Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vice President of NUSBS 2010/2011


That's me. Vice President of NUSBS 2010/2011. This is the last 2 days of my term. 2 days before AGM. Now I am beginning year 4 of my undergrad life, and yet I still remember the sweet memories of attending my first NUSBS AGM back in 2008 when I was a freshman.

One of the things I do not like is that most of the posts have no competition, and yet we still have to vote. I even remembered that I asked so many questions to the candidates who were running. And was a bit annoyed at having to reintroduce my name, faculty and year before asking it. One of the questions was: why are year one people not allowed to run for MC?

I guess I didn't noticed Carmen back then. It was late.... very very late..... I was getting hungry and do not want to miss the last bus. It might be that when it was her time, I was a bit frustrated and was not concentrating on the event anymore. It turns out that she was the only year 1 who ran that year. I was just too busy feeling sad and sorry for myself to notice that. Well there were lots of things I think I could have done better, chosen better, cause it will affect the rest of my life.

Why did I missed matric fair? Or else I would had joined in NUSBS earlier..... why did I choose Friday night IS in SPS? Or else I would had attended the whole Welcome Tea, instead of bolting off after paying the $5 membership fee. Then after Welcome Tea it was AGM. And it will be too late to apply for a position now. Well, I didn't asked myself why did I go to Vietnam for IPhO instead of joining in Camp Ehi Passikho...... Nope, silver medal was worth it.

Ok, back to the story. I then wanted to be close with the 30th MC. I had gone for almost every Dharma Circle on Friday night if not all, changing my IS timing in order to do that. I've tried to join in as much BS activities that I find to be free, interesting, and when I am free.

That time, I had Monday nights of classes (SPS), then that ruled out Discovering Buddhism and MDC (both on Mondays), and then there is the Tuesdays Meditation course which is not free, but a Wednesday Meditation interest group which is (I've joined this, or tried to come). And Saturday mornings Welfare visit. Well, having waking up late (after a Dharma Circle, I usually go back to SPS to hang around until very late), and needing to travel outside (money....) I don't go for that one.... not much....

Well, came INCOVAR, I decided to increase more Buddhism in my life, wanting to attend every single activity we have. And during the first Camp Ehi Passikho in East Coast Park...... there was a prep talk by the 30th MCs to the subcoms (including me), briefing about the positions, and the roles that they need to fulfil. Someone jokingly asked me to run for President. I was thinking of only Dharma Director. Then Jacinta said: "maybe next year lah". And then... Carmen, who's the same year as me.... got to become the president, and I got to become the Deputy Dharma Director.

Well, seeing another round of "not much choices" by the voters and the President role only having one candidate.... I was frustrated again. And determined to aim for that post.

I had rescheduled Discovering Buddhism to Thursdays, tried to reopen the closed downed... Meditation Interest Group...Got the Meditation Course which moved to Wednesday, got forced to join in because I'm organising it.....Still going very little for Welfare Visit....or none at all.... joined in MDC finally.... oh and generally, joined in 4 of 5 weekly activities, making me one of the most, if not the most, active member (MC or otherwise) in the society.

One hard long year.....had passed, I've managed to survived, and had a generally bad time in the MC. However each and every activity charged me up... I've experienced becoming a novice, and even joined-organised a retreat! I do like being in the activities a lot.... despite being only me, alone, most of the time. I do like to go out to represent NUSBS too... a lot.

A bad time in the MC, mainly because we were all overworked, I didn't know how to utilise subcoms more efficiently, and I didn't get to be considered as potential President material.

I was aiming for Dharma Director..... again.... then comes a lot of various stuffs, I wanted to quit.... then came other various conditions..... and I came back.... to want to become the President or Vice President.

Eventually, it was decided that I become the Vice President...... I gave up the Pres. for wanting to stay away from Singapore for the whole 3 months of holiday... for summer research.

Well, that year, I ran for President, and Vice President. I wanted a competition, a choice for the voters to make. (Although I keep on telling people not to vote for me as president, and there was only Wai Kit and me running for these two positions, and... I made a speech that does not suit the occasion, talking to bridge the gap between the mindset of having Dharma/fellowship balance, which I saw them arising hand in hand due to people attending activities regularly).

Then I got in. During an intimate sharing session where no words uttered there goes beyond the walls of the temple we had MC retreat in.... I shared the above.

