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UNSW Screws Up Again

In the welcome speech by UNSW's vice-chancellor, Fred Hilmer, he writes, 'At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs.' A few lines on, he continues the shameless self-praise, stating, 'in developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research.'

Note the words 'take pride', 'high quality', 'academic environment' and 'can be inspired'.

None of these are even remotely true.

For those who still do not know, I am graduating this semester. And of all times, UNSW has decided to display their inefficencies now. This experience that I am undergoing would not look out of place in a comic book or a joke told at a bar. When juxtaposed with the assurance by our beloved Fred Hilmer above, it is even more incredulous.

I have gotten back every single grade for this semester except for two modules. One is a general education course in which I have to fulfill in order to graduate and the other is a course necessary for me to fulfill my History major.

In the university wide release of results on July 10, these two modules came back with a series of acronyms that would make even the most devoted civil servant cringe.

For my general education module, I got a LE. For my history module, I got a WD. What on earth these grades meant was beyond me. After examining a long list of possible grades a student could receive from the UNSW administration online, I discovered that LE meant late entry and WD meant a student has not completed one of more of the required assessments.

The subsequent fear and dismay that hit me was incomprehensible. This script was not following according to plan. I stayed on for slightly more than a month after my final assessment to ensure that I would receive a proper transcript for me to show my employers when I start looking for a job back in Singapore.

Now, I have no transcript to show and not even a Bachelors degree to speak of. The best part of this all is that I am entirely not to be blamed for any of this.

For my general education module, my lecturer convieniently forgot to submit a final score for his students on time. After years of preaching that a student must inculcate the value of submitting their assignments on time, apparently someone forgot to remind the lecturer that this form of punctuality is mutual.

After calling the faculty office, they told me to give them a few more days to LOCATE the lecturer and retrieve the results from him. This comical cat and mouse game that is occurring right before my very eyes is doing everything it can to refute that this university is indeed 'high quality'. How a lecturer can forget entirely to submit a mark and disappear mysteriously from the face of earth is beyond me. And you would think that in this high tech age that we live in today, he might just be a phone call away from resolving this matter. Yet, till this day, nothing has been done and my mark is still in alphabets rather than numbers.

For my history module, the story is more incredible. After contacting my tutor and the faculty office, what I understood was that a whole stack of essays went missing after the essay drop box was sorted. How that is possible is again beyond me. The lecturer, as obtuse as he is, did not smell any foul play when he discovered a whole stack of essays missing and actually believed that these students had submitted their essays late on purpose. Hence, he skirted off for a long holiday.

When the essays were eventually found, the lecturer was still away on leave and rather than cutting his holiday short, he decided that this matter can be resolved after he finishes his leave, which will be this Friday, 17 July.

It is hard to imagine how a lecturer would not treat this as a case of emergency. The irresponsibility, the possible lack of negative consequences is probably contributing to such a proliferation of inefficencies. After listening to these two incredible tales, I thought I was living in the Soviet era. It is simply impossible that in this day and time, such nonsense could still be occurring, least at such a reputable school such as UNSW.

I have spoken to a few friends about this matter and some of them have told me they would not be surprised if such a cock up occurred in places which are not as developed. But for this to happen right here in Australia, and in a school which proclaims to have one of the highest standards of education, it is an embarrassment.

No matter how much you analyze this, it still remains unbelievable. My job applications are now all on a standstill because I have no transcripts to show. I will be returning back to Singapore this Friday and back to even more uncertainty because I would now be away from this godforsaken university.

UNSW has once again proven that they have the magical ability to mess up students' lives. After spectacularly dousing the flames on UNSW Asia, and now this, it is impossible for me to even consider furthering my studies here, let alone recommending this university to anyone else.

Now the only way forward for me is to pray and hope for the best.
In 15 days time, I will sit down, turn the page and regret why I wished the last three years pass so quickly. 

I can still remember the lonely walk down the cramped halls of my hostel, the unfamiliar smell in the corridor, the strange surroundings that I have given up my life in Singapore for. 

The room was hardly bigger than those depressing detainee lock up cells that I used to guard. Like a prison, my ground floor room had a grill that prevented me from opening up my window fully. 

The wooden musky smell that prevaded the air made me think of home and the comforts of my brightly lit and well ventilated room. 

I suddenly missed Singapore - a mere five hours after I touched down in Sydney. 

But that was back in 2006.

Now it is 2009. I know the same nostalgia will return again in 15 days time. This time the sights and sounds of Sydney seem all too familiar. The place which I have called my second home for 3 years is now coming to an end. 

I know I will miss this place after I leave. The freedom of university life, the sleep-ins, the quiet and tranquil moments in the middle of night when it is just the the books and the Mircosoft Words program keeping me company. 

