*intro music*

Shauna: Hello listeners, my name is Shauna Stewart and welcome back to another episode of Magnolia on Mic. So this week it’s just me hosting. I’m all by my lonesome except we have another special guest this week. We have Lawrence Lim from class of 2025. I will allow him to introduce himself.  

Lawrence: Hey guys, my name is Lawrence like Shauna said class of 2025. Thank you very much OMS for allowing me to come on the podcast and I’m excited for your questions.

Shauna: Yeah, we’re excited to have you here. So this week’s episode we’re gonna be talking about student government. So as our listeners probably know we will be moving to a new campus in a relatively short amount of time and I know a lot of people have been apprehensive about the new move and apprehensive about several decisions the school has made so I wanted to talk to someone who has had some experience with student government and who I know deeply cares about the school and the types of decisions that the school are making so I asked Lawrence to come on the podcast this week. So we will begin the interview. My first question is if you could change one thing about NYU Shanghai what would it be? 

Lawrence: That is a good question. I think I’m gonna ask a follow-up just for context.  When you say change one thing do you mean about university leadership or do you mean just anything in the school for example have a really nice athletic department?

Shauna: Yeah it can be anything. It doesn’t have to be something that is necessarily feasible. But something that you maybe always wished the school had or always wished that the school could implement.

Lawrence: Okay. Well, what I felt kind of limits our experience in this school in my personal experience, just in the school has a lot to do with the campus honestly. Just being as small as it is and sort of being a- sort of taking away a little bit from where you can study around school for example. Where all the classrooms are full, library is full all the time.

Shauna: Yeah

Lawrence: And transportation from school and dorms is a bit tough but that’s gonna go away apparently next semester. So other than that, I feel like these are actually something that student government actually a little bit, not concerned with last semester but something they wanted to sort of improve, which is school spirit. Which we really kind of lack in part because we’re a new school, right? Well, not a new school but a relatively young school. But I think that a lot of what student government, at least last semester, was tryna figure out and I think this semester they’re going to as well, is how do we sort of generate some more school spirit. How do we develop a legitimate Shanghai violet pride something like that. It’s not exactly something that people would say “oh it needs to be done” cause it’s not like crucial to academics but I think that it really adds an x factor to the sort of college experience. You know? That’s something that I kinda wish the school had that we don’t. And I think it’s very hard to get honestly. 

Shauna: Yeah. Previously Angela and I talked about building community at NYU Shanghai and that’s a thing that we noticed compared to other universities, or bigger universities NYU Shanghai seems to lack that kind of school spirit or the school pride so I think that is a very good aspiration to have for the school, something to improve. With the school size issue do you think us moving to the new campus will solve that? 

Lawrence: Generally yes however when we move from Century Avenue to Qiantian the biggest difference is material obviously we’re getting more graduate students and more professors apparently next semester and the years after. That’s just from rumors that I’ve heard nothing official but they don’t as of yet plan to increase the size of th undergraduate classes that’s what I heard from David Pe last semester so the- a small thing that sort of has to do with school spirit as well is like athletics for example. COVID right now is limiting our athletics department like we can’t even play which is extremely unfortunate but I would say athletics is another great foundation for school spirit, I would say. And without expanding the undergraduate class it’s unlikely that our sort of school teams would get, I don’t know, that much more- not competitive but I mean competition drives popularity ultimately. When more people come to play when people hear about it you know. I think that will not be solved and I think honestly if they decide to increase the class size in the future it actually may help a lot of what we talked about when it comes to school spirit.

Shauna: Interesting. Okay, so my next question is what role do you think student government plays in the operation of NYU Shanghai?

Lawrence: Good question. It really kind of depends on what department in student government but generally if I were to sort of generalize what exactly they do, it would be to look at sort of what in terms of school culture needs to be-quote unquote needs to be improved and how can we sort of fix that. For example if we feel that… for example if we feel that there’s lacking in spirit in our school, last semester well it’s a very direct quote unquote solution, last semester we tried to do a spirit week spring semester to get people just more excited and more prideful within their classes. Also on the more serious note, if there are like there were just issues surrounding mental health that were extremely public last semester I feel like a good response is just to increase the amount of mental health awareness programming around that area. I would personally think that this is good for student government to do in a preventative way, so program alot about sexual abuse awareness, mental health awareness as a way to prevent issues from popping up in the first place. 

Shauna: Yeah

Lawrence: I feel like that is sort of an important thing that student government should be doing and is doing.

Shauna: ‘Cause I think alot of people around the school aren’t exactly sure what student government does. Like we know the student government exists we get the emails but we don’t really know what they do. 

Lawrence: I think the idea is that if someone in the school has an issue with what’s going on in terms of sort of lower level programming, so not actually what Jeffery Lehman, Joanna is doing. While student government has direct connections with them and we send input from students- well not we anymore, but they send inputs from students to them. It’s not something that we can constantly change. It’s not like someone or like a group of us has an opinion and right away Jeffery Lehman and Joanna Provost Joanna Waley-Cohen can immediately act on it. But there is funding and if there are people for example that want to get to know people cross-culturally a bit more there’s programming that can be done for that. But it’s also a trick of how do you figure out what people want out of student government. “Cause the issue is that you put alot of resources out there but people don’t really use them but they also feel that maybe student government doesn’t do enough so it’s also a matter of getting the word out like what we can do so that people sort of can find the middle ground of what – so people can find the middle ground and reach out when they need to. 