And what happened next.... was that I got to do a lot of things that I wanted to do..... helping to do the President job for a lot of the time, since Wai Kit was so busy with lots of other stuffs. Taking up any job I like and do it the way I like....... utilise and engage the subcoms to much greater and deeper levels than ever before, giving out and distributing jobs to people....

And no one distributed much of any jobs to me.... cause I volunteered for almost everything. Almost all TIBS involvement, all weekly events, etc..... and there really was not any need to give a job to me.... I find them.

One of the things I'm very very glad of was that Wai Kit passing me the president email to take care of for 2-3 weeks during the December holidays when he went to Thailand and India for Buddhism in Asia trip. I felt.... honoured.

I did not get MIT, Caltech and other Universities' Summer research Programme. So having thinking that.... well, it is likely that I'll have a long summer break.... I started to let go..... of the feeling that I didn't get to be the President of NUSBS and yet didn't managed to get to go for Summer research anyway.

Then came London. And I had started to push a lot of the jobs I used to do to Wai Kit.... making him work more and more.... more than me..... I see that as my way of making him deserving of the position that he holds. And right now, I feel, he is a very very good and capable President!

And then I came back from London.... it is all almost over now. Well, as a last wish come true, I got to be the presenter for Prezi Presentation of NUSBS at the Welcome Tea. Something that Carmen did last year.

Just today.... earlier today.... I was in a bus, with Rong En... asking him if he is running for President at Astronomy Society.

He said no. I asked why.

The reply is that Vice President lets you do what you want to do. Not everyone turns to you for what to do and you're not in the spotlight all the time.

I immediately reciprocated well, and finally realised that.... I do not need to be a President. I've gotten what I wanted, and more. I've gotten 14 spiritual friends, 14 special people whom I shall appreciate and treasure... as the whole of the holy life.

Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get. I'm not successful, I'm happy.

Monday, August 01, 2011

NUS Residence Admission Scheme (RAS)

Clubs & Societies Logos

NUS(National University of Singapore) has been using CCA (co-curricular) points as a standard of judgement to decide who gets to live in campus. That is until this year.

After a year long warning, NUS has finally implemented the Residence Admission Scheme (RAS) and abolish CCA points. The goal is to do away with all the abuses of CCA points by clubs and societies and to promote students to have a genuine interest for joining CCA, and not joining in just for the points. It also serves to balance some overly zealous students from joining too much CCA until it affects his or her studies.

The RAS is based on Categories.

Category A, Executive & Management Committees of Student groups : other than the confirmed stay of 10 NUSSU Executive Committees and all 4 of each constituent clubs's Committee; the 4 of each societies and interest group's committee are to be balloted into 200 places. Assuming the information at and
are updated and accurate, this translates to 46% chance for each of the selected 4 inside societies and interest groups.

Category B, Special Schemes: Varsity Athletes (the Sports Club alone has 26 member clubs inside it) are selected, limited to 100 places, CFA (Centre for Arts) groups (24 groups) are selected up to 50 places.

Category C, Halls of Residence: Hall masters selects 50 students who offers vibrancy to the hall, all members of JCRC (Junior Common Room Committee), and selection of Hall residences by SCRC and JCRC, based on contribution, subject to senior undergraduate quota (assumed to be half of total hall places in the estimates below). Practically it means some spaces are opened up and it is easier to get into a hall, but most are still controlled by the halls.

Category D, Members of Student Groups: This allows NUSSU & the Constituent Clubs to select amongst themselves 300 guaranteed places. The societies and Interest Groups has to squeeze again, 10 members from each balloted into 200 places. This translates to 18.5% chance of each recommend students to get a place.

Category E, General Student Population: General Senior Undergraduate population (Local - Yr 2 & above, International Yr 3 & above) students in this category will ballot for the remaining places at residences and halls, after accommodating SEP students, the guaranteed students mentioned above, and the first and second year international students. The students who did not managed to get spaces via the two 200 places above will fall to this category too. The chances then depends on how many local students would want to apply for campus accommodation next year, assuming that all international students would want to.

