So you want to be the President: A Closer Look at the Prospective Candidates
story | Aryan Chhabra, Staff Writer
photo | Taesun Shim, Nicole Nazareth, Rachel Juay and Aryan Chhabra
After an intense semester packed with an avalanche of readings, internship applications and Sodexo complaints, we have finally reached the Student Government elections. What makes this election unlike any other is that this is the first time it’s ever happening in April. Read on to find out more about our prospective presidents and their plans for Student Government.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Rachel: Hi, I’m Rachel Juay from the Class of 2020. I’m a Singaporean and grew up in Singapore and Shanghai, where I spent my high school years. Some of my highlights of being at Yale-NUS definitely include my time serving in the Student Government (two terms, one as Director of External Communications and my current term as Director of Finance); my time at Yale-NUS Admissions (I was a Student Associate for Social Media & Video Production for two years, and now an Admissions Fellow, so I get to interview the Class of 2023). The best part about being here, however, has definitely been the people whom I call my friends. They’ve given me tremendous joy and support, and I wouldn’t be doing what I do without them. On a more casual note, I am an avid Laksa fanatic and I could give you a list of my favourite Laksa spots on the Tiny Red Dot. I also have a knack for travel photography, graphic design, and by extension, a special place in my heart for pastel colours.
Favourite movie: are you kidding me? High School Musical… 3
Favourite song: literally anything from The 1975
Your college life in one word: Growth
Harrison: I’m American, I write for The Octant. #conflictofinterest
Favourite movie: Full Metal Jacket
Favourite song: Heart of Gold by Neil Young
Your college life in one word: Unlit
Taesun: I am an international rising sophomore from Korea. I was born in Seoul and moved back and forth from the U.S. and Korea as I grew up. Now I live in Elm! In terms of how I got to Yale-NUS, I’m one of the people who simply “clicked the box,” but I completely fell in love with the College during EYW, and I have not looked back since. When I’m not in Senate meetings or interviewing the concerns my Class, I’m usually playing piano, practicing dance, or working for Habitat for Humanity. Oh! I also work for the IT Department, so if you ever needed to top up your printer credits, set up your printer, or needed assistance with your computer, chances are I was there to help you! Outside of school, I go around to Singapore secondary schools to give seminars. As someone who wants to enter the education sector upon graduation, I am passionate about investigating effective methods of learning and school governance. I hope to bring such passions to my role as President. I also have a dog named Namu, which means “tree” in Korean!
Favourite movie: Inception
Favourite song: Anything by Khalid! If I had to choose, I’d go for “Hopeless.”
Your college life in one word: Adventure!
Nicole: I am from the class of 2022 and am currently the Director of Student Organizations. I have greatly enjoyed my time in government, in particular, the people that I have had the pleasure to work with and the different groups in YNC that I have been able to interact with. I intend to major in Psychology, which is one of the reasons for my passion for mental health and why it is such an important part of my campaign platform. Throughout my first year in YNC, I have been able to witness first hand the diverse interests of our community, not only through the eyes of Director of Student Organizations, but also as a freshman trying to find my way in this school. I am incredibly grateful that I was given the opportunity to hold a role within government this year and hope to serve the school in the years to come.
Favourite movie: Mean Girls
Favourite song: A Drop in the Ocean by Ron Pope
Your college life in one word: Unexpected
What are some of the changes that you wish to bring into Student Government / YNC community that hasn’t been done before?
Rachel: Having served under two different StuGov bodies, I recognise that often times, a President’s goals don’t always get achieved within their term. The one concrete change that I would like to push for in StuGov is to introduce an easier way for students to raise concerns with StuGov. When I was the Director of External Communications, StuGov had a Facebook page that served two functions:
1) notifying students of upcoming StuGov events and
2) giving students a direct, convenient channel to StuGov when they need. This channel was taken down in our transition to the OrgSync platform, but I see the value in bringing it back now. Many students have also raised confusion in the new StuGov structure (i.e. the three ‘wings’ of StuGov). As President, I would like to make explicit which representatives students should reach out to for certain issues.
‘Slack’ is also a platform that is used for intra-government communication at the moment, and if elected President, I would also like to introduce ‘Asana’ as a complement to this app. Slack allows for representatives to speak with one another, however, Asana allows for individual representatives to create checklists of things to do for and amongst one another. Implementing such a system would allow for members within StuGov to be accountable for their projects and to work together on projects/concerns raised by students. I am a firm believer that Gov can only react to issues only as quickly as these issues present themselves. The first step to increasing the responsiveness and effectiveness of StuGov has to be the ease at which students can reach out to us, and how quickly we address the issue amongst the many ‘wings’ of StuGov itself.
Harrison: I would make Stugov more visible on campus through events, more town halls (if I can even do that), speeches, and video announcements instead of boring emails.
Taesun: I will bring a dedicated Academic Wellness Committee that will have two functions: the first will be to examine the academic calendar for Common Curriculum modules to institutionally prevent “hell weeks.” The second will be to put students in direct, consistent communication with the faculty and administration to investigate harmful academic policies that contribute to declined wellness.
