SA Elections 2020/2021: Interview With the Sustainability Officer Candidates

Didn’t get enough sustainabili-tea? We’ve brought you more to read up on as the voting period takes place. Having many candidates across all the SA positions, we found it fit to dig in deeper on what the candidates for the sustainability officers position have to say through a post-hustings interview.

Sukh Sajjad 

1. Were you previously involved with the sustainability network? Are you aware of how they work? How confident are you in fulfilling the responsibilities for the role as the leader of the sustainability network?

I’ve been volunteering with events that the sustainability network has been organising such as Sustainability week, Chillax-lah, and now International Women’s Week. Obviously, because I was only volunteering, I don’t know the ‘deep’ things but I was able to see how the events operate and how to run logistics, and how to deal with the management. I think more than a leader, I’m a team worker; I believe in a collective effort where we work as a team rather than me leading and commanding them. I believe that if there are like-minded people who all put in their input, it can make a greater impact.

I think more than a leader, I’m a team worker; I believe in a collective effort where we work as a team rather than me leading and commanding them

2. Based on the activities that sustainability network is currently doing this academic year, how do you think they performed? What did they do well/not do well, and how will you resume the effort as the sustainability network next year? Any specific events?

I think they did a great job with organising the events but students didn’t quite register with them; they knew about the events but weren’t as motivated to attend them, so I would like to work on that. The organising and ideas were really good but I would personally like to work on marketing it. Obviously, I would like to continue the events that have already been organised, but I also intend to introduce a Cleanliness drive. I’m aware that Nature Club is already doing something similar but I’d like to introduce an off-campus one where it will have a vaster impact and we can promote our University with a sustainability brand.

3. Regarding single-use plastic, what did they do well this year? Did you follow the progress from this year? It has been in so many manifestoes for so many years, what makes you confident that you can carry this out?

I’ve heard of the work they’ve been doing to reduce single-use plastic but as a student, I don’t really see it being implemented. So, I would really like to work on that because single-use plastic, be it the takeaway containers or straws, really add up to the plastic waste on campus. I have a few plans on how to tackle this issue- if we could include a Nottingham tupperware or metal strawin the welcome packs the university gives us when we enter, we could also have a system where if we used the tupperware for takeaway at the food vendors or e-bazaar, there could be a 1 ringgit discount.

4. In terms of Chillax-lah, how do you plan on increasing outreach?

Why I think they didn’t have a big outreach was because it seemed very planned and had a formal feel that made it seem forced. I think Chilax-lah should be a casual thing where people think ‘yeah, I’ll do it if I want to.’

5. How are we going to know the progress of your manifesto? How do we know what you have done after you are elected?

I plan to implement a bi-annual feedback system that is directed specifically for the Sustainability network to show their progress on campus. I know there’s a problem with getting people to fill up surveys so I plan to collaborate with lecturers so they could maybe help ask students to fill the survey at the start of lectures. 

6. Are you aware of the Sustainable Development Goals? Out of the 17 SDGs, which are you most focused to achieve?

I would like to work on the Gender Equality goal to improve facilities for both female and male hygiene; there isn’t a proper sanitary pad disposal system and it’s not a luxury so I think it should definitely be there. I would also like to work on Peace, Justice, and Institution in order to maintain the standard of equality here. Lastly, I’d like to work on food wastage, which is a big problem on campus.  

7. As a sustainability officer, how can you ensure the sustainability of the SA network especially with obstacles such as the boycott SA general elections movement?

I think this is very childish and we should appreciate the work SA puts in to make our university lives more productive. In regards to handling the situation, I think the wellbeing centre is doing a great job and is open to the SA execs if they feel the need to go there. 

8. You mentioned self-vigilance drives in your manifesto, what does this mean and can you elaborate on it?

When I mention self-vigilance drives, I mean environmental self-vigilance. Having things like other people picking up our trash is a short-term solution. For a long-term and sustainable solution, we need to build it into ourselves to make ourselves more conscious and aware. I want to create a level of awareness where people consciously and willingly participate in activities that will be better for the environment and prevent things that are harmful to the environment. Initially, this will be done by talks and conferences that specifically touch on self-vigilant drives to make students see how self-vigilant drives can be beneficial to them.

