The Future of Finance in Student Government
story | Alysha Chandra, Staff Editor
photo | Jolene Lum
Ryan Yoong ’20 is taking up a post that has been mired in controversy. As the new Student Government Director of Finance, he is taking over after the previous Director of Finance and Finance Committee (FINCOM) stepped down following Dean of Students (DoS) sanctions regarding the Perch fund. Unlike his predecessors, Yoong, a DoS student associate, is choosing to refine existing processes rather than start new initiatives.
Yoong will also not be assembling a new FINCOM in his term. He said, “At this point there really isn’t a need to have FINCOM yet because we don’t have the initiatives that require a committee of that size.” Summer storage, which was previously the responsibility of FINCOM, will be handed over to the Director of Enterprises Celeste Beh ’20.
While the language of the Student Government Constitution had also previously allowed for the Director of Finance to choose whether or not to convene a Financial Committee, the Student Government underwent a review by the Strategic Reforms Committee, which made recommendations on how to restructure government to be more transparent and to better engage the student body.
Student Government President Scott Chua ’20 said, “With these changes, many assumptions, like that [the Director of] Finance would absolutely have a FINCOM, were thrown out the window, which is why FINCOM was dissolved. The current Constitution also radically simplifies the ruling and uses much softer language.”
Yoong is in his second year as a student associate in the DoS Office, which he also has to interact with regularly as Director of Finance. However, he said that there is no conflict of interest between his two roles. Yoong said that the student associate position has allowed him to see a lot of processes that underlie finance in Yale-NUS. “Because of all of this I think it has given me some insight into what managing finances here will look like and how I will be able to do it competently,” he said. Yoong said that he was happy to have conversations with students seeking further clarification.
On Sept. 25, The Octant reported that the Perch Fund, a $10,000 FINCOM-managed fund aiming to support creative ideas that would benefit the Yale-NUS community, would be discontinued after a DoS audit. The audit found FINCOM responsible for lapses in communication to both fund awardees and the DoS Office, lapses in oversight and due diligence during and after the funding process, and violating technicalities of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) accounting policies.
Yoong will not be restarting the Perch initiative. Instead, he wants to work with DoS to popularize DoS’ Community Events Funding, which students can apply to for funding for events as well as initiatives. He said that while the Perch fund was a great idea, incorporating funding for events and initiatives under Community Events Funding would be a better way forward. “We’re utilizing existing resources as opposed to trying to create new initiatives, which could lead to a lot of clutter,” he said.
Yoong also wants to work on improving the centrality of information on finance procedures for students. He said, “There are a lot of avenues for funding on campus, but lot of people don’t know where they are, who to contact, what it’s for, something that I hope to do in my time is to have that compiled somewhere.” Other ideas that Yoong have include streamlining the finance procedure and refining the evaluation process for student organizations.
Yoong has coordinated with Educational Resources and Technology (ERT) staff to introduce 24/7 printer top-up access by moving the top-up kiosk, and estimates that implementation will be early next semester. He also is pushing for an online top-up option. Yoong will also be working to support Beh’s initiative to introduce airport shuttles for students leaving campus this December.
Yoong commended the previous FINCOM, saying that they had quite a big vision for what Finance and the Student Government could be. In his term, however, Yoong emphasized that he wanted to refine existing processes and utilize existing resources as opposed to starting new things. “It’s not bad to start new things, but at this point in time, I think trying to do some internal movements might be a good idea,” he said.
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