Tuesday, 7 July 2009

So here we go again

How long have I have "teaching"? Empteen years. A lonnng time lah. My classmate from university days drove up with his wife on a business-cum-pleasure trip and we had lunch at a Teo Chew Restaurant yesterday. Discovered that he just hopped to another company (he was with the previous firm for more than 10 years). So I asked "why"? "Big project", he said. Not more pay? No lah, payment increase only 10%. So, he wanted to retire with a big project under his belt. I guess that translate into looking for new challenges. Routine is boring. So, how long have I been in USM? 24 years! Would I pack up and leave for greater or new challenges? It has crossed my mind over the years, especially at one time when the bl***y dean was out to kill everbody ("either you are with me or you are against me"). Hey, I am ata point in my career where I can go for optional retirement and start new challenges. Ah, but life is too good to think about it seriously for now.

And so here we go again. The new academic year started yesterday. First class started at 9.30 am on the dot. It was our first m.sc. planning studio session. And incredibly, every single student (18 in total) was there before the lecturers came in. And I congratulated them. Good start. Energy was there. Alert. Participatory. Responding. Eager. We will see next session coming friday. Will we take off?

I have said it before, every batch of student is different. Sometimes you inspire them. And they inspire you. Other times, it's one battle after another.

So, the new students are also here. This year the people organising the activities for the orientation (scaled down to 3 days of official stuff) had adopted a new philosophy. "Voluntary participation", except for a few required activities. So, if they don't show up, does it reflect on their "attidude"? I heard one senior management say that of you expect 150 and only 100 turn up, you knowlah, those other 50 have some "attitude problems". Did I get that wrong? I hope I did. I have organised dialogues with students leaders and the students say they hope/expect 100 to come. When I got there, less than 20 showed up. The organisers said they had tried their best putting signs and posters way into the night. Hey, I said that's fine. The show will go on. Interestingly, we asked one of the students why she bothered to come. She said she got an SMS saying it was compulsory to attend. But even then many didn't show. Making activities voluntary is an excellent first step to change the mindset. Except, the mindset of the organiers must change first. If people don't show up, suck in your breadth, and try harder. Hey, anybody can update me on how was the response to this new approach?

Michael provided this photo he called "camouflage". The roti is already wrapped in plastic so the organisers put it in a brown paper bag. So does it cancel out or make it worse?

New students attending a function were given roti and I think what looks like rice in a plastic container (PP). Michael asked some of the students what they will do with the PP container. "Throw away!" was the reply.

I was at a meeting in KOMTAR a couple of weeks ago and got a phone call. Someone on campus was tasked with organising an activity for one thousand students and wanted to give food and drinks. They said they had no problem with food. They will give the food in the biodegradable containers. I said that's not good enough. We need to aim for zero waste. Those bio-containers ending up in the landfill is not in line with zero waste. I said the organisers have to make sure they collect the bio-containers and send it for composting. So, I am guessing the organisers got cold feet on the composting and opted for the PP containers. Their assumption? The containers can be recycled or reused by the users. Wrong assumption. Organisers should be responsible for collecting back the containers for recycling or reuse. So, it was a failed effort. No trying hard enough.

What about drinking water? They know I have been lobbying and bugging people not to give water in plastic bottles (PET). So they asked, "what about drinks in tetrapacks"? I said, that's worse. They insisted I provide a solution. Simple. Tell the students to bring their own water in reusable bottles. Ah, I don't see any water in plastic bottles in the pictures. Did you see any, Michael?

We face the same dilemma all the time. The girls at Saujana brought up the same issue when I met them last friday. Not sure how they resolved it. Same issue is going to crop up during CONVEX, our convocation expo in Aug 2009. Had one discussion with the organiser; hope she follows through and not have cold feet like the lecturer.

But we are getting there ...


Michael Peter Foo said...

I could not comment on that as I did not venture far enough to the bins and 'forgot' to ask whether is in their bag or not. Will try harder to be more adventurous ya.

XtasyM said...

Hi Dr.

Somehow a student like me is always lazy to bring his own water :P

We hav water cooler machine in my faculty anyway...

soonvy said...

I m student from USM engineering campus...I rather agree with you. I am also one of the senior students that took part in the orientation. For the voluntary participation session, the attendance in eng campus was in satisfactory. 400 out of 470 new students attended the 'taklimat-taklimat'. I am so happy to be with the new students.