Students petition against NUS' move to go cashless

This article is more than 12 months old

At least two petitions against the move have been started

A decision by the National University of Singapore (NUS) to start going fully cashless in August has been met with strong resistance by students, who started two online petitions that have garnered more than a total of 1,700 signatures as of 10.30pm yesterday.

The petitions appear to have prompted a rethink.

NUS said yesterday that it would gradually phase in a cashless campus, but this would not necessarily be fully in place by the end of the academic year, as initially proposed.

It noted that it would take account of feedback from students and stakeholders.

"The university is taking a phased approach to progressively introduce the concept of a cashless campus, and this is in line with Singapore's drive towards a cashless society," the NUS statement said.

Around noon on Monday, NUS students received an e-mail from the Office of Campus Amenities, which said after an encouraging response from an earlier "cashless transaction initiative", NUS planned "to introduce a cashless campus in the new academic year 2018/19".

The academic year starts in August.

It upset master's student and sociology graduate Tiffany Gwee, who decided to write an open letter to NUS outlining her stand against the new policy.

It has received about 200 likes on Facebook.

When contacted by The New Paper, she declined to comment.

Students from the university then started two petitions on "Can we keep the cash in cashless?" and "Keeping cash in NUS".

Many of the students cited the lack of inclusivity towards people who primarily use cash.

They were also critical of a survey, which they felt overstated the cashless take-up rate.

Others pointed to difficulties in making cashless payment due to poor Internet connection as another reason to keep the cash option available.

What is clear, though, is that NUS is serious about transitioning to a cashless payment system.

To help with the move, all dining operators and retailers will provide cashless payment options starting from August, said its spokesman. But all retail outlets will gradually stop accepting cash.

He said payments using ez-link and Nets FlashPay cards will be available from June.

"We welcome feedback from the various stakeholders to further improve user experience and will also continue to engage NUSSU (NUS Students' Union) as well as students who have provided their views and suggestions on this initiative," he said.

Payment giants Nets and EZ-Link announced in January that ez-link cards will be accepted at canteens in Singapore Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic and the Nanyang Technological University starting this month.

Those canteens have also installed Nets payment terminals.

NUSSU president Jeffrey Lee told TNP the union has been actively working with the university to address the issue since January.

He said: "(NUS) had previously assured us that it would have staff on-site to assist students who are affected in the use of the relevant apps and is also making other cashless payment methods such as ez-link and Nets FlashPay cards available."

But some students remain concerned.

Ms Bernadette Low, 24, a master's student in communications and new media, welcomed the fact that the school will go cashless but said she has experienced instances where people have held up the queue because their PayLah payment failed.

"So if there were any technical or network difficulties, that may cause a delay and inconvenience others, which could be a big problem during peak periods," she said.

First-year business student Neha Yadav, 20, said: "Maybe for the older staff who are less familiar with technology, or exchange students that might not have bank accounts to use PayLah, it might make life difficult for them."

Fourth-year philosophy major Kaine Yeo, 24, said of the results of the survey NUS cited: "If the take-up rate is really high enough to justify implementing the cashless system... people will naturally go cashless."