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.
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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.