Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Money more important than life

Taylor’s University, shame on us

Update 5 (December 10, 2012) : Syopz Mall issued a statement claiming “presence of extensive Emergency Response Procedures at Syopz Mall”, blamed “individual apathy” and said the worker was sent home to Indonesia, all expenses paid.
Update 4 (December 10, 2012) : Taylor’s Education Group chief marketing officer, Lydia Wang, “could not provide an update on the condition of the Indonesian worker.”
Update 3 (December 10, 2012) : Writer U-En Ng challenges Taylor’s University regarding the ownership of Syopz Mall.
Update 2 (December 10, 2012) : I thank Taylor’s University for responding to my original post.
Dear Juana,
Thank you for the detailed information on the incident that took place on Saturday afternoon, 1 December 2012 at the Foodcourt located at Syopz Mall – the privately owned commercial entity adjacent to Taylor’s University.
Although it did not take place on the University’s grounds, we are indeed very sad to learn about this incident and we take this matter seriously. At Taylor’s University, the safety and welfare of our staff and students are of our utmost priority. As part of our Core Values, we believe in respecting and caring for each other regardless of nationality, religion and cultural differences. We certainly do not condone such acts of neglect. We are utterly dismayed by the lack of humanitarian action on the part of the community who were present during the unfortunate incident. We have officially raised our concern and disappointment to the Management of Syopz Mall on this issue, and they have assured us that they will address this matter seriously and with utmost importance.
Thank you once again for the feedback. We commend the participants of WUPID for taking speedy actions of helping the lady in distress and raising this to our attention.
On Behalf of Taylor’s University
Ms. Angela Pok
Director of Student Experience

The following is my response.
Dear Ms. Pok,
Thank you for your prompt response and clarification over the ownership (and liability) of Syopz Mall, the building in question. There is nevertheless a discrepancy in how the “commercial block” is represented on your website.

Source: http://www.taylors.edu.my/en/college/about_taylors/campuses/taylors_university_lakeside_campus/november_2009
Source (2009): http://www.taylors.edu.my/en/college/about_taylors/campuses/taylors_university_lakeside_campus/november_2009
Firstly, the University refers explicitly to “2 floors of on-campus retail for your convenience, including food court” which clearly leads prospective parents or students to believe that such facilities, including the food court, are on your campus and not located within “the privately owned commercial entity adjacent to Taylor’s University”.
Source: http://www.taylors.edu.my/en/university/about_taylors/facilities
Source: http://www.taylors.edu.my/en/university/about_taylors/facilities
Secondly, the University states explicitly that its “dedicated campus” contains “service facilities” including the “commercial block”. Is this the same commercial block as the one that contains the food court?
Does Taylor’s University deny that it has residential facilities for students, a gym for students and staff, and that it houses the entire facilities of the American Degree Transfer Program within the same “commercial block”? If this commercial block is the responsibility of Syopz Mall, as you point out, then to what extent is Taylor’s University responsible for the welfare of its students, academic and non-academic staff housed therein? This is a question that every parent, student and staff should ask.
How then have the “core values” of Taylor’s University “in respecting and caring for each other regardless of nationality, religion and cultural differences” been served in this tragic instance?
Source: http://www.taylors.edu.my/en/university/students/prospective_students/accommodation
Source: http://www.taylors.edu.my/en/university/students/prospective_students/accommodation
Source: http://www.taylors.edu.my/en/university/about_taylors/facilities
Source: http://www.taylors.edu.my/en/university/students/prospective_students/accommodation

Update 1 (December 10, 2012) : A technical error had occurred on this page. More than 300 concerned readers had shared this post on Facebook as at 11:00am this morning although this figure is not reflected on the Facebook share button below.
This piece was emailed to some senior members of Taylor’s University, including the Vice-Chancellor.
It was also shared with the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, and his Special Officer who replied on Twitter this morning.
Tweet by Saifuddin Abdullah
Tweet by Saifuddin Abdullah's Special Officer