9. From the response of the audience to the vagueness of answers, how will you consolidate these promises? 

Most of the questions asked me how I would execute my ideas. I think by including things like SCPD-points or monetary incentives for students who participate as well as having sponsors that will provide sponsorships for those incentives, we’ll be able to execute these events. 

10. Is there anything you would like to add on?

I think I’m suitable for this position because I believe in sustainable progression. Globally, progression is very fast and fast-paced but it isn’t necessarily sustainable. I believe that progress, even if it’s gradual, should be sustainable. That’s my motto. 

I believe that progress, even if it’s gradual, should be sustainable.

Sharfa Dhamin 

1. Were you previously involved with the sustainability network? Are you aware of how they work? How confident are you in fulfilling the responsibilities for the role as the leader of the sustainability network?

Despite being a first-year student, I have done my research and I know what they do and what they’re involved in; I have also attended their events as well as donated to their charities. I’ve been in  a leadership position for 3 years in the sustainability network back at my high school as well as being the head of my house where I had to deal with things in a management perspective where the responsibility of sustainability would fall onto the students. I also feel like if there’s something more to learn or listen to from the people around me, I would definitely take that into consideration.

2. Based on the activities that sustainability network is currently doing this academic year, how do you think they performed? What did they do well/not do well?

I would like to start by saying they did a lot this semester compared to the previous one where their events were more downplayed. This semester you can really see a lot more events with the charities, female organisation, and the women’s day march. However, I feel like they could have spaced their events better and market it better, too. They were organised really well but the only thing I would want to change is just to make it at a larger scale and give the events more publicity

3. How will you resume the effort as the sustainability network next year? Any specific events?

The events that they have already organised is pretty cool such as the women-led shops and charities for women which I would like to continue. Specifically, I’d like to increase the amount of recycling that we do on campus at a larger scale so that we can create art pieces that are completely made out of recycled material. This is the same thing we did back in my country which resonated a lot with people and gave them a message. It is also something we can do on our own during our free time. I would also like to introduce workshops about mental health which engages the audience in a meaningful way so that they know how to handle their own stress; this is something that I have done previously and have had experience with so I know will be an effective idea.

4. Regarding single-use plastic, what did they do well this year? Did you follow the progress from this year? It has been in so many manifestoes for so many years, what makes you confident that you can carry this out?

I did notice that there was a lot of plastic usage on campus; more than water bottles they tend to be food packaging. I would actually like to improve this by working with the food suppliers and vendors by implementing a system where you can get a 30 cent discount if you use not only the nottingham tupperware but any reusable tupperware when you take away your food. I’m confident that I can solve this because of past experience during my high school; my friends and I actually managed to switch out paper for plastic in our senior year and I was in the leadership position of this change. So I believe that I have the leadership position as well as experience required to be able to approach the board in a way that would make them more receptive to the idea and help us to implement it.

5. In terms of Chillax-lah, how do you plan on increasing outreach?

Social networks are so important during our era; they are the basis of where we receive information from. I would like to create a page which would address people directly with huge advertisements that promotes not only events but the sustainability network as a whole. I would use social media as a platform in order to engage students all the time, not just something like posters which they view when they walk to and from classes. 

6. How are we going to know the progress of your manifesto? How do we know what you have done after you are elected?

I would suggest people to follow my social media, the sustainability network’s social media, and especially instagram where we would post updates every week on our progress through posts and highlights. I want to utilise social media as a platform to allow people to follow my manifesto and its progress at that point.

7. Are you aware of the Sustainable Development Goals? Out of the 17 SDGs, which are you most focused to achieve?

I think that the SDG’s set in Malaysia are goals that we can’t achieve on our own; we have to work together with management and as a whole university enterprise in order to achieve them– in order to reduce plastic usage, water wastage, and all the other environmental issues we are facing. Specifically, I intend to tackle Good Health and Well-being, Gender Equality, and Responsible Consumption and Production, as mentioned in my manifesto. More than that, I want to create awareness of these SDG’s – not a lot of people know that Nottingham Malaysia have their own specific SDG’s that they plan to tackle. 

