Many a time, we are not aware of the existence and role of student government in NUS. In this opportunity, Law Zhe Wen shared us his insights as the current NUSSU Council Chairperson.
Zhe Wen explained that the student government in NUS consists of NUSSU Executive Committee (Exco) and NUSSU Council. “NUSSU Exco are the ones that most students are more familiar with. They are in charge of the events. On the other hand, the Council is actually the ones we don’t normally see. We debate about the things that pertain to student population in NUS. It can be as macro as academic and welfare or as micro as how do we want our Rag and Flag to be like. From there, we pass the resolutions of motions that eventually will be carried out by the Exco.” The council representatives come from various faculty clubs and associate bodies such as halls and residential colleges.
As the Council Chairperson, Zhe Wen is responsible to be the moderator of the Council. His responsibility extends beyond council meetings. “The work is not done there (in Council Meeting). The work is done behind the scene.” he explained.
At first, the Year 3 Chemical Engineering major entered the Council in the capacity of University Scholars’ Club (USC) representative. A few of his friends asked him whether he was keen to step up as the Council Chairman. “Initially, I thought, ‘Chairman? Wow, it’s quite a fanciful term.’ It must have a lot of amazing job scopes that come with it so I was quite hesitant at first because I have my own faculty to take care of.” he recalled, “So I talked to the previous chairperson, David Chen from Medicine, and he outlined the roles to me. To him, it’s really about information dissemination and managing expectations.” He talked to his faculty’s management committee to discuss the workload. After being given the permission, he finally decided to run for the position a couple of days before the election.
During the first semester, most of the council members were still trying to get used to the procedures. “I don’t really like procedures but the Council is a very formal body. It’s a legislative body. There’s a need of certain procedures in accordance to the constitution.” Zhe Wen said,” It was when I learnt those very formal procedures such as when one raises a certain motion, it has to be seconded by someone else.” Zhe Wen said how he saw the importance of balancing between practicality and bureaucracy so the Council did away with some of the more bureaucratic procedures.
Zhe Wen believed that instead of discussing how to organize certain events, the Council should be the one questioning about the school-wide policies and the rationales behind them. “For example, the point about academic welfare. This point hasn’t been raised but there has been talks going on about it and I intend to go about it – the gradeless first year policy.” said Zhe Wen,”This will impact students a lot. This is where I think the Council needs to represent the student a bit more because in the planning of things, the school administration has a lot to take care of and they might neglect the voice of the students.”
Being the Council Chairman, Zhe Wen really treasures the opportunities to meet new people from different background. “It really showed me the diverse range of perspectives present in NUS.”