Cuppa Coffee with Dr Lee: May 2019

Reported by Fajar binti Benjamin

Photo credit: Sunway College Student Council

On Thursday 9th of May, Dr Elizabeth Lee, Senior Executive Director of Sunway Education Group, once again joined a mass of excited students in Sunway University’s Art Gallery to reveal upcoming projects, answer pressing questions, collect feedback and most importantly, establish a stronger connection with her beloved students.

As always, snacks and coffee were provided for students to help themselves after arriving for the 4pm talk. Dr Lee herself arrived early and could be seen friendly chatting with the students, many of whom she knew by name. At 4pm sharp, the emcee, Pamela, kicked off the event by announcing the house rules that involved strict Chatham House Rules (I’ll make do with paraphrasing).

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Chatting before the event starts

To start the forum segment, Dr Lee assured students that the main purpose of her being there was to build stronger ties between herself as a representative of the Sunway Group and us, as the beneficiaries. She went on to explain how as a result of a previous session, actual changes had been brought to Sunway. The free shuttle bus that used to stop quite a distance away now enters campus to drop off commuters at the uni foyer. This is all thanks to a student pointing out the problem in a previous forum. It turned out to be a simple miscommunication with the shuttle operators that was easily fixed by the facilities department.

Pamela was quick to thank Dr Lee on our behalf. Case in point, management is always happy to hear and assess our ideas.

The next question asked was of Sunway College’s new branch at Sunway Velocity. Dr Lee was excited to share with us the whys and hows. Dato Seri Jeffrey Cheah himself was the person to suggest it first after being inspired by Melbourne’s Victoria University city campus. The location in Cheras was due to the high concentration of Sunway students who actually commute from that area. It can be noted Dr Lee was extremely enthusiastic at the notion that an entire project can be born of a simple vision.

Following that was a question regarding updates of Sunway’s implementation of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Dr Lee remarked that seeing plastic waste upsets her greatly. She explained how so many of us are born into a world of casual plastic use, it’s difficult for us to know any better. However, while suggestions of ridding campus of the Starbucks that uses so much plastic, or of banning bubble tea have been made, it is not a good idea to outright ban things. Instead, concerned students can quietly make a difference by bringing their own tumblers to bubble tea places instead and reminding their friends to make more responsible choices. She reminded us that being gentle and eloquent would get us much further than scorn and impatience.

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She also spoke of a ‘print less paper’ campaign, urging us to use our gadgets for notes and exercises instead of printing tons of material (as long as our eyes are healthy enough). She went on to describe an initiative made by the students of Victoria University here in Sunway (the business faculty) to collect food waste and turn it into compost via the use of ‘black soldier fly maggots’. Gross yet fascinating, these maggots’ sole purpose is to eat waste, turn into a fly, mate and then die, quickly disintegrating into compost. Hence the name ‘soldier’ as they soldier on for our environment.

The third issue to be brought up was technological advancement. Dr Lee proudly told us that Sunway was the first place in Malaysia to implement facial recognition technology in the library a good three months ago compared to KLIA which only started their implementation recently. Pretty cool right!

Something that concerns many students and staff alike is the lack of space to support the growth in student intakes. While Sunway Group and Datuk Seri Jeffrey Cheah find it exciting that they can touch more lives through providing quality education, and that the benefits brought go into perpetuity, this is indeed a problem. Parking is difficult to find, study spaces are often overcrowded and more and more often recently, classes have had to be rescheduled to inconvenient hours due to lack of suitable venue.

It was with great excitement that Dr Lee revealed Sunway’s upcoming plans for expansion. Sunway International School is to be moved to a new school grounds that is being built on the opposite side of the KESAS highway. It is close enough that the move won’t increase student’s commute time, but far enough to not to limit the university campus growth. The SIS buildings will then be taken over by the university, offering up a whole new range possibilities for more classrooms, study spaces and facilities.

But that’s not all, across the road from us at the slopes of the lake, another building shall be built to house Sunway’s Art and Business School faculty. (Take that Taylors! We’re going to have a lake as well!). The slides revealed an artist’s rendition of what the new building would look like as Dr Lee encouraged us to submit feedback and ideas that they could use while planning the construction. All this is hoped to be achieved within the next ten years.

As if that isn’t enough, there are also several smaller scale projects coming up; the wood plank deck at the college cafeteria is to be expanded to reach the Graduate Center building, Sunway University will be taking over part of Clio Hotel, lift congestion shall also be addressed through improving the stairwells and there are plans to install water stations at the football field.

Similar to previous Cuppa Coffee events, Dr Lee once again addressed the issue of the distance between international and local students. She ascertained that international students are very precious to Sunway and that we should have more diversity as it makes us so much more vibrant and brings the world closer to us. She pointed out that for international students, it was not an easy move to make due to the financial and emotional toll it would take on them. She urged Malaysian students to reach out and suggested a new role be created for the student councils with the responsibility of integrating international students better. It turns out Dr Lee once held that very role when she was in Cambridge.

As it is, the international office does a great job of getting them all together for activities, but in some respects this could further alienate international students from local.

It was then time for the Q&A session.

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The first question came from a representative of the Ausmat student committee. He voiced concerns over the heavy sound pollution in Sunway. Not only is there the sound that comes with events, for example music blasting from the Boulevard every CNS or drums playing at every cultural celebration; there is also quite a high level of base noise pollution happening all the time in Sunway due to the smooth architecture which allows sound to bounce around constantly. With thousands of students in the same place talking to each other, the level of sound can often be overwhelming and distracting to students trying to actually study.

Dr Lee talked a bit about how Sunway may consider soundproofing certain parts of the uni such as the library, but that overall, the amount of noise was something to adapt to. It makes the campus more happening.

The next question was regarding facilities provided for special needs students. The elevator issue was brought up once again as a student complained that as someone who cannot climb stairs, her needs are often not accommodated by other selfish students who will not make space for her in the elevator. Dr Lee then revealed that one of the main causes for the lift jam in Sunway, exams on the 10th floor, was going to be resolved by moving the exam venue to the Clio Hotel which is right beside Sunway Pyramid. That way there would be less crowds of people using the lift all at one time. She also urged us to be more thoughtful by putting down our bags once in the escalator and to not enter on the way up if we actually want to go down.

The event drew to a close with some words of encouragement from Dr Lee.

 

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