Sunday, September 16, 2018

The inequality industry and the seduction of empathy


As inequalities have grown globally, global elites (the 1%) and their academic mouthpieces respond to the growing public anger about inequalities by issuing calls for societal transformation.

They inform us, inequalities are rising and that's a problem (just as they profit from these inequalities).

The urgent need for transformation in the individual mindset is the call of the hour.

They appeal to our consience, suggesting a much needed transformation in our beliefs and attitudes is needed to address global inequality.

Appeals for addressing inequality are rife with narratives of kindness, heartfulness, caring, and compassion.

Elite media are rife with stories of inequality, often hidden behind a paywall. They document different aspects of inequalities and then present expert voices pontificating on the trends in inequalities.

Elites urge "greater attention needs to be paid to inequality."

Now that elites have declared inequality is a trend for concern, academic mouthpieces jump onto the bandwagon. New talks, discussion forums, exhibitions, and closed door meetings are organized on solving the problem of inequality. Academics looking for funding are given a new problem to work on.

The sort of transformation urged by these elites however is very much a perpetuation of the neoliberal status quo, urging for greater empathy toward the underserved segments of society. It is the responsibility of the individual to feel empathy, to develop a heart, and to rise up to the challenges of giving to the needy.

The solution to inequality therefore is the cultivation of heart among the bourgeoisie and the power elite.

Elite audiences are urged to respond with feelings.

The often-used missionary rhetoric of "lifting the burden of the soul" is scripted into the empathy narrative.

Images, stories, voices are catalyzed by the elite to generate empathy.

An entire array of market-based tools then are promoted by the inequality industry in solving the problem of inequality, all directed toward cultivating individual empathy.

As a "communicative inversion" (Dutta, 2016), the seduction of empathy keeps intact the neoliberal status quo while at the same time offering a narrative of transformation.

While individual behaviors are targeted, the overarching structures are kept intact. This is the fundamental paradox of the inequality industry.

The feel good talk perpetuated by the industry calling for urgent societal response leaves intact the fundamental inequalities in distribution of power, opportunities for impacting policy, voice, and material distribution of resources.

That the vast concentration of resources in the hands of the power elite is the fundamental problem underlying global inequalities is inverted, instead presenting the 1% as the panacea to the problem of inequality.

References

Dutta, M. J. (2016). Neoliberal health organizing: Communication, meaning, and politics. Routledge.
 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Forwarding facebook posts: Cultures of mistrust



Professor Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt is a Professor of postcolonial literature and theory, feminist theory and creative writing at Linfield College. Reshmi is a vocal critic of the cultures of Whiteness in academia and the ways in which the norms of civility held up by Whiteness erase possibilities of articulation from the gendered, raced, classed margins.

I came to know Reshmi and learn about her work when my mentor and cousin Professor Shampa Biswas, the Paul Garrett Professor of Politics at Whitman College and a scholar of postcolonial nuclear politics introduced us to each other because of our mutual interests in critically interrogating civility norms. Reshmi was editing a collection on academics being targeted with the civility regime and I contributed a chapter to her collection on the weaponization of the incivility trope to maintain raced colonial hegemony.

Reshmi has been a vocal presence in academe in theorizing the academe, interrogating the habits of the university that are steeped in Whiteness. Because of her vocal criticism of Whiteness, she has been systematically targeted by the regimes of White privilege at Linfield and outside.

As she experienced her struggles at Linfield and fought back, Professor Dutt-Ballerstadt accounted the repressive strategies deployed by the University on Facebook. What follows is a chilling account of how a facebook snitch forwarded her Facebook posts to the University administrators.

I have myself been targeted with this behavior and so have many other faculty.

Reshmi's letter to the faculty assembly at Linfield brings to the fore how the culture of facebook snitches is toxic to the very idea of the University.

"So here is the email that I wrote to our faculty assembly today. Many of my colleagues are quite disgusted as they should be that this has happened.