My degree has been dreadful at times with boring moments and pressurizing deadlines. The nights where words refuse to flow from the keyboard onto the screen, the frustrations of tackling a complex essay question and the eventual euphoria of seeing a distinction for your end product - it all contributes to the experience of university life. 

Never again will I experience it again - unless I take on a Masters program. 

After 12 years of studying in Singapore, the 3 years in Sydney have been completely different for me. The independence that I enjoyed away from home, the meals that I cooked for myself (and friends cooked for me), the reminders to pay my bills and rent, the need to budget my expenditure and the delightful road trips have left indelible memories for me to take home.

I have seen the semester weeks reduced from 14 to 12, I have seen the failed expansion of UNSW Asia into Singapore, I have seen the renovation of the UNSW library, I have seen the development of my essay writing skills evolve through this period. A side of me says that it has been too long and too much. Another side of me says that I should to be grateful to my parents and to God for providing me with this opportunity to have such an experience.

Sure, I have had my complaints. The notorious UNSW library brings about untold misery for any Arts undergraduate doing their research for their essays. The punitive internet costs that plagued the first half of my degree program - a good 4cents per mb download/upload. The ridiculous $1 per day library fines. The lecturers who believe that you can't speak English - it cuts both ways really, good and bad. The lack of funding for a good and strong Arts program at UNSW.

These gripes seem insignificant now. It is all going to be over in a couple of weeks anyway.

Instead, the opportunities that this period of my life has given me has been a gem. I got to finally live out, off campus, on my own. I got to choose what majors I wanted to take - no bidding nonsense that exists in some universities. I got to work as well for a cool $23 per hour. I got to join the Singapore Students' Association and it has given me the opportunity to rise through the ranks. The job opportunities that it provided for me were invaluable. I am indebted to the association for facilitating my two internships. 

Yes, it was painful and dreary at times. But the overall experience was priceless.

Of course, this reflective piece on my three years here cannot end without some mention of my social life here. Definitely, the friends that I have met here, the people who have unknowningly played their part to help me out in this foreign land have been wonderful. Before I left for Sydney, my conservative Mum warned me of the racial prejudice over here. This was at the back of the Cronulla riots. I came here expecting death threats. I found none. My experience with the people that I have met have been nothing short of delightful. 

From the Singaporean friends that I have met, the Australian born Chinese and the Caucasians in my Arts classes, I learnt to communicate with all of them by drifting in and out from my Singaporean accent into a more neutral one in which I can be understood. The cultural exchanges have definitely shaped and improved my perspective of life.

Sometimes, it is too easy to say that an overseas education is a lonely and painful experience. Definitely there are moments when you wish you rather just stick it out at NUS, together with people you are familiar with, with people who can understand your accent. But that is sticking in your comfort zone. An overseas education forces you to leave that relative comfort of home, to a land where you have to wash your clothes, live for days on end without Hokkien Mee warming your stomach and sitting in a class where almost no one is of the same nationality as you.

After my A levels, I told myself that I wanted to leave Singapore for an education. Mid way through my degree overseas, I regretted it. Now at the twilight of it all, I tell myself, it has been a quality experience and I would not trade this for anything else in the world. 

God has provided me with this path and I believe that he had placed me here for a reason. I am slowly seeing the marvels of his decision. 

I should quit complaining and instead count my blessings. This three years could have been the worst years of my life if I wanted it to be. 

But it shall not be. Because come July when I am back in sun baked Singapore, I can only live in the litany of memories that is left of this three years. 

Why Such a Sore Loser Benitez?


It never feels good when a team which was seven league titles behind not too long ago, is now on par with yours. 

Especially after a tumultuous season where euphoria exploded one fine afternoon with a 4-1 victory, only for it to fizzle out like a vitamin C tablet in a glass of water, just one match before the end of the season.

Liverpool were hanging on to a miracle just two days ago. They prayed that Arsenal would somehow, against all insurmountable odds, overcome the big red machine called Manchester United.

Indeed, Arsenal put on a brave fight. With Man Utd in a party mood, the young Gunners took to the field to make them sweat for their point to win the League.

Wenger was conciliatory after the draw. Not so Benitez, who believe that Liverpool just passed up one of their biggest chance to wrestle the crown from the reigning champions. 

Benitez said: "I will say congratulations to Manchester United. They have done well, but i do not want to say too much. I prefer just to say well done to the club, a big club, a good club." 

These comments were laced with more jealousy than an ex-boyfriend wishing his jilted lover a happy marriage with her current lover. 

The comtempt for Ferguson was palpable. 