Original post (December 10, 2012):
I was at Taylor’s University Lakeside Campus a week ago for the World Universities Peace Invitational Debate (WUPID). The four day event was proudly hosted by Taylor’s University which opened its doors to debate teams from Malaysia and abroad. Sadly, the organisers and participants witnessed a most unfortunate incident during our lunch break on the very first day of the event (Saturday, 1 December 2012).
I was dining with other debate adjudicators at around 2:15pm when, from the corner of my eye, I noticed a woman sitting alone at a nearby table. She looked quite ill. I quickly walked over to check on her and found that she was very weak and salivating from one side of her mouth. I immediately thought she must have had a stroke. She was a worker at the campus food court, Recezz, and her uniform was drenched in sweat and saliva.
Her colleague soon came along and said the woman had collapsed in the wash room. She was carried out to the food court to rest. When the adjudicators and I asked how long she had been in that state, and if anyone had called for an ambulance, we were told the poor woman had been sitting there since about 10:00am. We were also told that her employer promised to take her to the hospital, at some point. My colleagues and I were outraged!
Photo taken from thedebatingnews.com
Photo taken from thedebatingnews.com
Apparently it was the third time the woman collapsed on the job, and this time the right side of her body was completely paralyzed. One of the adjudicators telephoned for an ambulance while a couple of us sought after the employer. He was on site and aware we were tending to his worker. Not once did he check on on her, rather he watched from afar while the rest of us tried to help her. When approached, he merely stirred his drink and nonchalantly told us he would take her to the hospital when he was not busy. He certainly was not busy at the time we confronted him and seemed quite disinterested in the commotion.
The other workers told us they had urged their employer to take the woman to hospital quickly, but he refused. With help from other sympathetic workers we tried to keep her as comfortable as possible while waiting for the ambulance. She was in fact in pain from the fall in the wash room.
Her colleague helped gather her things and prepared her documentation—she is an Indonesian citizen. What happened to her was really tragic, and I hate to think she was not given immediate help because she was a foreign worker.
The ambulance came about half an hour later. It was terribly embarrassing having to tell our Australian colleague it was common for an ambulance to take that much time to arrive. It was even more embarrassing that he, and other guests from abroad, found out that the woman had been sitting there in the food court for more than four hours without help from a single soul. Is this who we are as Malaysians?
Are we so oblivious to the suffering of those around us? Or are we just cruel? I direct these questions particularly to the students and staff who were at the food court during the four hours the woman was sitting there. What exactly is being taught at Taylor’s University?
The management of the University has a lot to account for. What happened to that woman is a clear sign of negligence by the University; one that boasts state-of-the-art facilities but with abysmal surveillance. The incident suggests that someone could very well drop dead on campus without anyone noticing. The seriousness of the case above could in fact have led to death. The woman could have died in the wash room or at the food court, in full view of everyone there.
This also raises questions about the University’s health and safety training for campus workers. There are signages indicating a Health Service Centre that operates from 8am to 6pm but not one worker on that day thought of getting help from the Centre, or the security services. Do they not know these services exist on campus? Why were the workers so disempowered to take action in an emergency situation? Were they not given basic training?
I note again that it was the organisers and volunteers of WUPID, an external organisation, who called and waited for the ambulance at the campus entrance; not any of the security personnel or the woman’s direct employer. Her employer did not even escort her to the hospital.
I urge Taylor’s University to look into this case. The woman is a victim of negligence and the University must be held accountable. Not only should the University be responsible for her medical care and expenses at the University Malaya Medical Centre where she was taken, it must see that her employer’s contract at the food court is terminated. He is certainly not fit to be an employer nor a member of the Taylor’s campus community.
Or is he?

Juana Jaafar is a Taylor’s College alumna (American Degree Programme). She was a member of the WUPID adjudicating core.

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