Shauna: Yeah I think that would be alot more helpful for the student body if there was like a way to make it more know about the types of services that student government can offer so that people can actually try and take advantage of those. So next question, this is also related to student government. Do you think student government is effective at promoting change within the school? Do you think the programs that they offer are effective?

Lawrence: In what- what is change in this context?

Shauna: I guess in this context it would be, let’s say a student raises an issues or student government becomes aware of an issue that’s affecting the student body, once they put out these programs do you think they’re actually effective?

Lawrence: I- My mind immediately goes to serious topics like sexual assault prevention and mental health awarness. It’s extremely hard to quantify how successful these programs are but- it’s not very easy to do that. But it’s better than nothing and if it helps one person especially with these serious things then I think it’s doing the right thing and it’s accomplishing the goals we set out to accomplish. I kind of can’t think of an example of like a less serious thing. ‘Cause generally it’s not about solving a direct issue, you know what I mean. And systematic changes in the school we can’t actually do that because that’s up to sort of like the university leadership. So I think student government is less about making concrete changes systematically that are very obvious and it’s more like supplementing people and sort of helping out when they need it. How you define that as being successful or not successful I would say is quite hard with the exception of more extreme cases. 

Shauna: Thank you that actually clarified alot of things. And hopefully it clarified some things for our listeners as well. So our last question for Lawrence today is what do you think can be done to like- so you said it’s hard to quantify this amount, so what do you think can be done to kind of help both student government see if what they’re doing is helpful for the student population and also for the student population to kind of be able to see that- I don’t wanna call it- I guess it would be like giving feedback. Do you think there could be a feedback system in place for both student government to receive feedback from the students and for the students to see what student government actually does?

Lawrence: I think the main thing is that the person-okay first of all, the way student government works and like one of their quote-unquote departments is the class representative. And their job, which I did last semester, is to go around and getting to know as many people in the grade as you possibly can and then get a sense of what people want. And part of that is actively reaching out to different groups so the diverse student body at NYU Shanghai you should be getting to know. Generally everybody, right? That way you can best understand what people need and you bring that up at meetings and within the confines of student government that’s when you I guess implement programs you think would benefit. And that is one way to sort of bridge the gap between student government and the general student body, other than that there isn’t-there isn’t that much. There’s things that are sent out in newsletters and polls but it’s not- we don’t get alot of responses on those just because people don’t check their emails like these newsletters all that often and like people send WeChat groups those get missed sometimes as well. So I think it’s more of like- oh also I would like to add there are also assistant directors and those are generally composed of freshman and sophomores. And the idea there is also that while they have their own tasks to do based on their student government board they also hear things from students and then they can bring that up at meetings. Can I ask you a question?

Shauna: Sure, go ahead.

Lawrence: What do you think is- is there a sense- do you feel like there is a sense in our school of not getting enough from I guess student government specifically? Or voices not being heard by leadership?

Shauna: Hmmmm. I think most of the things that I’ve heard about I guess students being unhappy is less about student government and more about like you said leadership. Because I think people are looking for change that they can see. I feel like alot of times student government, although the programs that they hold are there to help the student body, alot of times the students can’t actually see the changes going on so then they start having issues and like complaining and things of that nature. So I think, I guess one making student government more visible might help, but I’m not completely sure how to do that. And also trying to see more change from the I guess upper level leadership ‘cause I feel like students feel a very large disconnect between- like going from upper level leadership to student government to the student body it feels very disconnected.

Lawrence: So our current president Stephanie Anderson she’s not physically in Shanghai neither is her vice president Peirong. That affects the way they can respond to things. ‘Cause their routine- one of their responsibilities as vice president and president is to meet with Joanna and Jeffery Lehman and David Pe obviously but he’s very- David Pe, Dean Pe is very much closer with student government than Joanna and Jeffery Lehman. Yeah. And like, there’s like quite a gap between them and I think it’s-no matter how responsive you are online it is extremely difficult to be aware of what is happening physically on campus in Shanghai. So that is definitely a disconnect that exists because just they’re simply online. And then we are both sophomores so you’re gonna- you’re gonna be probably hearing more about maybe sophomore and freshman issues that would be like to raise with leadership. And they’re, I think they’re seniors right now. Peirong is a junior. And Stephanie is a senior. There’s maybe like a year gap between there. I think the biggest issue is that they’re online right now. It’s simply impossible for them to be going around school and talking to people and really getting a feel for what’s going on.

Shauna: Yeah because the issues that affect seniors and juniors may be a bit different from the issues that affect underclassmen. 

Lawrence: Yes. I mean that’s the- ideally that’s what the class rep does but everyone’s different. If I may ask, is there an example of an issue you think could be addressed? Off the top of your head? It’s okay if there is none. 

Shauna: I don’t know. I feel like most recently it’s all been about quarantine stuff. But I don’t know if there’s a way for student government to affect change in that area. 

Lawrence: Yeah so that’s very difficult. And just for context quarantine regulations, I think as many people are aware, are not actually implemented by the school. It may be executed by people the school has hired but it’s all from the Chinese- sorry the China Education Bureau. And generally our school answers to them for everything, travel related issues, quarantine stuff, visas, all that stuff. It’s hard that’s- we want that and ultimately there’s only so much you can do when you live in- when we’re living, and working, and studying in China. We don’t exactly have much wiggle room. I would like to say David Pe works very hard and he does his best. And generally he is the guy who’s both on the chopping block when it comes to answering emails and the one communicating with them. 

Shauna: Well thank you so much for your insight about I guess the school and student government. So that concludes our episode thank you so much for listening and hope to see you guys next episode. 

*outro music*