What is it like for a manager who is under such immense pressure to deliver the league title for Britain's greatest football club? 

I guess as fans we will never know the cycle of emotions that Benitez has been through in this title race. 

The Champions League, League Cup and FA Cup have already been delivered but yet the fans clamour for more. The title is what they want. 

After 19 long years, it is time this elusive trophy return to the cabinets of Liverpool football club. 

Whether Benitez will be the right man to deliver this remains to be seen. 

But one thing for sure, the theatrics shown by Benitez's petulance so far can surely be put into better effect elsewhere.

Like for one, start planning for a squad that is less reliant on Gerrard and Torres. 

 Good riddance to bad dance moves. Now, we have another one to contend with. The mind numbing and head slapping days never seem to be too far apart. First you cringe at the fools mimicking each other to the tune of 'squarerooms' at Mambo, now you see fully grown man wave their hands in the air ala wondergirls.

When will this nonsense end? The answer is, it will never. Just as a crazy dance move fades away, another rises to take its place. Now I will have to endure the endless cheesy ringtones going off to the tune of 'nobody'. Really, this group should just remain a nobody. By them becoming somebody, passengers will now never see the end to childish pricks putting this ringtone on repeat mode in buses and trains.

Unfortunately, the problem looks set to be here to stay. I read that universities, polytechnics and junior colleges are ADOPTING the dance moves in this MTV for their orientations. As if the rise of this video isn't ridiculous enough, now we have the creme of our crop mirroring it as well. The sheer stupidity that takes places behind the close doors of our supposedly world class education institutions never fail to amaze me.
It is time to take a stand and say goodbye to such rubbish. The tune is catchy but that doesn't mean we should dance to it like mindless robots.

May. 14th, 2009

 "Unlike Dublin or Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where work has stopped on half-built skyscrapers and stilled cranes dot the skylines, Oslo retains a feeling of modesty reminiscent of a fishing village rather than a Western capital, with the recently opened $800 million Opera House one of the few signs of opulence."

This is a fantastic piece of analysis. 

Read the rest here www.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/business/global/14frugal.html

It is simple really. Australia has a boat people problem because they are too lenient with these people. After experiencing persecution, terror and possibly threats to their life at home, the dangers that these boat trips pose, pales in comparison. Get through those tough seas between Indonesia and the northern tip of Australia and a new leash of life has arrived for these people. 

But reintroduce caning and these people will think twice. There is no need to debate about whether the Liberals or Labour have a better policy to deal with these illegal immigrants. John Howard proclaimed loudly that Australia will choose who comes onto this island. But at the same time, he has spent a total of $20 million dollars on a detention centre in Nauru. Recently, although Kevin Rudd has announced the end to the Pacific Solution, recent reports have shown that Australia is still footing the bill for comfortable living quarters at the Christmas Island detention centre for these illegal immigrants. 

It is obvious that illegal immigration is a complex problem for this country. Firstly, this problem saps valuable resources. Secondly, it provides inconvenience for humble folks on Christmas Island. Lastly, but more importantly, in engaging in a prolonged and irresolvable debate, this issue is wasting everybody's time and effort. 

Caning is certainly a cheap and no-frills option to solve these problems. There is nothing like  a shearing split on the tender skin of the bottoms to remind these people that coming on shore to this continent is forbidden. If I am a refugee, I will really reconsider my trip down south if I realize that Australia has a zero tolerance, cane-all-boat people policy.

 In this world where every country is a realist, there is no need for Australia to champion any sort of human rights or sympathy. Talks with Indonesia and Malaysia will be futile because these countries just won't care. They have multitude of problems to take care of and boat people using their country as a springboard into Australia is the least of their worries. The boat people are NOT entering their country anyway, so why should they care?

 Hence, the only way out for Australia is to introduce draconian measures to put people off taking a boat in. With such a vast coast to police, it will be impossible to chase every stray fishing boat. Let them in, cane them and send them back. It is as simple as that. Really.

 One only has to look to Singapore as an example. Singapore, being an island, has a problem with overstayers and illegal immigrants as well. Yes, some still test their luck, but Singapore canes them all and as a result, these people look to their backside to remind themselves of the consequences of entering this country.

 Australia has approximately 46,000 unlawful citizens in their country. They cannot afford to have a half-hearted policy on illegal immigration anymore. With this country locked in a web of disagreement, such dramatic pictures of boat people streaming in will continue to dominate the front pages of the newspapers. 

It is time to take a stance. 

 Does Australia tolerate these illegals or not? Are they allowed in? There is no room for moral ambiguity. 

 In or Out. Australia must decide. If it is the latter, then the cane must be unleash to deter such adventurous immigrants. 


