By invitation of a student group, I visited the new campus of the University of Macau (UM) to assist in hosting an event. Making a stop at the only coffee shop on campus for some coffee was necessary to keep me awake. Despite help from a courteous student who presented her student ID card to get 30% off the regular price, I was surprised to learn that the discounted double espresso served on UM campus was more expensive than those served by the Starbucks at the University of Hong Kong. I guessed that few would immediately associate coffee with the non-transparency of the “world-class” university. We must recognise that ultimately everyone bears the cost of the decisions made by public officials behind closed doors.
The plan of migrating the UM from Taipa to Ilha da Montanha was announced not soon Zhao Wei taking office as the rector. In very first proposal the UM would simply move to Zhuhai under the legal jurisdiction of mainland China but “maintaining Macau characteristics and standards”. I, as a year 3 student back then, challenged Zhao the possibility of preserving academic freedom at a town hall meeting. The years Zhao had spent in the US made him capable of using democratically-sound languages to create an illusion of public consultation or an open process. Zhao insisted that moving to Zhuhai was only a “suggestion” and he welcomed more views.
Not soon later, the Chinese government announced its “approval” of the UM enclave bill. I felt puzzled that we had not been aware of the “enclave proposal” at all. The only constructive feedback we could give to the initial proposal was an intuitive “no” to “moving to Zhuhai/mainland China.” The public were “assumed” to have agreed to an investment of billions of Patacas in an enclave built by a mainland-based contractor. The possibility of using the reclaimed land that has been sitting idle to expand the original campus, saving the cost of constructing an underwater tunnel (at a staggering price tag of two billion Patacas), was simply eliminated without a chance of discussion.
In the next phase, university members were consulted on the “needs” to be addressed in the design of the new campus. Not soon after the consultation period had ended, an architectural model of the new campus just popped up. Most people, including myself, were not that sort of genius who could have associated a “consultation on needs” with an architectural plan. With water body being a major characteristic of the design, however, those who have lived in Macau for a while should be aware of its issue with the sub-tropical climate that makes large pools a perfect breeding place for mosquitoes. I did not have a chance to voice my concern about mosquitos at the time the master plan was unilaterally announced by UM without soliciting comments for revision. Now students who cannot tolerate the annoyance of ubiquitous mosquitos should always stay vigilant to make some kills.
Last but not least on architecture, in early 2013, I exposed the alleged self-plagiarism by the architect in chief based on the shocking similarity with the campus of Nanjing Audit University.
The “University Anthem”, with a line that reads “loving the country (China)” (lit.), has created a huge psychological impediment to my use of the term “alma mater”, or its Chinese equivalent, in reference to UM. Similar to the “consultation on needs for the new campus”, UM held a contest to solicit “elements” for the lyrics of the anthem. None of the winning lyrics would become the anthem as ordinary people assumed. Chair of the University Council Daniel Tse was designated writer of the lyrics. What was the purpose of hosting a “contest”? The “elements collected” in the “contest” were said to have been incorporated to the lyrics composed by Tse. Although taste and aesthetics vary from individual to individual, from my observation, negative comments outnumbered those positive.
The “Food Paradise” is the name of one of the food establishments on new campus. No matter how fancy they may be named, they are all brought to you by Chan Chak Mo’s Future Bright Group. All places that serve cooked food on campus open to the public do not have to compete to stay in business. Please forgive me for sometimes being nostalgic, the good food served by the Library Cafe on old campus was a relief for me from tiring classes when I was studying at UM. (Note: I am not paid to write this article) Now, the hideous lasagne served on new campus makes me lose my appetite. I could not image if these were the only available options available on every school day. (I am not “qualified” to comment on the Chinese food served by “Paradise” as I do not love Chinese food.) The results of a non-transparent “bidding” process may been seen as close as in your plates.
Everyone pays for the consequences of decisions not made in an open process. Would you dare not to stop the next one?