story | Rhyhan Astha, Assistant Staff Editor
photo | Emma Lee
It was the last night of Recess Week, and the sky gardens of Cendana were abuzz. Deliveries from Al-Amaans streamed in, bean bags were arranged and fairy lights were draped across corridors. I could hear the karaoke coming from another sky garden, and see disco lights coming from Tower A in Tower B. This was the Cendana Block Party, the brainchild of the Cendana College Council.
“Never has there been an event that spans the whole college beyond the [end of semester and beginning of semester] dinners,” said Iskandar Abdullah ’21. All of Cendana was visiting each other’s sky gardens, enjoying each other’s company while steeling themselves for the start of the second half of semester 2.
Each of Yale-NUS’ three Residential Colleges aims to improve student life in their respective colleges. They do so by improving public spaces by purchasing furniture and recreational items as well as organizing short-term events for students to de-stress. According to Yen Ching ’22, the underlying aim of short-term events like the Block Party is to “increase individual Cendols’ investment in the community”.
In 2018, the College Council tried to rally the Cendana community through a ‘Cendarnival’, with limited success. This carnival aimed to raise funds for charity through a carnival-style event filled with performances and games. “The issue with [the Cendarnival] was that the theme limited engagement with it,” said Joseff Manto ’21. “By creating the Block Party, we placed the ownership of the event on the participants themselves.” For the Block Party, every skygarden in Cendana was given $150 to purchase decorations and food.
The Block Party is also part of a larger plan to create a greater sense of Cendol camaraderie. “At the micro levels in the skygarden, you find some interaction where people will find common ground. But on a more macro level, since everyone can go to every skygarden, you get to interact throughout the whole college,” said Abdullah. A communal sense of spirit is what the Council thinks is the ultimate solution to improving daily experiences in the college. Alongside initiatives like improving the spaces in Cendana, Manto said that “public spaces will be used much better” with a greater sense of unity.
A public space that generates much disdain in each college is the laundry room. “I didn’t like [the laundry room] because it was dirty, smelly and I felt gross. If I lost a sock, I was not going to go find it in the pile,” Emma Lee ’21 said. Lee’s dissatisfaction is shared by other Cendols, which has made the Council implement a new clothesline system for students to hang lost laundry so that piles of laundry are eliminated.
A new system for moving the laundry of someone who has not picked up their laundry out of a washer or a dryer has been implemented. Now, each washer and dryer is matched to a basket in the laundry room. When a student wants to use a machine that has completed its cycle but still has the laundry of a previous user, they can now move it to a designated basket. Previously, the laundry was moved to any spot in the laundry room, such as on top of the washer or on a table, increasing the risk of lost laundry. “We want to eliminate the need to write on the whiteboard or on the ‘Cendana Laundry Updates’ Facebook page about where laundry has been moved to,” Lee said.
Public spaces under the purview of the College Office are directly in the Council’s power to make changes to. Other spaces are under the purview of the Infrastructure Office, whose concerns sometimes clash with the ideas of the College Council. “There are concerns about how the spaces in school will be affected by the school becoming full capacity– and we need to talk about these issues with Infrastructure,” Duong Pham Ngoc ’21 said.
Additionally, the Council has limited funds. The Cendana College Council funds their initiatives with the money that is set aside for them in the Rector’s Budget. “We are promised in principle a certain amount, and we work within that amount. And because of the great support we receive from Rector Neil Clark and the office, our in principle understanding is often translated to actual access to funds.” Abdullah said. While this amount allows the Council to make changes, Iskandar believes it would be helpful for a fixed budget to be allocated specifically for the College Council. “Working with a known budget makes it easier for [the Council] because we can plan ahead our expenditure and decide on what to focus on,” he said.
As a resident of Cendana, it is heartening to know that there are fellow students who are invested in my well-being in the College. What is more heartening to know is that the College Council is composed of members who are not merely idealists, but can put their ideas into feasible and tangible actions. As Duong said – “Home, NOT house!” is what underlies every action the Council makes.