Further, we currently lack a formalized Office of the President that can act as an advisory board for the College’s Office of the President. While I recognize that we already meaningfully engage with President Tan and other administrators, by formalizing the connection (via the creation of the advisory board and regular meetings), we will be able to continually discuss the culture of the College and its long-term visions so that the students’ opinions are consistently consulted in the growth of Yale-NUS.
Nicole: Running for President is very important to me. I believe that I have good ideas and a real passion for bettering our community. In talking to my fellow freshman and upperclassmen, I have been able to figure out key points of contention within our student body and with my campaign platform, am doing my best to address the students’ concerns. I have also enjoyed being able to interact with so many diverse groups of people with various interests in the past year and as President, I hope to get to know students more and really be hands on in how I lead the student body. I hope to form personal connections with as many groups as possible and be as involved as I can be.
What do you think sets you apart from other candidates?
Rachel: The fact that I am a rising senior, and that I have had more experience in StuGov than the other candidates. Having been at Yale-NUS for longer has given me more time to be familiar with the inner workings of the Yale-NUS Administration and its processes. I believe that this puts me in a good place in understanding the culture of Yale-NUS, and by extension, what issues are most important to my peers and how to best steer StuGov towards addressing these needs. Familiarity with how the executive branch of StuGov works has also grounded the role of the President in reality for me. It isn’t all about responding to students, it’s also about making sure that StuGov executes its existing commitments to students: StuOrg budgets, Welfare Packs, Summer Storage, and other standing initiatives. Overall, I would say that familiarity has not bred contempt… otherwise, I wouldn’t be running for President.
Taesun: Experience. Even though I have not been at Yale-NUS as long as the other candidates, I hold extensive experience in leadership and in Student Government. Starting as the Middle School President to the All Student Body President at my school in the U.S. to Class of 2022 Representative at Yale-NUS, I have had various opportunities to lead the student body and work with the administration. And even though some candidates have been at Yale-NUS longer, I have engaged in the current issues surrounding our community at a deeper level this year. As an active member of Government this year, I was involved in discussing issues including but not limited to the SEC, support for polytechnic students, dining accessibility, institutionally reducing our carbon footprint, and lecture attendance policies. I enter my candidacy with not only a stronger understanding of and engagement with the current issues affecting Yale-NUS, but also a wealth of relevant experience that will ensure effective leadership.
Harrison: I did not campaign at all.
Nicole: While I respect and admire the other candidates, and completely agree with their platforms, I feel like what I have in mind is more student-oriented than other candidates. While and academic council and increased transparency and accessibility to the government are both wonderful ideas that I believe the school can greatly prosper from, my platform of mental health directly addresses student welfare and shows how serious I am about making YNC a better living community for all of us. Mental and physical wellbeing on campus in something that I am incredibly passionate about and something I truly believe the school can improve on.
What are your views on Pink Hour?
Rachel: As a queer woman, I think that Pink Hour is a great initiative. I believe that it was founded on the principles of inclusivity and safety for on-campus spaces, and these are two things that I cannot argue against. I understand that much of the debate surrounding this has been around whether or not there was a real need for this exclusive inclusive space, and to that, I say, “I’d love to hear what you think”.
Harrison: It is disheartening to see that after so much hoopla online barely anyone has seemed to care about Pink Hour. I have gone the gym a few times during Pink Hour, and the sign wasn’t even up. No one was there for Pink Hour. Regardless of what I think about Pink Hour ideologically, I would have hoped that those who showed so much support for it online would actually show up to make it a reality. I only wish that YNC students would have more time to engage with each other as a community and actually engage with each other face to face instead of simply voicing their beliefs online when it is convenient.
Taesun: I first applaud Pink Hour for addressing hyper masculine behavior, not hyper masculine people. By doing so, Pink Hour effectively highlights a key concern of the gym without generalizing and alienating a given population. As such, I stand with Pink Hour’s stance for inclusivity, and I hope that its opening a space and time dedicated to those who previously felt uncomfortable at the gym makes it a more accessible space. Moving forward, however, I believe that Pink Hour cannot remain forever: if we are arguing for inclusivity, then we must use the incredible progress Pink Hour has made to spark further conversations about understanding each other’s different needs. While creating a separate time for non-hyper masculine people has succeeded in bringing the barrier to gym entry down, we should ultimately seek to make the gym an inclusive and safe space regardless of who is inside. In the end, it’s simply about recognizing that we are all different and that small sacrifices are needed so that we can all enjoy the gym together.
Nicole: The Pink Hour was an issue that I personally was not involved in, but made an effort to keep up to date with. I support the idea of an hour dedicated to female and femme-identifying individuals and believe that the little inconvenience it may have for people not involved in this group is worth keeping the entire gym community happy. Everyone should feel comfortable trying to maintain and improve their health and if that means dedicating some time to people who might otherwise not feel welcome in the gym, then I can really see no reason why this should not be done.