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing this email to you not as a member of the Faculty Executive Council or the chair of the Arts and the Humanities division, but as a fellow faculty member. I was informed yesterday by my attorney that someone took a screen shot of one of my Facebook postings (where I was critical of our administration) and forwarded it to our administration. I have also been informed that our college administration is not pleased about my said posting. I have informed our college President about my concerns and he has directed me to follow procedure if legal or ethical standard has been breached. I find these round about manner of addressing issues not productive. If anybody, administration should know who took a screen shot of my FB posting and turned it to them.

Irrespective of whether administration is pleased or not, I find such veiled threats disturbing during a time when many of us have a variety of opinions and perceptions about our administration -- both within our college and at a national level (positive, negative, critical, neutral) based on our various affiliations. Such veiled threats (that my postings are setting a wrong tone with administration) are a form of tone policing, silencing and censorship of what we can or cannot say on our own personal social media platforms like the Facebook. Such messages are particularly damaging to the rights of our more vulnerable and untenured faculty, underrepresented faculty, women and other faculty that are not afraid to speak up on their own social media platforms.

Whether administration is pleased or not about what we say on our own Facebook pages is beside the point. I am concerned that my social media account, and perhaps other accounts of our colleagues are being monitored by "friends" lurking on our pages and then reporting them to our administration. It is undisputable that this is what happened in my case. I have now heard from staff that have left Linfield that their Facebook accounts were being monitored too. Disappointing to say the least. While I am less interested in knowing who has the time or energy to monitor my social media account, or those of others (who are more vocal faculty members) I do find such acts to be "hostile" -- serving as a veiled threat to silence me and others who are critical of our administration. Such acts of reporting to our administration our activities on Facebook can and does have a chilling effect on both free speech, our faculty right to be critical of our administration, and extramural speech for faculty.

Our faculty use their personal Facebook page or other social media platforms for a variety of reasons -- social, personal or political. Also, many faculty colleagues comment on each other's posts. I do not believe we owe any explanation to our administration, or a justification for what we post on our personal FB page, nor should we tolerate methods of surveillance via screen shots to be taken and then these screenshots funneled to administration. If such acts are being carried out by administrators themselves, then this is even more concerning.

Finally, I believe strongly that it is NOT in our best interest to have our social media accounts be monitored for the reasons stated above. Furthermore, given that our institution faces a dire financial crisis, administrative time and resources ought to be spent in our enrollment and recruitment efforts and not monitoring faculty Facebook pages.

In the meantime, it may be useful for faculty who are not familiar to familiarize themselves with AAUP policies on extramural speech. I am enclosing a few articles that may be worth reading, if you are inclined. The one attached is an FAQ for "Faculty in the Wake of the 2016 Election."

Here is another one on civility:
https://www.aaup.org/issues/civility

This article is particularly on "Social Media Harassment Targets Academics of Color" from Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
https://diverseeducation.com/article/100806/

Here is a blog post that talks more specifically about Facebook screen shots and captures:
https://culture-centered.blogspot.com/…/strategies-of-autho…

I suggest that our Dean of Faculty, create an archive where more of these articles about social media and faculty rights and protections can be archived and faculty have access to it.
  
Thank you for your time. I have nothing more to say beyond being deeply disappointed.

Best,

 Reshmi"

The repressive university


The repressive university is a product of the neoliberal turn, and a robust instance of the authoritarian nature of the neoliberal ideology.

The neoliberal ideology, articulating the idea that the "free market will take care of societal ills and challenges" promotes itself on the rhetorical appeals of freedom and opportunity.

As I have argued elsewhere (Dutta, 2017), the perpetuation of this ideology relies on communicative inversions, "the turning-on-its head of materiality."

The ideology itself needs repressive strategies for it to be perpetuated.

Let's take for instance the neoliberal university's culture of monitoring and controlling faculty facebook posts, what my colleague Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt refers to as "tone policing." Norms of civility are typically used to justify and perpetuate this repression.

