Fairness, respect, inclusivity and safety crucial, student union leaders say
Celebrated for their entertainment value and ability to create lasting memories, concerts are an integral part of the campus experience but good, fair guidelines to manage such activities are crucial to ensure the peace and safety of the campus community.
Instead of having the government come up with the guidelines, student union leaders say the university population is more than capable of getting the job done and ensuring the proper implementation of the code of conduct.
Students come first
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia student representative council (MPP) president Nadratul Huda Ahmad said feedback from students is crucial in drawing up guidelines that are not only comprehensive but more importantly, not restrictive.
“The guidelines should emphasise proper etiquette and kindness to ensure transparency and equality among all races.
“This is in line with the core values upheld by all our students, namely, integrity, synergy, excellence and sustainability.
“If the guidelines are not properly drafted, the risk of moral decay among students will increase. This is a matter that requires the cooperation of all students,” she said, adding that the varsity is in the midst of compiling recommendations from students via a Google Form and a QR code so that the proposed guidelines can be finalised.
Universiti Malaya Students Union (UMSU) president Nur Nazirah Abdullah said representatives from its executive committee should serve as advisors for entertainment and concert activities.
All matters relating to student activities should involve direct participation of the students themselves as the responsibility of ensuring that activities progress smoothly falls in their hands, she said.
“It is also important that advisors are involved in discussions with the varsity’s cultural and safety departments.
“Providing executive committee members of UMSU the opportunity to take on greater responsibility empowers students,” she added in a statement.
Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris MPP president Nik Ahmad Nuri Nik Ismail said guidelines should consist elements that do not go beyond the limits of what is acceptable and ethical.
Education in entertainment should also be a priority, he added.
“In higher education institutions (HEIs), the priority should be on getting an education, not being entertained.
“So, entertainment needs to be educational and it should not negatively affect the mental well-being of students.
“It is very important that students are guided with the right values and ethics as these are the country’s future leaders,” he said, citing songs with lyrics about humanity, civilised performances and musical genres that are not “too extreme” as examples.
Universiti Putra Malaysia MPP vice president Umairah Farisah Ahmad Yusri said mixed gendered seating during concerts, artistes’ dress code and etiquette when performing, and concert risk assessments, are being discussed.
“We touch on these topics because we see the importance of getting a consensus from students of all races. We want to respect everyone’s opinion as we are seeking to produce guidelines that celebrate inclusivity.
“We are looking to propose comprehensive event organising guidelines that include safety and monitoring procedures,” she said.
Reasonable and fair
UMSU wants “more reasonable” guidelines, particularly for activities and clothing.
For instance, it is irrational to make artistes with long hair tie it up during their performances, and to prohibit students and staff from having long hair, said Nur Nazirah.
“It is inconvenient, unnecessary, and excessively restricts the freedom of expression and appearance of artistes and organisers involved in these entertainment activities,” she said.
In terms of seating arrangements, UMSU said it should be left to the organisers to decide.
“We also want a more systematic arrangement for concert approvals and the distribution of promotional materials.
“Any logos for promotional and publicity purposes should be approved by the respective sponsors, whether they are government ministries, companies, or other non-governmental organisations, as it would encourage collaboration with various stakeholders,” she said, adding that entertainment activities that cost more than RM15,000 to organise should be presented to UMSU representatives.
Universiti Utara Malaysia MPP president Muhammad Izuan Faiz Abdul Rahman said the guidelines must be formulated from a broad perspective.
It should take into account various sensitivities and whether acceptance from society would be forthcoming.
“The important thing is to see how we can ensure that entertainment activities and concerts are well controlled and that ethical standards are respected.
“Having students involved in developing the guidelines can lead to a fairer document. We can do it. We are capable of ensuring the guidelines include all aspects of inclusivity, fairness and respect,” he said.
Safety above all
The safety of students should never be compromised, said Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia MPP president Badrul Alif Naqiuddin.
The guidelines should address critical issues, such as security measures, and have zero tolerance for discrimination.
