By Matthias Ang
Next in our series of interviews, we sit down with Goh Seng Chiy, a Year 2 Chemical Engineering Student who is running for the position of President.
Continuity. Engagement. These are the two words that Goh Seng Chiy wants to orient the direction of the 14th MC around and their origins stem from his time as Director of Social and Cultural Activities in the 13th MC. Having seen many drastic changes such as the implementation of the new Floor system and the abolishment of the community pillars, he possesses a strong sense of investment towards what the 13th MC has accomplished.
Seng Chiy explained: “I believe in seeing things through till the end. As a part of the 13th MC, I had a part to play in the conceptualization and implementation of the various structural changes, such as the abolishment of the pillars and the creation/implementation of the new floor system. Thus, I feel a sense of ownership over it, and am determined to try and make it work.
“I feel it is a time for continuity and stability, a time to try and find out how to best make these systems work for us. I can’t promise or guarantee that these structures will work in our community in its current form, but I can promise you that I will put in my best effort to try and make it work, tweaking it to fit the USC Community.
“I don’t think we can achieve progress if we just prematurely judge it now before it has a chance to prove its worth. If after 2 or 3 years it still doesn’t work out despite our best efforts, then it’s up to that MC then to try and perhaps find a new system that may work.
“I want to see this to the end. I want to do what I can to make these new changes work, to make them an integral part of the community. I feel that I’m the right person to do it, and also because I want to give back to this community that I’ve gained so much from.”
Stabilizing such changes is also instrumental to re-conceptualising the MC for the rest of the USP community and vital for the next aspect of his manifesto: engagement. Seng Chiy identified how there was “a gap of information” between the previous MC and the USP community which often resulted in either “the MC [being] treated as a scapegoat a lot of the time” or a general sense of apathy where the “MC did everything and planned everything without caring about us”.
Believing that one does not need to be elected to organize events, Seng Chiy sees the abolishment of the pillar system as a means of encouraging the USP community to take the initiative as the MC moves towards a facilitative role, which means that they would be “hands-off” actually organising the event, but will be there to help throughout the planning process, whether it is financial or logistical support, or simply helping them link up with the right people.
Elaborating further, Seng Chiy talked about how engagement would be kick-started by the organisation of discussion and interaction sessions where students can raise ideas or even just simply socialize with others to integrate the community better. He seeks to erase the space between the MC and the USP community, and bring the MC “closer to the ground”.
Seng Chiy also wants to change the perception of the MC. He wants the MC to be seen as an entity that values and is always open to feedback. To do this, he posits the re-conceptualisation of space for discussion and discourse within the USP community.
Such engagement is not limited to between the MC and students, however; Seng Chiy has plans for integrating the faculty as well. Harking back to the old days when USP was in Block ADM, Seng Chiy talks about how “many seniors talked to the faculty on the same level” which formed fertile grounds for healthy intellectual discourse; something that is lacking at present in the RC as “exposure time with the faculty has drastically dropped.” This, in Seng Chiy’s eyes, was due to many students, simply heading back to their rooms or friends’ suites upon returning to the RC after classes, thereby reducing interaction time with faculty members.
He admits that previous attempts at getting the faculty members and students to mix have not been very successful; thus the problem seems to be one of culture. A problem that could perhaps be changed through his aforementioned reconceptualization of space where, just like the MC and USP community, there is also a space for discourse between the faculty and students.
In fact, Seng Chiy’s idea of engagement extends even to the alumni. He feels that just because their physical presence is no longer with USP, it should not mean one should disregard them. Observing that the students, the faculty and the alumni are three spheres which presently have little interaction and that the Alumni Society has just formalized, Seng Chiy sees an opportunity to create a truly bonded society at all levels.
“From what I’ve seen of the alumni society at present, they have events like We Will Dance and Tipsy Trivia. They have their own networking sessions. So, if we bring the networking sessions down here and open it to current undergraduates too, we would get them more involved in the USP community, and make them more integrated into the USC community. Granted, it’s idealistic to have an alumni society like Hwa Chong or Raffles at the moment but we can always try to aim there.”
When asked about how confident he is of the 14th MC achieving such aims, Seng Chiy concedes that he does not know at the moment, as no one is running for the position of Vice President (Community Life), where ground-up initiatives come under. But there are plans to co-opt someone into the position.
Seng Chiy also acknowledges that it will be tough and that initially, the MC would have to play a more dominant role in “encouraging and empowering to people to step up”. That means having to actively go and search, through the dialogue sessions mentioned earlier, “to bring people with ideas together, and push them to try and make their ideas reality”, to show them how the MC can help and, most importantly, to search for people who are willing to sacrifice their time to improve the community.
Ultimately, however, Seng Chiy is convinced that the direction of such initiatitves should be conceived by the individual. – the MC is simply the logistical and financial backbone to whoever has the best ideas.
Seng Chiy’s vision of engagement is therefore twofold: firstly, to integrate student, faculty and alumni so that all three spheres can intermingle and benefit from one another and secondly, to remove hierarchy, especially between the MC and the students.
Achieving these aims will certainly be challenging and certain things may not even work out in the end, said Seng Chiy. But regardless of what happens, he pledges that the new 14th MC will be ready to meet any challenges and adapt if necessary.