That a faculty member has violated some norm of civility, embedded in ideas of those in power, becomes the basis for the harassment of faculty members. The ideological workings of power perpetuate explicitly through repression of communicative acts, marking communicative acts as acceptable or unacceptable based on the tastes of the ruling classes. Professor Dutt-Ballerstadt has been a vocal critic of Whiteness in the academe and in our classrooms, more specifically of repressive administrative policies, and therefore, has been systematically targeted for such tone policing.

For the neoliberal university, the race to rankings is managed through techniques of reputation management.

Reputation is intertwined with the reproduction of risk. An idea that is threat to reputation is a risky idea to be managed and silenced. In Reshmi's work as a faculty member, her interrogation of strategies of Whitness mark her as the subject of surveillance.

Large corporate communication teams are put into place for media monitoring, social media analytics, and crisis management. The main job of these teams is to gather social media analytics, harness big data to identify the patterns in the perceptions of the university, identifying potential threats and risks to reputation.

The measurement of risk becomes the basis for developing strategies for managing the risk.

If a faculty member's facebook or twitter posts are picked up through the surveillance tools as threats to reputation, the faculty member is brought under the control of techniques of monitoring, measurement, and discipline. Strategies of disciplining are put into place for ensuring that the faculty member does not speak up on social media and other public platforms.

The argument offered goes along these lines: "Your activities are harming the reputation of the university." Usually, some clause on a handbook that are written in fine print and mostly left to obscurity is called upon and a printed sheet is handed out to the faculty member, reminding her of her responsibility to maintain the university's reputation as a member of the university.

These tools of reputation management are particularly at work when faculty members interrogate policies, decisions, and steps taken by the university. Reputation is the tool for ensuring silence and erasing opposition to the neoliberal transformations of the University. The risk to reputation is reproduced as an instrument to silence for instance criticisms of the metricization of the University,  often carried out by mediocre managers who are failures as academics. The interrogation of the everyday forms of communicative inversions carried out by administrators becomes the subject of control.

Through such control, administrators in the repressive university ensure they perpetuate the techniques of control. New policies can be randomly introduced, new metrics can be randomly implemented, new forms of evaluation can be put into place at random without accountability. The silencing of the academic voice is integral to the reproducibility of the neoliberal University.

This turn to repression is a form of communicative inversion itself. The neoliberal University peddles freedom as its branding strategy and as its tool for securing legitimacy precisely as it practices a wide range of techniques of repression.

The faculty member as the subject of the repressive university is a reputational assett/liability. We internalize these techniques of repression even as we share in whispered tones our experiences with being called in by one of the Dean underlings, a Dean, or a Provost underling, or even a Provost. We internalize these techniques of repression as we then start monitoring not only what we say in Facebook and/or Twitter, but also what we share, what we like, what we comment on.

We internalize and perpetuate these techniques of repression when we forward facebook posts to the said administrators and managers, with the hope that we will somehow be rewarded for doing so.

The neoliberal university asserts its power through the individualization of the faculty and the production of the risk-benefit calaculating pragmatic. "What is in it for me?" "How will I advance to the next stage of promotion and tenure?" "How can I progress in my career?" become the sorts of guiding questions that shape faculty behavior.

In a climate where academic jobs are under threat, the individualized faculty member is told "you are lucky to have a job." The work of the academic then becomes one of carrying forward the neoliberal mission of the university.

That the repressive university is fundamentally antithetical to the generation of academic thought ought to offer the entry point for how we as academics organize in our unions as academics.


 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Repression and state control: When academic reading lists are targeted by structures



In the land where the regime dictates what academics will read, what they will write, and where they will write, bureaucrats in universities serve as gatekeepers of the regime.

With their bureaucratic tools, often decorated in neoliberal logics of risk management and performance optimization, managers  define the boundaries of thought for academics, defining the limits and terrains of thought, legitimizing state control in managerial logics.

