Problems of HKSS

By Lawrence lai

This is a private rant written by Lawrence Lai.

It’s been a year since I became the president after two years of just messing around and eating free food. Had a few thoughts that come to mind speaking of the future of this organization.

The main theme of these thoughts pertain mostly to the fact that this organization is kind of a failure for a mix of reasons. I don’t think I was very good at managing it for one, but we’ve also kind of been dealt a bad hand when it comes to hyping the organization up.

Poor Management

It’s no secret that the organization’s been managed really poorly. Starting with my own faults, the treasurer’s rotated twice (each for a different reason) over the last year; that says a few things about me being able to keep people committed.

Truth is, I think I have a really poor balance of pushing the officers to do stuff and taking them easy because of other commitments. I have extremely high expectations for the treasurer, probably due to a great example set by Seven, where he would not only take care of the organization’s finances, but also show up to every single event, and help with setup and cleanup; basically the treasurer acts like another me in my mind (yes, I do take care of the finances; I’ve been accused of not doing anything money related in the past, that’s not accurate). These expectations seem to cause my relationship with the two other treasurers to crash and burn really quickly.

As for the other officers, I treat them more like volunteers. I don’t demand them to do anything; usually I ask if they would like to help, and thank them as a saint whenever they do (at least that is how I perceive them). Doesn’t take a lot of explaining to tell why that is inefficient for the organization.

The truth is, I don’t have a very good plan of the delegation of tasks. When things are so poorly divided, parallelizing the tasks required for the organization becomes extremely inefficient; it’s just easier sometimes to take everything in my own hands, and that’s the root cause of the management problem of HKSS as of today. In the case of expectations for treasurer, I’m more like duplicating my own tasks to him/her instead of delegating them; another source of inefficiency.

On a brighter note though, there are improvements in other aspects of managing HKSS. This website and our Facebook page are major achievements; we’ve gotten many valuable contacts over the course of last year through these means, and the management of these pages have been performed really well.

Moreover, HKSS has developed clearer objectives; dividing these objectives as tasks might have been extremely inefficient in my incapable hands, but it is clear right now that we would like to expand, and we would like to be more than a free food group. That’s why we’ve signed ourselves up on the activities midway, and tried to get seminars on top of our free food gatherings. These are things that the past officers have not been working towards.

Demographic Specificity

The most unfortunate thing about HKSS is that it’s an organization about Hong Kong. That demographic is naturally narrow, since Hong Kong’s got a small population on campus (and in the world. We talk about having seven to eight million people; sure, high density, but on the grand scheme that’s not a lot of guys). I’ve worked towards diversifying the organization quite a bit. Many core members such as Joanne and Beatrice are not from Hong Kong; to take it even further, members like Jenny and Grace do not even speak Cantonese; we just happen to love the community (I hope they do, at the very least), but such efforts of diversifying prove to be extremely difficult, since there’s no inherent reason for non-Cantonese speakers to join.

With that, the population of the organization naturally stayed small. With such a small pool of people, there aren’t many that are willing to commit a lot of their time on improving HKSS. With such odds, it is important for us to provide members a sense of belonging to commit to HKSS. That sense of belonging isn’t there.

Lack of Purpose

That sense of belonging sure doesn’t come with the lack of purpose of the organization. When most of what we do is hand out free food, there’s really nothing that sets us apart from other organizations (or the Kebab guy from Australia). Recall the Sid-Pac event, where we were basically the most popular when it comes to international cuisine. After the five minutes of hype where we got swarmed, there weren’t many stragglers left around to talk to us (there were some, but that explains how the quality of our food is by no means correlated to whether if people like to hang out around us).

I am also part of the Taekwondo Club, apart from HKSS. There’s a really clear sense of purpose there, which is to get good at Taekwondo. HKSS, as an organization of Hong Kong affiliates, there’s really not a purpose that is so cut and dry. One can argue that it is my fault for not coming up with one, and that’s probably true, but my creativity sure is running dry after a year of trying.

We aren't cool enough for the introverts to talk

One other thing that can set us apart from other organizations (other than the fact that half of us speak Cantonese) is that we are a smaller group, and thus, a much closer community. Jenny’s told me before that this is the reason she chose to be part of us.

A defining characteristic of a community, of course, is that we get a lot of exchange. We treat each other like “family “members”. Within a few seconds typing that up, I just realized I made a description of a fraternity.

One, I have no intentions of HKSS becoming a fraternity. Two, now that I think about it, it makes very little sense how groups with such a high barrier of entry (pledges) can attract so many people. I suppose there is some sunk cost to the barrier of entry that would compel members to stick around, but the fact that students set their feet out to join fraternities beats me. I guess they are just so much cooler than HKSS; that isn’t even a false statement, that just means HKSS has to try way harder.

To reflect on this, the recent opening of the Facebook group shows how reluctant our members are towards talking.

Once upon a time, Stephanie and I were chatting about how there are very little chances of interaction between our members. The only time we get to talk to other HKSS members is during events, which we can only host weekly at best (weekly is tedious; more realistically there’s an average of 1.5 events per month). Sure, I talk to people like Jenny or Grace on a daily basis, but if I wanted to interact with somebody like Annie, I probably have to wait until the next event that she I both show up to (she might not show up to every one, and if I were a member I wouldn’t show up to every single one either).

After thinking about a few ways to get around this, we decided the Facebook group was the best way around it. For the first two hours since the opening of the group, it was extremely hyped up, and we had a bunch of posts that go down. A week from then, we have virtually no posts other than me and June Lam (she’s not from the area by the way. I just asked a personal friend to keep posting trash to hype it up). Hell, even responses to posts are really sparse.

It would appear to me that people just aren’t very inclined to chat. To them, this is another spam board that nobody cares about. I am still seeking why, and the solution to it (maybe there just isn’t. Maybe our organization just sucks).

On a brighter note, there are people that really love hanging out. There’s Andrew, Kevin, and Patrick that came back out to Clover that one night after we were in McCormick. They probably enjoyed the company of HKSS that we were willing to take a trip back out for more casual chat. Natalie did seem to want to come out too (I’m just throwing out the fact that more people than I think care); but it’s not exactly trivial as to how we can expand this to the quieter members.

Overall Problems

The problems of HKSS are just all over the place. Before Jenny and I attempt to replicate another CSSA management technique into HKSS, we might have to solve the problem that people don’t care to be involved over here. Anything else that we do would be pretty pointless.

We originally planned to do a foliage thing over Colombus day weekend. People are going home and or out of town during this time period, which is understandable. It’s just a little dissatisfying that we might have to cancel this year because of our compositional changes. What a long way to get to that message.