NUS Fees Hike

Thursday, February 16, 2006

NUS sent out an email to all students stating that there will be a fee hike by 3%, which equates to about $180 more. I suppose it's not that big an amount, but the announcement has sparked off a relatively large uproar amongst the student body. To state clearly, I don't think the price hike is all that bad IF it's justifiable, meaning there's a VERY GOOD reason for it. However, it is sad to note that the way in which corporatised NUS has gone about carrying this out is far from satisfactory considering it is us STUDENTS who happen to be their consumer.

The thing that irks students the most, is that this matter was decided at the administration level, and was 'announced' to the students with very clear intentions that it will be carried out regardless of how unhappy students may be. It is a matter which concerns mainly the student body, and yet we were maligned when it came to deciding this issue. It wouldn't be as bad if this wasn't the National University of Singapore; supposedly the place which churns out young adults who can think critically, are not afraid to express themselves, educated and well informed. By choosing to act without even thinking about asking the students first goes against the principle of wanting to produce such graduates. Obviously, the administration expects us students to be apathetic and ignorant, just as most of us were brought up to be. We swallow everything hook, line and sinker simply because 'we can't do anything to change it so why bother?'

Well we're not. I think it is high time we students start acting with a bit more back-bone. Compare the state of tertiary education now and say, 30 years back. Back then, students were actively involved in fighting for what they believed was right, even though they may not have been the most elite of students. They were visionary and passionate, sometimes resorting to extreme means. No, I don't condone violence, nor do I believe that causing unrest is the way to go, but sitting down, twiddling our thumbs, murmuring amongst ourselves and finally doing NOTHING about it isn't how it's supposed to be. Worse still, some students don't even CARE unless it affects them on a larger scale.

We have become pawns of bureaurocracy, becoming docile when we ought to stand up. We're unhappy about the way things are, but we ALL sit down and complain about it instead of DOING something about it. Student bodies have been reduced to aesthetic organisations; all for show and little or no power to make changes. It is not something entirely bad, because it does promote a peaceful environment, one in which people seldom rebel. However, I do feel that there are some things worth standing up and fighting for (using the right methods of course) and this happens to be one of them.

Am I opposed to the fee hike? No, actually I'm all for it IF it's really true that there's a need for it. The fact that the university just spent millions on trivial things such as the new University Hall and Centennial Mugs do not give the students confidence that the university is truly facing 'rising operating costs'. Since I do not know the full picture of how the money is spent, I will refrain from making any judgement. However, it is the attitude in which this fee hike has been carried out that is most displeasing. What is stopping the university from having another fee hike next year, or the year after? What can we do except grumble and comply? It would be prudent to be wary and stand up for what is rightfully ours, the right to know exactly WHY the extra money is needed, in a FULL budget plan laid out by the university administration. That I believe, is worth fighting for.

So now that we are all students of NUS, it is only fitting that we do that which is expected of us; to question critically the way things are run in hopes of making it better for the majority. That would be the same kind of attitude expected of us when we graduate and go into the real world, so let's not let others down. We need visionary leaders, something which I believe this generation lacks. It is imperative that people with vision and the passion to run it rise up, for apathy everywhere, and I fear for the future.

Note: NUSSU (NUS Students' Union) is the highest student body in NUS. However, it lacks the power to make any major changes (such as this one) by itself. I believe it's not the fault of NUSSU, but the student population that ought to be supporting them. If we all weren't so apathetic, NUSSU would have the backing of so many students that it would be hard for the university NOT to take note of what the students want... a unified voice is so much more powerful no?

Posted by Gerald at 2/16/2006 01:17:00 AM