Bureaucrats ask questions such as: How are these books relevant to your research? How do the books contribute to your research program?

The definition of the research program of an academic based on bureaucratic rationality becomes the basis for identifying the relevance of reading lists to research programs. Once the appropriate reading list to be read from is defined, the regime can then exert its control on the academic for deviating from the reading list. The tools of the manager are also the tools of the regime.

Consider for instance the above reading list that offers important anchors for how I am currently thinking about how the CCA is evolving, particuarly in its work with subaltern communities in their struggles for communicative spaces for articulating voice. When a scholar working on the CCA, which was initially articulated in the context of health, is asked the question: Why are you reading these books, the implication is that the reading of Marxist texts is irrelevant, wasteful, subversive, and even seditious.

Once these labels have been imposed, university and state regimes can then work toward marking the scholar, initiating disciplinary processes, subjecting the scholar to police harassment, and even jailing the scholar.

As we have seen with the recent police harassment of scholars in India by marking them as Naxalites, the targeting of reading lists was a key element of the strategies of harassment. To own a coy of Marx or Mao is enough to invite violent forms of state control, harassment, and repression.

In this backdrop, academics have key roles to play globally in protecting our reading lists, in our research programs, in our classrooms, and in our homes. We need to be actively engaged in organizing our universities as spaces of knowledge creation that are free from bureaucratic diktats and state interventions. That bureaucrats and mandarins of authoritarian regimes have no business interrogating our reading lists is a key anchor to transnational academic politics.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Irrationality of metrics and metricide

Metricide, death by metrics, is catalyzed by an accelerated culture of irrationality that parades itself under the guise of reason.

I think of the epidemic of metricide each time that I speak with a junior colleague, each time that I write a promotion and tenure letter, and each time that I sit on a review committee. Mentoring assistant professors is an everyday reminder of this death by metrics.

The burden of metrics is borne by the most junior academics, subjecting them to a continual state of anxiety.

The suicidal anxieties produced in academics by the race for metrics has deleterious health effects, in many instances resulting in poor mental health outcomes among academics; and in some instances, resulting in death (recall the stories of a colleague dying of a heart attack in the office next door).

Beyond killing academics, metrics kill academia. They take the creativity, joy, and freedom of academia, and turn these positive emotions into an accelerated chase for numbers. The number frenzy makes numbers the end goal of academic work, obfuscating the fundamental spirit of inquiry.

Underneath its veneer of rationality (that numbers would offer a standard for quality), the metrics game is entirely irrational. The irrationality of the metrics game becomes apparent once we consider the various ironies in how metrics are determined and implemented.

One of the striking ironies of the culture of metrics is the mass implementation of numbers, carried out often by academic-managers with mediocre academic track records and a whole lot of ambition. That the managers implementing the metrics are mostly mediocre or failed academics that don't really understand the research process creates and reproduces the condition for metricide.

You have a Head who had never published in a top tier journal telling junior academics that "without a solo-authored publication in a top tier journal, you would not even have tenure track job." You have a Dean with an h-index of 3 telling an Associate Professor that an h-index of 17 is nothing to be proud of, "the University is looking for excellence these days." You have a Vice President of Research with 12 publications in sub-standard journals telling an Associate Professor that her productivity, with 5 publications in the last three years, has been low recently.

Without a deep understanding of what guides numbers, a new number, number of total citations, h-index, i-10, field weighted citation index, takes center stage. The ever-accelerating rush for new metrics also works to maintain the opacity of the metric epidemic.

