(Interview with SRC President, Mr. Jason Teo)
Lately, there have been plenty of statements thrown by students of MMU regarding the lack of holidays given for the upcoming Chinese New Year (CNY). Some students alleged that the SRC has not made any effort to propose additional days for CNY. However, on the official SRC Facebook Page, in one of the postings, SRC clarified and apologised for not being able to get more additional holidays and they stated the reasons behind the management’s decision briefly. Besides that, SRC will also be conducting a Town Hall session for and is scheduled to be on 24th January 2017.
Hence, an interview session between MMUES and Jason Teo was coordinated. The purpose of the interview was to:
- Retrieve 1st hand information on what was the initial proposition by SRC for CNY holidays.
- Find out who, how and when did SRC raised this concerns to the management.
- What were the feedback and response of the management with regard to SRC inquiries and suggestions?
- What were the countermeasures given by SRC and the problems they face?
- Additional comments from Jason Teo.
- As for this article, to give a clear picture for students to find out what exactly happened in the discussions in terms of how SRC represented us and what was the management’s response. Once students are aware of the true story behind this heated issue, then students can provide more constructive comments or suggestions to SRC during the Town Hall Session.
In the beginning of the interview, Jason informed us that for every term, the newly-elected SRC President will be informed about the Academic Calendar for the next Academic Year. For the Academic Calendar 2016/2017, the SRC President last term will be given an opportunity to suggest any changes or improvements, and in this year’s calendar, the SRC President involved was Mr. Saif from the last term. Mr. Jason Teo was also given the chance to suggest improvements on the Academic Calendar 2017/2018 (next year’s).
To further illustrate this point, Jason shared how he was approached by Pn. Azurah, one of the managers from Examinations and Records Unit (ERU) as she is the Secretary of the Senate (which comprised of academicians elected to discuss academic matters including deciding on the calendar). One of the main issues that will be faced next academic year is that Deepavali holidays will be in the middle of final examinations week (18th October 2017) and this would cause hardship to the Indian students. The initial number of days off is 3 days (18th- 20th). Jason was given 3 days to propose any changes on this. He discussed with SRC from both campuses and ICS from both Melaka and Cyberjaya as well. The allocated off days for Deepavali will be from 18th October -22nd October.
Now moving on to CNY issue, Jason stressed again that the previous SRC President, Saif was also given the same opportunity to affect the academic calendar for this year and this was confirmed by Pn. Azurah that Saif was given this opportunity as how Jason had above.
SRC began raising this issue to the management 2 months ago, the initial holiday allocated was only; 28th-30th January.
Hence SRC raised this issue of lack of holidays especially for students who will be travelling far north and to East Malaysia, SRC presented their initial proposal and stand on the most appropriate days off for CNY Holidays would be: 27th January – 5th February 2017.
1. Difficulty for lecturers to find the appropriate time to replace the classes.
Most lecturers would decide their replacements based on the majority opinion of student and whether they can make it for the replacement. Clashing of original classes and replacement classes are common, making it harder to find the best time for all students.
2. Difficulty in booking suitable venues for classes.
In the event that a perfect time and date for the students is decided. Lecturers and admin staffs in each faculty will have to face the next hurdle, which the struggle to find an available venue that would be suitable for the sizes of each class.
It would be a terrible and fierce struggle as many classes from different years of study and from every faculty to compete to get a suitable venue
3. More night classes.
As finding suitable time and venue during office hours is a mental torture. Most lecturers would have to replace classes at night. However, this solution is certainly not preferred by most students.
Besides that, from the Senate point of view, they also are not motivated to allow replacement during Study Week for 2 reasons:
- Preparation of exam venue and setting up by Facilities Management Division (FMD) will be obstructed and delayed. Preparation of examination set up can only be done when there are no activities in all main venues not only the 2 large halls.
- Students want a week off to revise and prepare for finals. Replacing classes then, would totally beat the purpose of having a Study Week.
An example to simplify the suggestion raised by the management for SRC to consider is:
Let’s say Thursday, 26th January will be a holiday, SRC must suggest replacing all the classes on that Thursday on a non-schooling day i.e. Saturday or Sunday. It means that on any Saturday, the whole day will be a usual schooling day as if it was a Thursday.
Hence, it is not agreed upon Jason as the more holidays granted by the management, the more days on the weekends (Saturday or Sunday) there will be classes to replace the earlier classes. Jason’s justification was that it is ‘not healthy’ for students as having classes 6 or 7 days a week back-to-back instead of the usual 5 days would be ridiculous and will not be agreed by the students.
After these discussions and the difficulty of SRC to provide better solutions to counter the responses and concerns from the management, it is concluded that the management is able to only grant 1 more day off which is 27th January 2017 thus stretching the CNY Holiday to 4 days, until 30th January 2017.
COMPROMISE FROM THE MANAGEMENT:
1. With SRC’s suggestion, Senate agreed to suggest to all Faculties to avoid having any mid-term exams a week prior (23rd-26th January) and the week immediately (30th January – 3rd February) after CNY celebrations.
2. In the event that such a midterm is conducted during the any of the dates mentioned above, and lecturers are unwilling to allow students who were absent due to the on-going celebrations to sit for supplementary mid-term exams. SRC will raise an inquiry and address the issue to persuade the lecturer to allow them to sit for the supplementary mid-term.
3. Other compromises will be announced by SRC during the Town Hall Session.
When this issue began to attract more and more attention from the students, an online petition was created from an unidentified source.
Jason pointed that the petition will not be effective and ‘useless’ for a few reasons:
1) It is not prepared and initiated by a reliable and credible source.
Hence the Senate is very unlikely to take this petition into serious consideration. They may consider if it is initiated by an identifiable and reliable source. Besides that there is proper proof on the credibility of those who signed the petition. Credibility as in it can be proven that MMU students are the ones that signed this petition.
2) Comments in the petition were not constructive.
Most of the comments in the online petition did not contain any solid substance that brings about a constructive suggestion. The petition would be more constructive and helpful to SRC if students provided effective and constructive solutions to the problems highlighted by the management.
"The holiday for the upcoming CNY remains as from
27th January – 30th January 2017."
As a conclusion, Jason explained the story behind all the negotiations and discussions with the Senate relating to CNY Holidays. By far, the SRC has done the best they could but Jason himself mentioned that they are unable to provide better and more convincing solutions to the responds from the Senate. Since they can’t provide a better solution, the only way is to follow what was suggested by the Senate. The holiday for the upcoming CNY remains as from 27th January – 30th January 2017.
In this instance, for students who are still adamant in expecting more holidays for CNY celebrations, Jason recommended that these students before providing any suggestions, they must consider the difficulties mentioned above, especially how to replace the classes without bringing more difficulties to students. As the main thing, Jason and SRC intends to avoid is creating more and more unnecessary problems and difficulties to all MMU students regardless of race for the sake of more off days for CNY.
I sincerely hope that the information presented in this article based on the interview with Jason is sufficient for now to show MMU students a clearer picture in tackling this issue. It is highly encouraged for students to attend the next Town Hall Session (24th January 2017) and provide constructive suggestions or questions to SRC for anyone to fully understand the whole situation and take into consideration of the pros and cons of each decision and the possible consequences before making any allegations or unjustifiable comments.