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NUS to meet students over objections towards move to go completely cashless in upcoming academic year

National University of Singapore (NUS) will be meeting some students in response to objections raised in regards to the campus' move to go completely cashless in the upcoming new academic year.

NUS student, Gwee Xu Suan Tiffany shared on her Facebook page earlier last week that the campus will meet the students on Wednesday (25 April) to talk about the changes.

Ms Gwee noted that NUS had earlier sent an email to all students and staff regarding their plans and on exactly the same day, she wrote her response, which was also posted on he Facebook account, citing the reasons why she does not support the sudden change.

She also stated that there are two petitions made regarding the matter. The first one was started by NUS student, Andrew Lee. While, the other one was started by another student, Hong Chew Toh.

In her email to NUS, Ms Gwee stressed that she does not view the cashless option as something completely negative, saying, "I actually like that many NUS canteens have given us the option to go cashless, as I think it has lent great convenience to both students especially so if they have forgotten to bring their wallets or do not have cash with them etc and some vendors so they have more time to prepare food instead of collecting cash."

Ms Gwee stressed that the initiative is not inclusive of every member of society as the campus tries to transform into a campus that is completely cashless excludes those that use cash as their main form of transaction.

She noted that these individuals are mostly those who fail to even access such services in the first place, such as those that do not have technology that are capable of accessing applications related to the cashless initiative, those that keep more in cash than in banks due to various reasons, those that do not own a bank account, or have problems accessing these bank accounts, etc.

She added that this does not apply just to those who are foreign to Singapore, or the elderly, but to any individual who are not able to access such services, no matter who they are, or what age they are.

Ms Gwee then said that using the ez-link card as the replacement of the technology, is an irony as the state is planning to phase out cash top ups in the machines located at train stations starting next year as they plan to make the system completely cashless by 2020.

"So which problem does this really solve again?" she asked.

"As the state makes it increasingly more difficult to rely on cash options, I don't see how using your "ez-link card" can successfully address the issue of exclusion," she said.

Ms Gwee noted that fixing the WiFi is one thing to think of before rolling the move, saying, "How is anyone meant to rely on the unpredictably bad WiFi to eat a meal or two at the canteens amongst doing other things?"

"Besides, it is also noted that the ez-link option at Gong Cha in U Town never really works, anyway," she added.

Ms Gwee then questioned the sentence on the email sent by the campus, which said, "We are delighted to inform you that more than 60% of our community have embraced NUS’ cashless transaction initiative."

"Who have you surveyed? How did you arrive at this statistic? What does it mean by the term "embraced"? Did you purposefully phrase it this way in an attempt to represent this initiative as something totally positive and well-accepted by majority of the community to gloss over essential issues that need to be addressed?" she asked.

She then stressed that if there was no official survey conducted then it is absolutely unacceptable for a university that prides itself in good research.

She then mentioned another statement from the campus, which said, "The plan to move towards a cashless campus will be carried out in phases to ensure that there is sufficient adjustment time for everyone".

However, Ms Gwee, along with many others, stated that they fail to see how this period of adjustment is sufficient to suddenly make this major change.

"I am alright with the idea of having both cashless, and cash options, and having other initiatives to encourage students to use the cashless option, but to suddenly transform the whole campus within the span of an academic year is simply too drastic. Phases? What phases? There is nothing gradual about this at all," she wrote.

Ms Gwee also noted that going cashless will facilitate the introduction of other initiatives which will benefit the community, such as pre-ordering food in the comfort of your classroom or office, and delivery of food to your location wherever you are on campus, etc, is not an adequate reason  to transform the campus into a completely cashless one.

She then asked the campus to hold a formal discussion regarding the matter of such grave importance to put actual thought and effort into the manner in which it was written.

"At least it would have been a little more acceptable if you had actually surveyed, interviewed, or conducted focus groups with staff and students to ask them about their opinions before you implemented this fully just to highlight certain issues or benefits that might emerge from this initiative," she noted.

Ms Gwee also asked members of the public, whether they are NUS students or not, to spread and fill a feedback form on the matter, saying, "Your thoughts can be about anything at all, it doesn't have to just be about a completely cashless campus, but Singapore's move towards a cashless society in general. What do you think about it? Do you think cash options still be valued? Why or why not?? Any opinion is valued."

"Words cannot express how pleasantly surprised I am at how great the support for our counter-movement is! I'm so glad more and more people are speaking up about this issue as well. Let's continue to be a move towards a more caring society, instead of merely being a cashless one," she said.