This is the second irony of the metric culture. The propaganda of rationality and drive toward standards obfuscates the opaque processes through which decisions are made regarding what metrics to apply, and the very absence of agreed upon metrics. Once the ideology that metrics are ever-evolving and in a continual state of being calibrated in the search for excellence is accepted, it becomes the basis for tyrannical and prejudiced decisions made by management, all under the veneer of searching for excellence. A colleague with 18 peer reviewed publications and an h-index of 9 does not make it to associate professor, the management states "She did not measure up to the continually evolving standards of excellence." Another colleague with 7 articles and an h-index of 5 gets promoted and tenure, management argues "excellence is in the quality of the work." Excellence itself becomes a trope that justifies the prejudice built into academic systems of evaluation.

In the meanwhile, hearing the story of the colleague with 18 publications not making tenure, assistant professors push themselves to 25-30 publications, believing this is what would earn then tenure. The eternal perpetuation of anxiety is the underpinning principle of the game of metrics.

I have often argued that metrics kill creativity. I have also often written about the ways in which metrics, articulated in narrow frameworks of evaluation, constrain and limit the possibilities of new thought. Narrowly driven by how much to produce, where to produce, and how to generate citations, scholars are driven to kill all that which is creative within.

In this blog entry, I will further argue that the veneer of rationality of metrics works ideologically to cover over a fundamentally irrational process driven by the tyranny of mediocre academic management. Whereas metric-mania is meant to portray a drive toward excellence, what it actually does is write over an array of political practices and practices of power play that are inherently unequal. Whereas metrics are projected as instruments for calibrating the drive toward excellence, junior academics would do well to recognize the irrationality and prejudice that are built into how metrics are implemented and reduced.

For academia to retain its culture of creativity and for academics to fight the onslaught on their wellbeing by a culture of metrics, academics ought to consider the ways in which they can build networks of solidarity and collective claims-making. Unions and academic labour collectives have key roles to play in challenging the epidemic of metrics.  

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The act of evaluation, majoritarian hegemony, and the double standards of meritocracy

In academia, the act of evaluation often works to reproduce the hegemonic formation.

The hegemony of a particular way of thought, of a particular racial group, of a particular religious group etc. can be maintained through strategies of evaluation based on double standards disguised as meritocracy.

So two different standards are applied to academics as they are evaluated.

Let's take the category of race.

Say in a particular culture, the majority race X is given privilege across all positions and ranks, with entirely different standards applied for members of X as compared to members of other races.

Movement to the top is dictated by standards that are often arbitrary. Various positions of decision-making are held by members of X, all the way from College level positions to positions at the level of University leadership.

The racist ideas held by members of X are circulated as normative, obfuscating the ways in which these ideas then privilege members of X within institutional settings.

More importantly however, opaque processes incorporated into evaluative mechanisms enable the implementation and reproduction of very different standards. This culture of using very different standards keeps intact majoritarian hegemony. Essential to reproducing this hegemonic formation are the invisibility of the processes of evaluation and the arbitrary nature of implementing standards.

You might for instance have a member of X make Associate Professor with tenure with five publications, none of which are peer reviewed. The same Associate Professor, let's name her Shine for this hypothetical scenario, then might make Full Professor with 13 publications, none of which are peer reviewed. In fact if you looked closely at her CV, you would see that Shine happened to publish most of her journal articles in the very special issues she edited.

Members of other races Y and Z are told at the same time that they need between 20 and 30 peer reviewed publications in top journals for them to make tenure and be promoted. And Shine is one of the most vocal proponents of these standards.

In a stroke of irony, the Associate Professor Shine, who made tenure and was promoted without a single peer reviewed publication, then goes on to become the gatekeeper and the implementer of standards, announcing how these members of other races Y & Z are not qualified enough. The newly promoted Shine is seen saying every new Assistant Professor needs to come in with 8 publications in top journals. That she has no experience herself with the peer review process is not a factor. That she is entirely unqualified to carry out any evaluation is not considered in the picture. When questioned about these arbitrary standards, she simply responds, she is doing her job as a gatekeeper of meritocracy. With the standards for what make up merit being entirely invisible. Shine goes on to become an administrative leader within the system, now rewarded for implementing standards.