“Ensuring robust security measures to keep attendees safe is important. This includes crowd control and the prevention of inappropriate behaviour.
“A zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and harassment is a must. We want a safe and inclusive environment for every student,” he said.
Nur Nazirah added that the guidelines should spell out mandatory disciplinary action for violations of university regulations or existing legislation by the organisers, but student union representatives must be part of the committee deciding on these matters.
Agreeing, Muhammad Izuan said the varsity’s cultural centre, and religion and risk unit management offices, should be involved in matters concerning discipline.
“Approval from the university management is also needed as a safeguard before the guidelines are enforced,” he said.
A step towards self-regulation
In June, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the government may allow a relaxation of rules on concerts and cultural events held at public universities.
These events, however, should be held on a small scale and in a controlled manner. During the ‘Meet Anwar’ programme in Kelantan at Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK), he said all views regarding the safeguarding of students’ moral standards, would be heard.
The topic of concerts surfaced recently after a Chinese vernacular daily reported that a 16-page Guidelines for Entertainment Activities (Concerts) had been given to public and private higher education institutions (HEIs).
Among others, it called for separate seating for men and women and other dos and don’ts concerning the performers’ attire and behaviour.
This prompted criticism from a student group, which accused the Higher Education Ministry of playing the role of moral police.
• Universiti Malaya Association of New Youth (Umany) posted what it claimed was the “Guidelines for entertainment activities (Concerts) in HEIs” on its Facebook. according to the document, concert attendees are required to follow a modest dress code, which prohibits the wearing of clothing featuring the Illuminati, pro-LGbt and pornographic symbols, as well as “punk” hairstyles; mosh pits are strictly prohibited and seating arrangements are required to be segregated for both male and female audiences.
• The ministry, in a statement, said its Higher education department, together with the universiti malaya Cultural Council, would review the guide. the guidelines, it said, were drawn up to protect the peace and safety of students and the rest of the campus community during events.
• Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin told reporters he did not receive the department‘s alleged guidelines that had gone viral on social media. He said he would have preferred such guidelines to be prepared by the student councils themselves, in line with the ministry’s aim to empower youths, and would “wait for them to send it”.
• Umany appealed for public donations to fund a judicial review of the purported guidelines for concerts at universities. The student body said a judicial review would be needed to protect student autonomy.
• Mohamed Khaled said the “Guidelines for Entertainment Activities (Concerts) in HEIs” was never approved so it was pointless for students to seek a judicial review over the matter.
• The ministry, in a statement, instructed the management of HEIs to ensure that student representative councils or student unions are involved in formulating the guidelines so that they take into account the voice and needs of the students as well as the suitability in each HEI and locality before they are officially adopted.
Umany president Ten Kang Yeaw told The Star that concert guidelines were not necessary as the national laws ensure citizens do not abuse their rights.
Ten said Umany would not participate in the drafting of the guidelines, and would discuss further action on the matter with a lawyer soon.
Source: Media reports‘
We can do it’
The leeway to form our own guidelines for entertainment activities is great as we have been given the opportunity to show that we can be respectful, responsible and professional. The proposed guidelines, however, should also be subjected to the approval of the varsity’s senior lecturers or senior management executives. Safety must be a priority. There should be a section of the guidelines that discusses student safety, not just from the physical aspect, but from mental and emotional perspectives as well. For instance, we need to consider student safety in terms of social interactions during entertainment activities. The organisers and the university must be transparent and deal openly with inappropriate behaviour like non-consensual touching and pushing during events. The guidelines must protect students – Vanessa Bridget Stephen, 24
Varsities are crafting guidelines that take into consideration the opinions of the student population. This is a good move that recognises the importance of inclusivity. The guidelines should entail logical rules that will garner support, not create discord. Input from the relevant authorities should also be included if we want comprehensive guidelines that are fair and in line with existing rules and regulations. As students, we have the right to voice our suggestions. This is a great opportunity for us to show that we have the ability to come up with responsible guidelines. – Ashvini Poobalan, 23