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Running Ragged: A Commentary On Rag And Flag

Pardon the misspelling, it should read “Who Pays”.

I have penned an opinion piece on Rag and Flag (my fascination with the event started in August last year, here), which is published in this month’s edition of The Ridge. The premise for Running Ragged is quite straightforward: while we are cognisant of Rag and Flag’s history, heritage, and the value it has for its participants, we need to comprehend its present dynamics, get up-to-date information, and consider change and reforms (especially on the part of the student leaders and representatives). These are my main concerns, arguments:

1. Information is crucial. It would do us good to learn more about Rag and Flag’s genesis and development, as well as the relevant administrative and financial details of the event.

2. The onus is on the Executive Committee (Exco) of the National University of Singapore Students Union (NUSSU) to encourage the new colleges to participate in both Rag and Flag, particularly if it posits that this annual enterprise seeks to “promote student involvement and bonding”, and to provide a common experience for the school’s freshmen.

3. Competition must be removed, for Rag and Flag. The argument that college students need some form of contest to boost the amount of funds raised is ludicrous and depressing.

4. Unless student leaders and representatives have done some work to find out more from their constituents, they would be in a poor position to articulate any perspectives on Rag and Flag (since it would be their own opinion, and not the faculty’s or the body’s). We demand greater accountability; for instance, the council members who “abstain” on key decisions should – at the very least – provide justifications for voting in such a convenient manner.

5. Transparency in two forms, in the future: the NUSSU Exco should – in its closing reports – reflect how much has been spent for the event; for the respective participating bodies (PB), they should disclose breakdowns on how much they have spent on the construction of floats.

You can grab a copy of The Ridge in many locations around the NUS campus (here); otherwise, I’ll be happy to pass you a copy when we meet.

* * *

In a broader sense, this commentary “should serve as a starting point for discussions and discourse, to empower the reader with the requisite knowledge to form their own judgements”. The journey of churning this piece out has been fascinating, and the initial reactions I have gotten do prove – to a certain extent – that student journalism still has a place in the school. I am not trained professionally or academically as a writer, I have no political aspirations (or rather, I do not have the abilities and the panache), and I do not believe that “change from within” is the only acceptable form of change here. I just want to write.

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.


14 thoughts on “Running Ragged: A Commentary On Rag And Flag

  1. I think point 3 is the one that really strikes home for me, but in general I have become sceptical of Rag and, to a lesser extent, Flag. Sometimes, I feel like the easiest way to dispel the existing criticisms of Rag is simply to concede that Rag is simply a float competition, and disassociate it from Flag. That is a highly cynical view, and I believe that sort of move will admit a whole host of new criticisms, but personally I think that’s better than doing Rag (in its existing state) and using the name of “community service”.

    My views on Flag are milder, though again, the element of competition bugs me.

    Posted by Clement | March 25, 2013, 10:45 am
  2. Personally I am against Rag and Flag being a flagship event simply because of the huge amount of money invested into these events every year that could have been channeled to more important areas like helping the needy students and getting more shuttle buses in the school. I do understand the need for NUS to differentiate themselves from the other local universities. Definitely this is one of those events that is unique to NUS and not say NTU and SMU. However, if we were to analyse based on a cost-benefit perspective I wouldn’t approve of the whole idea of a rag and flag.

    I agree with you completely, however, that the competitive element is detrimental to the NUS community. Some faculties are just so much bigger and have so much more resources than others do. Under such circumstances what then constitutes to a fair competition? If the true spirit of the event is to be promoted then let this event just be a yearly flagship event that students look forward to like Chingay and not some battle zone between the different faculties.

    Posted by Zhao Mian | March 25, 2013, 1:22 pm
    • Take away competition in its entirety! It’s been very half-hearted at the moment, I feel. I would venture to posit that some student representatives don’t exactly know what they were voting for in last year’s meeting.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | March 25, 2013, 1:36 pm
  3. I agree on Flag bringing positive publicity to the school, and I actually like the overarching concept of Rag and Flag. But it needs to be executed without deviating from its original direction… Or maybe my expectation of Rag is different in the first place?

    Posted by Clement | March 25, 2013, 1:27 pm
  4. I think so too… salute* to u sensei!!!! XD haha

    Posted by zhaomian | March 25, 2013, 4:39 pm
  5. Just scrap the whole superficial thing srsly…

    Posted by IGoCrazyBecauseOfYou | March 25, 2013, 7:19 pm
  6. Rag not Flag

    Posted by IGoCrazyBecauseOfYou | March 25, 2013, 7:20 pm
  7. Thanks for the piece on The Ridge, Jin Yao. I represent NUSSU committee Students Against Violation of the Earth (SAVE). For past couple of years we’ve tried to ‘green’ RAG – despite the fact if it were not organized, resources would not be consumed. Nevertheless we make do with this given situation, and SAVE has tried to provide resource packs, help in environmental audits etc. Most of the discussion in Council centre on competition, charity (‘back to roots’, and limiting financial costs. However the documentary “Rag to Riches” does point some attention to the wastage of resources. A perspective examining the environmental impact might fill in the gap – but will our student leaders care?

    Posted by Aloysius | March 27, 2013, 11:45 am
    • Thanks for the comment, Aloysius.

      I didn’t include that angle in the piece, because I have never been involved in the actual construction of the float, and hence am not cognisant of the specifics in this regard. However, its absence in the commentary does not mean it is not crucial. You are right – perhaps for a follow-up piece (over the summer maybe), I could shadow a PB to be part of the construction process, and interview others who have been involved as well.

      Whether our student leaders / volunteers / representatives care: well…

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | March 27, 2013, 11:52 am


  1. Pingback: NUSSU Concerns | guanyinmiao's musings - April 10, 2013

  2. Pingback: Autonomy, Not Transparency, The Issue | guanyinmiao's musings - October 1, 2014

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