The story of Shine is also the story of the sham of evaluation.

Take another instance, you might have a lecturer in another hypothetical scenario, let's call her Tissy, who consistently performs poorly on her teaching. She got the job because someone in the upper administration knew her sister through some elite girl school network. She spends her time gossiping and spreading rumours about colleagues, putting down colleagues, with little attention to the classroom. Tissy is quick to gossip how this and that colleague is entirely unproductive, herself not having produced a single peer reviewed journal article since her PhD. Students complain about her meanness, about how she says mean things about other staff on her WhatsApp group with students. Each time however, during her performance review, she receives a bonus in spite of her poor performance. And quickly, she is promoted to the next level.

In a stroke of irony, Tissy spends most of her time gossiping about how the lecturers of the other races Y and Z got in through the backdoor. Her comments about these other lecturers are often harsh and she finds none of them fit for the job. She is all too quick to evaluate the incompetence of others.

Both Shine and Tissy thrive in a system that is fundamentally biased, based on categories of race in spite of the performance of meritocracy. In fact, meritocracy is the very tool of discrimination. The sham of merit systematically erases the absence of competence among the racially privileged.

The structures of evaluation are deployed under the language of meritocracy. Yet, the ways in which these structures are constituted in everyday life of academia depict the everyday influences of racism on evaluative process. The double standards of meritocracy keep intact the hegemony of the majority race within the academic structure. This hegemony then perpetuates the myth that members of X race are the only ones capable of theorizing and producing knowledge.

Members of Y and Z races continue to struggle as they chase the 20 and 30 publication goals, and still are not good enough.

Although in this example I worked through the category of race, the same framework can be applied to hegemony of religion, ideas, etc. 

Monday, July 23, 2018



Students carry forward the work of a research tradition. This is certainly true of the work of the CCA. I have long held the knowledge that it is in the work of our students that the openings for new imaginations are created. With their passion and courage, they build new paths for articulating and carrying forward the spirit of social justice. Their authenticity and commitment, not jaded by the parochialisms of academic power plays and seductions, speak truth, taking on power and challenging it.

This is the facebook post and the valedictory speech delivered by my PhD advisee Dr. Pauline Luk. Pauline is currently a Lecturer in the Li Ka Shing School of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong. Pauline's speech embodies many of the values that are so fundamental to the work we do:

"Prof. Mohan Dutta, thank you very much for your teaching, encouragement, support in the past years. It is a very fruitful journey for being a supervisee under your mentorship. I learned a lot. I wish you was there in the commencement, seeing me walking on the stage and be the one witness the completion of my PhD journey. I know you would not be in the ceremony, but the valedictory speech is dedicated specially for you! Here is the script: https://www.facebook.com/notes/pauline-luk/valedictory-speech-nus-commencement-2018-c21-19-july-10am/10155714518302253/ and you can watch the delivery here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQ-SeFgBeMI..."

Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, NUS Chairman; Ms Audrey Tan, Co-Founder, Angels of Impact; Chief Dreams Architect and Co-Founder, PlayMoolah; Distinguished Guests; Fellow Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen, a very good morning.

I am deeply honoured and privileged to represent the graduating cohort of postgraduate students of Communications and New Media, Sociology, and Social Work of 2018. I would like to begin my speech by offering my heartiest congratulations to my fellow graduates. Today is our day, and we have earned it!

I would also like to express my gratitude on behalf of my fellow graduates to the professors and administrators who are here today, and also to those who are not. Thank you for providing us with a nurturing environment to learn and grow, preparing us for the challenges that lie ahead.

Some people do not dare to enroll in graduate programmes because of a fear of the unknown, a lack of confidence, or simply, a desire to avoid a few years of sleepless nights! Yet, all of us sitting here today, show that we have the tenacity to achieve academic goals. Each of us here has achieved a goal that has made us a better person, a more knowledgeable person and a person our families can be proud of.

