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More Intellectual Fun at the University of Malaya

[First Residential College, Universiti Malaya] — The residential colleges of the University of Malaya continue to receive worldwide attention thanks to the intelligent fun their members offer to one another and their Southeast Asian neighbors. Just a few months ago we took note of the international chess tournament sponsored by UM’s Tuanku Bahiyah Residential College, and this weekend the university’s First Residential College—formally Asrama Tunku Abdul Rahman College and known as ASTAR—has played host to an international Scrabble tournament. Teams from Malaysia, Thailand, and as far away as Nigeria entered the competition, and the winners, according to this weekend’s reports in the New Straits Times, were two undergraduates from Thailand, Chaiwat Wuthinitikrinkit and Thacha Koowirat.

Just like UM’s chess tournament, this event illustrates perfectly the kind of opportunity a residential college within a larger university can provide. The event is regular, so the student organizers can draw on continuing institutional memory to manage it better and better each year. It gives students in the college an opportunity to participate, and at the same time draws participants from many other institutions, thereby raising the profile of the college and giving local students a chance to network with interesting visitors. It sends a clear message that learning and thinking are central to college life, and that learning and thinking are fun. And the whole thing is exceedingly inexpensive: intelligent entertainment, learning, and socializing don’t have to cost a lot of money.

Speaking of inexpensive: It seems to me a Scrabble tournament like this is the kind of thing that could perhaps take place remotely via webcam, as well as in person. And while it’s certainly fine to open up such a tournament to all comers, it might also be a nice idea to have a special set of competitions each year specifically within the international residential college community. I’d say it’s time for the master of Tunku Abdul Rahman College to get in touch with some of his counterparts at Oxford or Melbourne or Princeton and throw down the gauntlet—or the tile rack, as it were. That is, if any of those other colleges think they are up to the challenge.

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