaders face the same problems and ask the same questions — how do we increase student engagement, and actually make changes that benefit the members’ welfare. These are questions with no answers and no end: we can only inch forward slowly in trying to discover what works and what doesn’t. One way to start is to increase transparency and accountability of all processes, and not ignore students’ concerns. If the students know what is going on then they can be invested in it. But this is, of course, not as easy as it sounds.

Before Covid-19 happened, there would be a period of time where applicants’ details were publicly displayed at the foyer for students to peruse. Inconsistencies, if found, could be raised to the election committee, and disqualifications could ensue if they were found to be legitimate. For example, I believe there is a rule whereby you cannot have a fellow candidate endorse you (you need a supporter and seconder for your application). Maybe in the transition online, this process was omitted. I didn’t know who my representatives were until two nights before the rally.

I have good faith that the student leaders did their best for SSS Club during their term. They organised a few events, e.g. a welfare-themed one. In response to students’ concerns on the newly implemented S/U option, they provided relevant clarification on questions raised by students. They created a new social media page @sss.academics to address academic concerns. There are a lot of background processes running at any given point, and we should give them credit for what they have achieved.

I believe that the onus is on student clubs to make information about club proceedings and updates easily accessible to their members. That means that relevant documents should be stored in an online location that is retrievable at a click and not hidden in some dusty treasure chest. In my opinion, reports, constitutions, or meeting minutes should be sent without question upon request – and the member shouldn’t even have to ask for it to be privately sent in the first place. It should be a given that it is publicly available. Fun Accountability Test: send an email to any club asking for their constitution and assess the response you get. I will qualify this by saying that clubs often have to strike a fine balance by deciding what is shared and what is not, because you don’t want to risk inundating your members with information to excess and driving them away or detracting from other relevant matters. Presidents should also regularly conduct reviews to ascertain if certain positions are doing too much or too little.

Walkovers

A final phenomenon to tickle your interest is the overwhelming tendency towards walkovers in school elections. This means that only one person is running for one position. But did you know that all roles, as long as you meet the prerequisites, are open for contest? Some societies do engage in deconflicting strategies to maximise student fit but a position doesn’t “close” even if there are no vacancies – nobody is guaranteed a position until they are officially voted in on Union Day / Annual General Meeting. So watch out when you receive a recruitment email where certain positions are omitted. Oftentimes you can still apply for those omitted from the list – and you should raise alarm if you receive a suspicious, deflecting, response. The reservation of roles is not allowed. But nobody is handing you anything on a silver plate – you want it, you should be prepared for it. Anyway, walkovers are the norm, and contests are the exception. This creates a troubling situation sometimes when onlookers perceive leaders as incompetent (but there is no better choice). Yes, if there was a better choice they wouldn’t win… but where are the contestants?

Okay, so what?

The takeaway for students is: if you’re frustrated at the current state of affairs, demand accountability. Make your opinions heard, and stand for constructive change. Even if you think student leaders suck, being one is better than being a sitting duck lamenting that nothing is happening. In case anyone takes my words out of context: I have NEVER once blamed students for any of this. I have made it clear that it is a STRUCTURAL issue. But you have the POWER to change it.

Vote. Know who the people representing you are. Ask questions (at the right time, I guess). Save the receipts. Demand accountability. Attend your AGMs and rallies and ask your questions and find out what events are relevant for you. It’s not as if you have anything to lose. Watch out for leaders who present with an arsenal of lofty, abstract ideals (hot air) but have no concrete plans to back it up. If they say they want to “improve the welfare of students”, ask them what examples of initiatives they have in mind and how they will implement them. Don’t be afraid to vote against people that you feel don’t reflect your ideology or are ill-equipped. Again: your vote counts. It will tomorrow. It always will.

Wow, you’ve made it!

Special section for Psychology students only. Come for AGM tomorrow! (See @ntupsychsoc on Telegram.) I wish to promote my friend Tarif who is running for president in PsychSoc this year. He is an outstanding student who excels academically and socially. As a former student leader, whatever that means, he has my stamp of utmost confidence. But decide for yourself! Tune in to PsychSoc AGM tomorrow (Tues, 15/9) 6:45pm on Zoom to hear more about his plans and ideas. (He has concrete plans!) And of course, vote – your opinion matters. Note that you need to be registered as a member to attend the event.

he’s on the left.

Update for my tea-loving drama hoes

Woke up this morning to this:

nice new vision
look ma, now i can ask questions on the spot

Coincidence? Whatever it is, remember to vote and question.

The NTU Freshman’s Starter Pack to Success

Compilation of useful resources for incoming freshmen.

All links open in new tabs.

Student Life

Academics

Exchange

Financial Assistance

Apps

  • Blackboard: NTULearn but on your mobile. Essential
  • uWave: used to be under NTUSU but had a dramatic split and then rebranded itself as a “lifestyle app”. Might be worth a shot if it still has the old functionalities e.g. timetable integration
  • Forest: plant virtual trees; can’t leave app while your tree is growing. Virtual coins earned can be converted to planting real-life trees(?)
  • BFT: similar to Forest; keeps your phone face-down  
  • GoParkin: NTU’s new barrier-less initiative uses this for parking
  • Microsoft To-Do: create and categorise tasks in to-do lists
  • CamScanner: scan pages, cards, receipts, your face on demand… You’d be surprised at how much more professional your notes and documents will seem after using this.

Productivity hacks

  • Eisenhower matrix: is your task important? Is it urgent? Is it both, or neither?
  • Setting SMART goals: because setting goals is the best way to justify procrastination
  • Google Calendar: all basic bitches use it, so can you
  • Trello: project management tool designed for collaboration – you can now chastise your group mates with evidence of their social loafing!
  • RescueTime: logs your computer usage to create personalised productivity reports
  • When2meet.com: coordinates meeting availabilities for groups and presents them in a clean calendar template. No longer do you need to suffer through the never-ending WhatsApp copy-paste threads.

Social media

Send me ideas if you want, I’ll credit you