We might not share the same struggles and hurdles in our academic journey. We do have something in common, namely overcoming of challenges, in manifesting these challenges we express two traits that we all have.

But before I share with you what these essential traits are, I would like to share a short story with everyone. (pause) This story begins with a little girl, who came from a family farming rice in the villages of olden day China. Back in those days, education was not easily available. Public schools were unheard of, and if you were lucky, your village would have a private one, called “Bu Bu Zhai” in Cantonese. The little girl carrying a bamboo basket of rice grains on her tiny shoulders, using the rice to pay for the tuition to the private teacher. When she made her way across the river, halfway through, she tripped and fell. The rice that she was carrying emptied into the river, only to be swept away by the currents. As the rice disappeared, this little girl watched her hopes for education dissolved into the murky water as well. She would never have the opportunity to go to school again. This little girl was my mother. (pause)

More than a decade later, another teenager came to Hong Kong alone from China to escape poverty in the rural areas and became a plasterer. He had never received formal education, but signed up for evening classes after work each day to learn basic English. (pause)

The little girl and the teenage plasterer are my parents. They are both in their eighties, sitting here today. They were not fortunate enough to be formally educated, but they have ensured that all my six siblings and I receive tertiary education. My parents are my role models, and I learned a lot of insights from them. In particular, I learnt two very important traits that made me a better postgraduate student and person.

The first trait is the passion to succeed. Things may not always happen in the way we want them to, but what is important is to have the passion and the staying power to work through your struggles and pursue your dreams. My parents did not get a chance to have formal education, but their passion and determination enabled them to provide education for all their children.

My passion in creating a better society always pushed me to think and act out of the box. Doing things I never imagined. I remember that when I first arrived at NUS as an international student, the call to be an environmentalist in my heart made me form a team with my friends in NUS. We initiated a new project, NUScycle. We collected unused items from students in the UTown residence and re-distributed the items to incoming students who were staying on campus. This project helps us to save tons of useful things, helps students save money, and helps achieve our goal of having a more sustainable environment. Through this project, I made more friends, had the satisfaction of doing a project that I am passionate about, and I received some awards too! This project gave me the fondest memory in my NUS life and will definitely be something that I will remember for very long time. This was how passion drove me to gain an experience I am proud of.

The second trait for success in graduate studies is courage. A courage to take up new challenges. For my parents, they took the courage to flee from China to Hong Kong; I took up the courage to start a project that I had never done before and which was not even related to my research.

My fellow graduates, that you are sitting here shows that you have the courage to start the academic journey. Indeed, you have the very quality to take up any challenges in the future. Prof. Mohan Dutta, my supervisor and former head of department of Communications and New Media shared this hymn in his departure note before leaving for a new job in New Zealand:

It takes courage to answer a call,
It takes courage to lose your all,
It takes courage to risk your name,
It takes courage to be true.
It takes courage to dare,
One that no one will share;
To be standing alone,
One whom no one will own;
To be ready, to stake for another one’s sake,
It takes courage to be true.

Last but not least, I am sure that everyone here has people whom they wish to express their gratitude to. On behalf of the cohort, I wish to thank those who have mentored, supported us, and encouraged us.

On a personal note, please allow me to say a few words in Cantonese to my parents, 爹哋媽咪, 多謝你哋養育我, 今日我終於畢業啦, 這個博士學位是我的, 都係你哋的. “Daddy, mammy, thank you for raising me up. Today I am graduating. This degree is both mine and yours.” I would also like to thank my 15 family members who flew all the way from Hong Kong to celebrate my graduation in Singapore. I know that many other family members have done the same for my classmates.

Once again, thank you and congratulations.

As we remain standing, my fellow graduates, this is a proud day for all of us and for our parents and loved ones, who have supported us in our journey here.

Therefore, before we leave this hall, let us take this opportunity to show our appreciation for our family and friends, with a round of applause. Please join me in this gesture.

Thank you.