So, in a daring estimate of 20% of Local students would want to live in campus (for living too far or not having a home in Singapore), the chances would be 30% for each student. This is of course if all the figures for the accomodation and no. of students at and,

are correct. Plus no students illegally harbour other students in their rooms, also taking into account the places that University Town which helps to reduce the competition, and one on one exchange for SEP, assuming 1000 SEP student a year, for both semesters, also 20% of all students are international students, which splits half-half into undergraduates and graduate students. If all these figures are correct, then 30% is a pretty good estimate, with an estimated error of 3% or less.

So this means that for societies and interest groups, the 4 in the Committee gets a total of 62% of being selected to live in campus, the 10 amongst the members gets a total of 43% chance, while the vast majority will remain with 30%. That is if there is still a vast majority left.

For those who are used to the CCA points and sees on campus housing as a reward for working hard at CCA, this spells trouble, not only for societies and interest groups (which compromises the majority of non-Hall CCA, but also for CFA, Athletes, NUSSU & constituent clubs, and even the Halls!).

If humans are logical programmable beings with no interest in CCA other than to get on campus housings, the number of people at all these CCA will decline to a bare minimum of those places guaranteed by RAS. And all students, especially those who plans to go through university without joining CCA and yet wants to stay on campus for the convenience, will apply for NUS accommodation. If that happens, then the 30% chance drops to as low as 7% when all students apply for accommodation.

As if that is not bad enough, the random balloting means that there will be cases like a very hard-working Vice President at a very active society, spending 30 hours per week on CCA, does not get a space in campus despite having 50% chance (selected for top 4 and all students apply for on campus housing) compared to someone who does not do anything in CCA but is successful in applying for accommodation despite the 7% chance.

Imagine the amount of complains OSA (Office of Student Affairs) has to quell down early next year as the accommodation results are released. Imagine the number societies who had to cut down their activities due to lack of manpower and members. Large scale activities gets harder for societies and interest groups to undertake if they lack the spirit of Halls and Clubs (those who are able to produce rag floats). Even the Clubs and to a lesser extend, the Halls will have to cut down on their activities as the competition for the members to get the highest position available increases.

Talented members for a particular society or interest groups may decide to join in CFA, Sports, NUSSU & Constituent Clubs, or stick closer to their Halls despite being second best at all these. Just because if they are selected in all the others, it is 100% guaranteed. This spells a really big trouble for all societies and interest groups (Remember they are the majority of the non-Hall CCAs). Each society and interest groups then has to either develop the spirit of "togetherness" resembling the halls or perish. This might be easier for the religious societies as they can rely on spirituality to bind them together, to work for a greater goal than material things.

Each societies and interest groups are required to submit their internal recognition scheme to OSA yesterday and are advised to announce their respective schemes to the members so that the members can plan it all properly.

It seems that the rise or fall of a society or interest group then depends on how cleverly they present and decide on their internal recognition scheme. This year's Welcome Tea season will witness many freshmen comparing each society's scheme. Being the clever students who managed to come into NUS, if they inherit the mindset of "CCAs are for housing", then the societies who are unskillful will perish on the day of their Welcome Tea itself.

How then, can everyone avert this crisis?

Are the Management Committees of each societies and interest groups supposed to compare the internal recognition scheme of everyone else and set theirs to be lower and easier to get? No matter how easily one can get the recommended list, the fundamental problem is that there is too little spaces to give. The competition is too high, too tough, too unfair.

What is the solution then?

Here I present a humble suggestion:

The most honest approach is to really recognise this fundamental problem and tell the members to scrap the outdated mindset of yesteryears. Sincerely ask them to join in the CCA purely based on interest sake and because they see the inherent benefit (learning about how to run a society, more about the particular subject etc...), nothing else. Expecting for anything else will cause suffering. A realistic project to work on by each CCA group is to develop the social aspect of their respective group to become closer, nicer, warmer, and more desirable to be in. That is to make the members feel that there is more to the society than the materialistic aspect.

Also everyone has to discard the old mindset of "on campus Housing is reward for CCA", especially amongst each and every Management Committee members in each and every CCA group. Let this change not cause trouble but to bring about change (of mindset) that will empower each CCA groups. This can only happen if everyone in a CCA group thinks in the same way. So you are welcomed to read and pass this on.

Note: image is taken from, the estimates for the chances are done by the author. Email to request the Excel sheet calculation if you are interested, improvements and corrections to the calculations are welcomed.