Story | Ryan Yeo (he/him), Managing Editor
Photo | USP-YNC Poll Team
Today, a group of students released the results of a poll across the Yale-NUS College and University Scholars Programme (USP) student bodies.
The students also released a statement alongside the poll results in the form of an open letter to the New College Planning Committee. The statement included four proposed commitments to ensure a “collaborative, consultative, and open” approach to the New College planning process.
The statement included a timeline for the New College Planning Committee to respond to the poll and implement the commitments. The proposed deadline for an initial response was set for Dec. 10, and a follow-up poll was slated for mid-February next year.
The full list of commitments and timeline can be found at the end of the article.
The poll was opened to the student bodies on Oct. 27, two months after the closures of Yale-NUS and USP were announced. It received a total of 600 responses, including 466 Yale-NUS students and 134 USP students. These numbers constitute approximately 47% and 15% of the Yale-NUS and USP student bodies, respectively.
The poll aimed to gather student feedback on whether the New College planning process was “collaborative, consultative, and open,” as previously promised by Ho Teck Hua, Chair of the New College Planning Committee. It asked how satisfied students were on these metrics on a scale of 0 to 10.
The poll then asked how confident students were that the education provided by the New College would be interdisciplinary, accessible, flexible, and inclusive. It also asked what aspects students would like to see in the New College planning process.
It should be noted that the USP sample size is relatively small (15%) and may not be entirely representative of the USP student population.
The poll defined a collaborative approach as one that “involves students at every step of the planning process.”
A consultative approach was one that “considers students’ interests at every step of the planning process.”
Finally, an open approach was one where information about the New College was “accessible to students at every step of the planning process.”
The mean responses for each metric of the planning process, however, were low (Fig. 1).
The poll also gave respondents the option to elaborate on their responses. A sentiment analysis on the qualitative poll data showed an overwhelmingly negative sentiment around various aspects of the planning process and students’ confidence in the New College (Fig. 2).
The majority of comments on the planning process provided negative sentiments on transparency, consultation with students, and the valuing of stakeholder input.
The poll then asked if respondents were confident in the New College’s ability to provide an interdisciplinary, accessible, flexible, and inclusive education to incoming students starting next year.
Mean responses for confidence among Yale-NUS students remained low. USP students were more confident about the New College compared to their Yale-NUS counterparts, but still gave low mean responses (Fig. 3).
Meanwhile, most comments on confidence in the New College expressed doubts that the New College could embody interdisciplinarity and be inclusive to international students, low-income students, LGBT students, and students of various academic backgrounds (Fig. 4).
Finally, the poll asked students what they would like to see in the planning process (Fig. 5).
Only 2% and 5% of Yale-NUS and USP students, respectively, said they were satisfied with the current arrangements.
The other options were selected by the majority of respondents. In particular, around 80% of respondents from both student bodies wanted more transparency in information released about the New College planning process, and more checkpoints for students to be involved in decision making for the New College.
1. Allow student representatives to share meeting discussion points; autonomy (2)
2. Show that student feedback is actually considered (1)
3. Remunerate students in Working Groups because they work on the NC on top of full-time student workloads (1)
4. Keep the curriculum open to change (1)
1. Commit to taking in student feedback by having more students at the decision-making table; it should be a sharing rather than informing students what decisions have been made (11)
2. Reverse the merger; review the decision to merge (11)
3. Preserve policies that protect disabled, LGBTQ+, and racial minority groups through disability accommodations, gender-neutral housing, etc. (7)
4. Release working group meeting minutes; release recorded town halls (4)
5. Remunerate students in Working Groups because they work on the NC on top of full-time student workloads (3)
6. Onus to communicate updates to fall on paid staff rather than students (3)
7. Support stakeholders such as deferred matriculants, alumni, those graduating beyond 2025; assure how YNC degree will be valid (3)
8. Review CHS, YNC, and USP curricula; consider whether professors have enough time to prepare course material; do not let incoming students be guinea pigs until the curriculum is thought through (3)
9. Engage student organisations, lay groundwork for student organisations to carry on (2)
10. Allow YNC faculty and staff opinion to be considered in student life decisions (1)
Fig. 6: Additional responses for the question: “What would you like to see in the planning process for the New College?”
Proposed Commitments and Timeline
The open letter to the New College Planning Committee included the following list of consolidated proposed commitments from the results of the poll, as well as a timeline for adherence to the commitments:
We urge the New College Planning Committee and WG Chairpersons to commit to the “collaborative, consultative and open” approach that was previously promised by fulfilling the following:
- Publish the discussion points of all WG meetings.
- Allow WG Student Representatives autonomy to disclose how the feedback contributes to the discussion points, how the feedback will be considered in further discussion, and the summary of this feedback.
- Amend decisions pertaining to the New College according to the student feedback at every step of the process.
- Publish the decision-making processes explaining why student feedback was accepted or rejected.
To ensure transparency and timeliness of your response to these community sentiments, we ask that you adhere to the following timeline:
10 December — Please provide an initial response to this email, acknowledging the results of the poll and committing to taking these points into consideration.
20 December — Implement points 1 and 2 (stated above, where applicable).
14 January — Implement all four points (stated above).
Mid-February — We aim to carry out a second USP-YNC poll to check in on the level of satisfaction with the new level of transparency in the planning process.
The timeline stated above can be changed should the NCPC and WG Chairpersons present an alternative timeline with the same objectives to the student body. Should it be unfeasible to ensure a transparent and assured process within a time frame agreed on by the Planning Committee and the student body, we urge the delay the formation of the New College by one year for sufficient time to revise the decision-making processes to accommodate student interests’ as a key stakeholder in the formation of the New College.
Finally, we acknowledge the pains of student representatives and professors in trying to get student feedback but are disappointed by the low turnout. Students in the poll reflected structural reasons for why they did not turn up: overwork, insufficient information to engage with, feeling like they do not have a stake. Therefore, we hope you take the suggestions, in Figures 5 and 6, into consideration.