By Jovi Ho
NTU students are heartened by the university’s focus on technology under the leadership of Professor Subra Suresh, but also wish to see improvements in the quality of campus life in the coming months.
This includes addressing issues with administrative staff and food options around school.
Students were responding to Prof Suresh’s announcements at his inauguration ceremony last month, where he outlined the establishment of a new institute and a global arts prize, both focusing on technology.
This follows other tech-related initiatives, such as the “Smart Pass” and driverless buses, announced by Prof Suresh since he began his tenure at the start of the year.
The NTU Institute of Science and Technology for Humanity (NISTH), opening in the coming months, will study the impacts of technology on society through discussion groups, fellowships and research projects, said Prof Suresh.
Undergraduates and postgraduates whom the Nanyang Chronicle spoke to said the University’s research on ethical concerns about technology will help students stay relevant in today’s world.
Elaine Tay, a second-year student from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, thinks technology has the potential to improve quality of education, but it must be handled well.
“The university should ensure that technology is used in a way that will help us learn more effectively,” said the 21-year-old.
Tay, who is a part of the University Scholars Programme, recalls a module she took in her first semester that examined Artificial Intelligence (AI).
“Its focus on philosophy gave us insights into possible ethical implications of advancements in technology, such as privacy concerns and identity theft, which I thought was really relevant today,” she said.
During the inauguration, Prof Suresh also unveiled the NTU Digital Arts Prize, a biennial award to “recognise global artists and technologists”. The winner will be selected by an international panel of judges.
Mavis Lim, president of the Art, Design and Media (ADM) Student Club, praised the digital focus of the prize.
“It may encourage artists to pave the way forward with the utilisation of new technologies for art,” said the 22-year-old Interactive Media student.
The University is no stranger to the use of new media in art. Installed in June 2016, the “Media Art Nexus (MAN)” is a large-scale interactive media art wall at the North Spine Plaza showing digital artworks by students from ADM.
But there remains some dissatisfaction with campus life that technology might not be able to solve.
Joshua Ng, 25, who lives in Pioneer Hall, said residents sometimes speak about unpleasant encounters with administrative and security staff, and hopes the University can help improve staff-student relations.
“I have heard of issues about hall management being unnecessarily rude, and I think students feel that the staff are against them. Perhaps greater transparency and communication can help solve this problem,” he said.
Aside from administrative issues, some wish for a greater variety of food options on campus.
Zulhaqem Zulkifl, a third-year student from the School of Humanities, said he would appreciate more Halal food options around the South Spine area.
“When it comes to Halal food options, there’s variety but not quality. It’ll be great if we can have a simple stall selling Halal chicken rice,” said the 25-year-old.
Kimberly Seah, president of the Crescent Hall Junior Common Room Committee (JCRC), is looking forward to the new schemes unveiled by Prof Suresh, and hopes he will take time to learn more about the non-academic side of campus living as well.
She was present at the inauguration along with all the members of her hall’s JCRC.
“I think Prof Suresh could spend his first year at NTU getting to know the students better…Visiting the various Halls of Residence and experiencing our activities are good ways of understanding our school culture,” she said.