NTU students question use of $200,000 reserved fund for event
With a week left to the biggest yet Nanyang Technological University (NTU) event, student organisers of NTU Fest found themselves scrambling to secure $200,000 from one of its funds meant for student welfare.
And it raised eyebrows among some NTU students, who questioned whether the reserved fund, meant to improve student welfare, should be used for an event that does not benefit students directly.
The one-day NTU Fest, on the Padang today, combines a run, a carnival and a concert. Proceeds from the sales of tickets will go to needy students at the Institute of Technical Education.
The Fest is open to both past and present NTU students, who pay $10 for the run and $10 for each carnival ticket, of which they can buy as many as they want.
NTU students learnt about the late decision to vote on the use of the reserved fund after reading a report by campus newspaper The Nanyang Chronicle. The report said that last week, the Students' Union council members were made to vote on the use of its reserved fund for the event today.
The motion was passed on Tuesday, with 64 per cent of the union's 35 council members - made up of the union's executive committee members and presidents of various NTU clubs - giving the green light to tap on the reserved fund.
Council members voted through a Google Document, or by simply replying to the internal e-mail sent to them by the union's honorary financial secretary Agung Purnomo Sendy about the voting.
While NTU did not address The New Paper's query on what the $200,000 will be spent on, Mr Agung said by e-mail that the money is needed to cope with rising "general expenses" of the event.
"As this is the first time the event is being planned for, the need to have a successful start has never been greater," he added.
The reserved fund is made up of a one-time Students' Union membership fee that all freshmen have to pay. According to The Nanyang Chronicle, it was $10.70 in 2012.
Former Students' Union president Dimas Harry Priawan said that student welfare is the priority when tapping on this fund. For instance, it has been tapped on when the union first introduced the campus shuttle bus services.
Through an NTU spokesman, the current Students' Union president Nico Dharmawansaid that the council members had voted for the use of the fund not just to show their support for NTU Fest, but also "for contingency purposes", since this is the first time an event of such a scale is being organised.
It is not known how much of the $200,000, if any, will be used for the event today, as fund-raising is ongoing, with sponsors and donors still coming in, he added.
So far, NTU Fest is sponsored by 30 companies, including Zalora and Hong Leong Finance.
Associate Professor Kwok Kian Woon, the Associate Provost of Student Life, which the Students' Union comes under, said he is aware of the motion passed by the union, but said the university has not received any request to use the $200,000.
Permission from the university is required before the money in the reserved fund can be used, he said.
"However, I am happy to say that the latest indications show that we can say the event will be underwritten by contributions from sponsors, partners, donors, NTU alumni and NTU, which are still streaming in," he added.
Nevertheless, NTU students questioned the rationale behind the potential use of the money for the event.
Third-year undergraduate Chris Lim felt that the priority of the fund should be reserved for the welfare of students. "Unless the event can be attended for free, it is clear that the welfare of the students is not a priority in this usage of funds," he said.
Mr Lim, 23, also felt that the Students' Union is accountable to the student body on this issue.
"Financing is an issue that should be made transparent because we are stakeholders since we pay these membership fees," he said.
Second-year sociology major Tan Yuan Ting, 21, considered the amount far too great for a one-time event.
"On top of the $150,000 (donated to NTU Fest by STJobs), it makes a total of $350,000 for a charitable (festival). That's a lot of money for a day's worth of fund-raising," she said.
"It'd be embarrassing if they spent more organising the event than raising money for the needy. If that's the case, they may as well donate the money instead of spend it."
Others, like third-year undergraduate Diyanah Sanwari, 21, found the potential use of $200,000 for NTU Fest "justifiable".
"What the funds are used for is up to the discretion of the university. Individually, we aren't paying much and if the money is going toward a greater cause, then I think it is okay," she said.
As this is the first time the event is being planned for, the need to have a successful start has never been greater.
- Students' Union honorary financial secretary Agung Purnomo Sendy
It'd be embarrassing if they spent more organising the event than raising money for the needy. If that's the case, they may as well donate the money instead of spend it.
- Second-year sociology major Tan Yuan Ting
About the NTU Fest
Organised by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Students' Union, the NTU Fest is a day-long event that will take the place of the usual freshmen orientation camp this year.
It marks the end of the Freshmen Welcome Week and raises money for needy students at the Institute of Technical Education, through ticket sales from a 4.8km run and a carnival.
Held on the Padang today, the NTU Fest will also hold a concert in the evening featuring student bands and MediaCorp artists.
Highlights of the event include performances by popular Korean rapper Kang Hee Gun and K-pop singer Jung In. Kang, better known as Kang Gary, is also a regular cast member of the popular variety show Running Man.
Event organiser Wu GuoYi, 22, had said in a previous report that an NTU board trustee brought Kang in for the event through his contacts. The undergraduate had met the trustee while fund-raising for the event.