8. As a sustainability officer, how can you ensure the sustainability of the SA network especially with obstacles such as the boycott SA general elections movement?

We are the executives of this student body and we are responsible for holding up the constitution for them. It’s not just about making changes, it’s about making sure that they are connected to us– that their interests are the ones we are working towards. It’s not about ourselves, it’s about you guys.  If I was elected, I would make sure that these are the people that we listen to and take feedback from and I would ensure that the SA network will continue to work for the students diligently. I want to also work with wellbeing so that cases like these are sorted and that each side is heard. At the end of the day, the fact that this is gaining traction does mean that things do need to change. I would make sure that the SA network does not become a derelict and continue to work for the people

It’s not just about making changes, it’s about making sure that they are connected to us – that their interests are the ones we are working towards.

9. Are you aware of any sustainability forums that are held this year? Since you mentioned it in your manifesto, what do you plan on doing with the sustainability forum?

I’m aware that there are bi-annual sustainability forums on campus but have not participated in them so far because I am a new student and I didn’t know about them at all. What I plan to do with these sustainability forums is to make them more online and accessible. Our generation needs to be more involved with these issues as a whole; even if they can’t attend the forum physically, they can at least have a place to send in their issues and feedback regarding sustainability so we can discuss it. Sustainability forums as a whole should be for those who genuinely don’t know how to get their voices heard or those who aren’t particularly active. I feel as though it can be used as a way to get the whole student body involved in what our university is planning; this is why I want to make it as accessible as I can – to make students more proactive and to get them to come up with as many ideas as they can. It also allows them to be more engaged with something that is bigger than themselves.

10. You mentioned thrift shops but you did not address it in the hustings; what are your plans regarding this? How are you going to execute it?

I would like to hold a bi-monthly student thrift shop where students can donate or trade items that they don’t need anymore and others can buy or trade items that they require; this would create a less amount of wastage from a personal standpoint. This regular event would allow us to stock up on those items before putting them up to be bought or traded. Obviously, items such as clothes will need to be cleaned and washed first. But even more, I think this event is important because there are so many things that students who finish with uni don’t know what to do with; things like hardware and appliances which I don’t want to go to waste but rather where other students can reuse them. 

11. Regarding the source of the pad dispenser that was brought up during your hustings, what ideas can you consolidate about the said issue?

As mentioned by Divya, I do wish to bring the pad dispenser from India as my friends in Bangladesh have done the same thing in their own university (BUP), so we have the link to that company already. Even though this might be a challenge to bring it to the board, we have private links and had past experience doing it. In terms of maintenance, I was thinking of reaching out to a local team that can help to maintain the dispenser.

 An alternative option which may be more difficult is if we get our own engineering students to make the dispenser; this would of course be awarded with s-CPD points. This could be proposed as a project for their own faculty to work on; actually, I used to study in the University of Melbourne where me and my fellow mechanical engineering students would be given projects, from the Student Body Executives,  such as creating something we needed that was too expensive to buy, and we would work on this for the whole semester. I would like to do the same thing here if that was possible and if the first choice of purchasing the dispenser from India does not work out.  

12. Is there anything you would like to clarify/add on?

Now is not the time for us to be choosing someone with vague ideas or plans that are incomplete. I do feel like I didn’t have the chance to clarify the points of my plans but if you read my manifesto, go through my stories, you can see that my action plans are concrete. As a new student, I don’t know much about the position but honestly, I ran because I feel like this role requires someone who actually cares and will put the time and effort in– not someone who makes fake promises. This is why I think you should choose me: because I care and I would fight my hardest to work for this

Now is not the time for us to be choosing someone with vague ideas or plans that are in complete… I ran because I feel like this role requires someone who actually cares and will put the time and effort in.

Written by Raihanah binti Kamarul Azman & Wyn Wang.

Photos by Hanis Azemi.

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