JOHOR BARU - FUGITIVE militant Mas Selamat Kastari found the perfect spot to hide - a secluded village in Johor unmarked on any map, not even Google.

He found a traditional kampung house on stilts in Kampung Tawakal, a tiny village with a population of less than 100.

All around are oil palm trees and there are no signboards pointing to the village as one drives along the main road of Jalan Kampung Maju Jaya. About 5km away sits the exclusive Starhill Golf and Country Club.

Tawakal villagers are still shocked that a fugitive, described as dangerous by the authorities, had been living in their midst. According to some of them, Mas Selamat rarely left his house and when he did venture out, it was usually after dark. He would be dressed in a long white robe and white turban.

At times, he was seen gardening in the sprawling compound using a hoe. 'Sometimes we would call out Assalamualaikum (peace be upon you) to him, and he would reply. But nothing more,' said a 10-year old girl who declined to be named.

'He never spoke to anyone and kept to himself. And he never prayed at the local surau,'' said Mohd Saat Marjo, 56, a villager who lived opposite the fugitive's home.

Showed a picture of Mas Selamat published in The Star, he exclaimed: 'Yes, yes, he's the man who lived here!'

Villagers relived the moment one early April morning when police stormed the house he was living in and arrested the fugitive. -- THE STAR/ANN

If you ever considered escaping from the hustle and bustle of city life, look no further. Kampung Tawakal provides the isolation, tranquility, nature and the laidback lifestyle that you have been yearning for. 

After all, this is where Mas Selamat spent his last one year in hiding. He received so much privacy in this tiny village that no one ever realized that he was one of the most dangerous terrorist in the region. Villagers even went to the extent of wishing him "Assalamualaikum", a courtesy call, practiced within the Muslim community.

It is unbelievable really, that in this time and age, there is still such an isolated village that exists. Situated a mere stone throw away from Singapore, visitors armed with the latest technology can't even locate it. 

If the tourism board in Malaysia is smart enough, they will notice the revenue that can be made from this village that will almost certainly lose its anonymity after incident. 

If Kampung Tawakal becomes the next tourist hotspot, just remember that you read about its potential here first. 



AS the season ebbs away, there is a timer on countdown.

It stood at seven points earlier—but after the weekend, it now stands at four. 

That is the number of points Manchester United needs to lift the coveted Premier League trophy for the third time in a row.

More importantly, this time around, Manchester United will also match Liverpool's record of 18 league titles. 

After a convincing 2-0 win for Manchester United over their city rivals during the weekend, it looks like the inevitable is near. 

While Liverpool fans were envisaging a slip up, the 'B' list Manchester United team led by Tevez extinguished that glimmer of hope early on in the game. 

The Manchester United engine room is well-oiled. As Rooney, Carrick, and Ferdinand sat out of the clash against Manchester City, the likes of Tevez, Giggs, and Evans stepped up and ensured that not a single chink was out of place in the Red armour. 

Before Manchester City could settle down into their tempo, United displayed their ruthless nature through a typical Ronaldo free kick—what else—to ensure that the Old Trafford faithful can start their countdown. 

Next, Tevez showed why he should be retained next season by finishing off a delightful Berbatov cut back. His curling shot deflected off the crossbar and into the net as Given was left with no chance. 

Even as Manchester United took their foot off the gas pedal in the second half, withdrawing Ronaldo, Evans, and Ji-Sung, the reigning champions did not show any signs of slipping up. 

Liverpool now has two more games to play. If they win both, they will have a total tally of 86 points.

Manchester United has three more games to play, and they have already amassed 83 points.

Next up, Wigan and Arsenal entertain the champions, in what will be the deciding fixtures that determines the season. 

Nobody would bet against them picking up a win against struggling Wigan on Wednesday to match Liverpool's maximum number of points. And all that Manchester United needs is a draw against Arsenal to lift the trophy on Saturday. Judging by current form, it is unlikely that Arsenal will offer much resistance. 

Even if all goes wrong, there is still a game against Hull City in the final round of Premier League matches.

I am not sure about your guys, but the odds seem to favour Manchester United heavily. Picking up four out of their remaining nine points should be a routine for a team which has performed at such a high level and with such consistency throughout this whole season.

What Liverpool need is a miracle. 

Their captain Steven Gerrard may proclaim that there is still a title race going on—but from the looks of it, this perception is entirely one-sided.

Unless something drastic happens, Manchester United looks set to lift their 18th Premier League trophy at the end of this week.

And leave the rest of the pretenders trailing in their wake. 

This may perhaps be the fitting conclusion for the world's most popular football club. 

The question for all is—how long more will this last?