By Lim Ziqian
The Nanyang Technological University Students’ Union (NTUSU) is the representative body of all undergraduates. The Union comprises 19 committees and is made up of over 500 union officers. Guided by its motto, “Voice. Service. Vibrancy.”, NTUSU works behind the scenes to enrich the lives of students.
Almost like the elusive unicorn, everyone knows the Union exists but nobody seems to know what actually goes in the mix. What you think you know about NTUSU so far: lots of vibrant and dynamic activities like Union Orientation by the Union Orientation Commitee and Welcome Week… You’re not wrong! Well, not entirely – because there’s also much more that goes on behind the scenes.
What you might not know: what a day in the life of NTUSU’s President Cheah Guan Ying looks like. To demystify things once and for all, I asked Guan Ying to send me her schedule so I could get an exclusive rundown of the inner workings of the Union.
A Typical Day on the Job
10AM: For many people, their day starts off with regular lectures and tutorials or perhaps even breakfast, if they’re lucky. For Guan Ying, however, she kickstarts her day by going through her inbox and replying to messages. Most of her classes are in the afternoon which means she gets to sleep in a little more. Normally, she has either a cup of coffee or noodles for brunch.
11AM: A typical day for Guan Ying also consists of a lineup of meetings with different university stakeholders. As President, she is responsible for the strategic planning and overseeing of the executive decisions of the Union. For her first meeting of the day, she meets with Student Life to discuss details of orientation programmes. The NTUSU executive committee members convene with the management to discuss concerns that the orientation planning committee has, especially in the midst of uncertainties posed by the pandemic.
12PM: In the afternoon, Guan Ying, a Year Three Sociology major, attends a lecture.
2PM: One cornerstone of the Union’s work is to maximise student-centric welfare. Two pertinent issues of concern at the moment are raising awareness about data privacy and protection of personal data, as well as increasing campus vibrancy through joint efforts to promote student engagement. After her lecture, Guan Ying commences a Teams meeting with the ECHO team and the Centre for IT Services (CITS) to discuss these matters.
DID YOU KNOW: Anyone who’s ever sat through finals season will know that those few extra hours can make or break your grade. When our semester examinations roll around, commuting to and fro campus can be a huge hassle especially when time can be better spent mugging. NTUSU has brought up this concern with the Student Affairs Office (SAO) to negotiate and extend the opening hours of campus study spaces.
3PM: After already having two meetings in a day with a lecture sandwiched in between, I fully expected Guan Ying to have a break scheduled into her day. However, at 3PM, she has another meeting with NTUSU’s Policy Arm (Hall, Transport, Academics) to share and review progress updates.
DID YOU KNOW: If you rely on campus buses to turn up for classes on time, you would be well acquainted with the frustration and panic when the buses don’t turn up on time – or worse, when they disappear entirely on the app! The Union flags up such issues with NTU’s Transport team under the Office of Housing & Auxiliary Services (HAS), who will then make the necessary refinements to their service.
In the longer term, NTUSU has been meeting up with the team to review persisting issues with bus frequency and GPS issues. This is to ensure that students’ commuting experiences are pleasant and up to standard.
I asked Guan Ying how she felt having so much packed into 24 hours. She confided that it was indeed very tiring because a lot of brain juice goes into meetings. I then followed up this initial question with what fuels her on gruelling days like this.
Guan Ying responds: “I try to remember that as President, I have the responsibility to ensure that the executive committee fulfils their role in communicating critial student concerns with the University and take the extra step to see through the plans that we have proposed. Though some plans do take time, we do our best to ensure sustainability in our work that can be carried through the future batches.”
4PM: In between her next lecture “Malay Culture & Society”, Guan Ying sneaks some time to skim through the Straits Times or reply to her messages. If she doesn’t have any lectures in the day, she usually manages to take a restful break.
6PM: Even though we’re well into Phase 3 of Circuit Breaker, Safe Management Measures (SMM) may change and need to be adhered to. This would entail changes in university guidelines that affect numerous campus activities.
Guan Ying and her team periodically meet with NTUSU’s Student Activities Arm to review upcoming events and assess how best they can dole out assistance to student clubs in planning and executing activities for large groups. Additionally, should there be any contention regarding the guidelines, these meetings will also involve clarification and negotiations for alternatives.
Whenever new changes roll around, the team needs to be on the ball in disseminating the information to student clubs. For instance, a few months ago, there had been frantic speculations of a patient carrying the infectious B117 strain had frequented Canteen 2. Part of the Union’s work involves verifying news sources and alleviating undue panic.
9PM: NTUSU’s Senior Exco meets for a bi-weekly review. Curious about the inner workings of the committee, I asked Guan Ying for an insider’s scoop of what the whole process looks like. Each exco member shares what their division is up to, what some upcoming plans are, as well as challenges they face. At this point, she reminds me how large the Union is – the executive committee comprises six branches – hence it is important for them to convene regularly to keep each other in the loop.
10PM: At any one point of time, there always seems to be something going on on campus and the weekly newsletter from the Union can attest to that! Guan Ying spends the last few hours of her day vetting and approving proposals for upcoming events.
11PM: With that much going on in the day, Guan Ying surprisingly remarks that she isn’t exhausted. To be fair, she doesn’t really have the time to do so! Time is fleeting, especially when you’re President of NTUSU! To wrap up her day, she prepares for her classes on the following day by doing readings and attending group project meetings – finally, something we can all relate to!
All in all, what I’ve learned about the job of the President of NTUSU is that it definitely isn’t a bed of roses. When you’re shouldering so much responsibility, you have to be prepared to make sacrifices such as sleeping less and not meeting your family and friends as much. However, if there’s another thing that I’ve learnt from Guan Ying, it’s that these sacrifices are worth it to her because they count towards something bigger – being able to make a difference for the student population.
NTUSU works closely with the University management to implement your suggestions and feedback. Your voice matters to us. If you have any opinions on how to better campus life, we welcome you to contribute your efforts by reaching out to the respective channels below:
Student Affairs Main Office
For General Student Support:
Tel: 6790 5153, 6790 5156, 6790 6340, 6908 1994
Student Wellbeing Centre
For counselling, community and self-help resources:
Tel: 6790 4462
One Stop @ SAC
For Administrative and Finance Support:
Tel: 6592 3626
Office of Housing & Auxiliary Services
For Student Housing Support:
Tel: (65) 67905155
Email (undergraduate): firstname.lastname@example.org
For Sports & Recreation:
Tel: (65) 67905169
For NTU Transportation:
Tel: (65) 67905198
For Food & Beverage, Retail & Services: