NUS to make orientation 'more meaningful'
NUS president says no intention to 'do away with orientation'
The president of National University of Singapore (NUS) Tan Chorh Chuan assured students it was not the university's intention to do away with orientation, days after NUS suspended all student-organised freshman activities.
In his welcome speech at two separate Freshmen Inauguration Ceremonies yesterday, Professor Tan said the institution is committed to addressing the issue of inappropriate activities at the camps, but has called for a "time-out" by suspending the activities.
"I want to reassure you that moving forward, it is not our intention to do away with orientation," he said.
"We want to work with you to rethink how to do orientation in more meaningful ways so that all students, especially freshmen, will get to enjoy the orientation experience."
He added that the university does not condone inappropriate activities.
"We make our stand very clear: we do not condone behaviour, games and activities that denigrate the dignity of individuals and that are sexualised," he said.
"It is very disappointing that a few in our student community have clearly not internalised this.
"We are fully committed to work together with the rest of the NUS community to address these issues comprehensively."
Prof Tan, a medical school alumnus and former Dean of Medicine, added that there was a range of things to consider, and the community needed the time and space to do this over the "next few weeks and months".
He also apologised to the freshmen who had their first days at NUS "clouded by the controversies".
NUS suspended all student-organised orientation activities last week, after a video uploaded online showed students being dunked as part of the activities.
The video surfaced last Friday, following a report in The New Paper on July 26 on the increasingly sexualised activities at student camps, including simulation of a incestuous rape scene.
Two Members of Parliament and the Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung have spoken up against the games.
Mr Ong said the activities were "reprehensible" and "cannot be tolerated".
The TNP report has been picked up by other media outlets, including BBC News, Korea Times, Daily Mail and AFP.
Investigations by the university are ongoing.
In his welcome speech yesterday, Prof Tan also called for support of the school's annual Flag Day by the NUS Students' Uniontoday.
More than 6,000 students will be taking part in the event in a bid to raise funds for 22 beneficiaries.
"As part of Flag Day, thousands of NUS freshmen and students would be working very hard to raise funds for needy and disadvantaged members of society," said Prof Tan.
"Our students have done so continuously for more than 50 years, and in 2015, raised more than $450,000 which helped 19 charity programmes supported by the Community Chest.
"For this year, let's give Flag our all, to underscore powerfully the positive impact and dimensions of orientation, and our commitment to help contribute to society."
We are fully committed to work together with the rest of the NUS community to address these issues comprehensively.
- President of National University of Singapore Tan Chorh Chuan
SHARE YOUR VIEWS
E-mail your views and photos to tnptalk@ sph.com.sg. You can also write to us at The New Paper, 1000 Toa Payoh North, Level 6, Annexe Block, Singapore 318994
For verification, we need the writer's full name and contact number (preferably a cellphone). We reserve the right to edit letters. By your submission, it is deemed that you have granted us the right to archive, resell or reproduce the letter in any medium.
Much has been said online since the issue of inappropriate activities at some of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) orientation camps was raised last week by The New Paper
"My friend said: 'I feel sick when I read the news (about the games) and I feel sorry about all the girls who now feel paranoid about the opposite sex (because of being traumatised)... Which part of getting to know each other has to do with rape scenes?'
"My friend makes more sense than the mental gymnastics of those who justify such games."
- Lee Yue Heng
"The freshmen... never asked to be treated like that, and to trivialise and simulate rape as a game? These seniors have spent too much time in their dorms watching porn."
- Eugene Lim
"Freshies you need to speak up...when you are uncomfortable. Don't be afraid to say the right thing... There is nothing 'cool' or 'awesome' to take part in such acts.
"There are many ways to have fun in life, and if you feel that only by creating or being part of this disgusting charade validates you, than I pray that you learn a little self-respect before you graduate."
- Lee Shu Yi
"What kind of children have we raised? Where has all the basic respect for all humans gone? ...If these are our nation's brightest students, then we need to be prepared for a nation that has no integrity, does not uphold justice and feels it's all right to bully the weak. There won't be another 50 years for Singapore's existence."
- Maggie Chee
"Seriously, this 'scandal' had been going on for years... If you chose to take part in the camp knowing the history, then why are you complaining so much?
"Also... you should have just said no and walked off instead of whining after the whole incident. You are in uni, so I would assume that you have the brain to say NO when you need to."
- Pang Xiao Wen
"The people who complained probably were just spoilsports who went into camp without an open mind. ...Camps in NUS don't really need you, but you need them, so just have fun man."
- Daryl Lim
"It's public knowledge that such camps are like that. If you don't like it, don't join. Isn't everyone there an adult already? No one is going to force you to join if you're not comfortable with it."
- Howard Spartan Ang
FROM READER EUNICE LI DAN YUE
I am concerned to read that the National University of Singapore (NUS) is in the news again for putting students through sexualised orientation games ("Students told to re-enact rape scene", The New Paper, July 26).
These games can be seen as sexual harassment and should never be tolerated by the university authorities as they can leave a huge impact, particularly on female students.
After such activities, they may be more wary of the opposite sex and may develop feelings of fear and or anger towards them.
These activities can severely impact their development.
There should be strict guidelines the organisers of these orientation activities must be obliged to follow.
In some overseas universities, the organisers of such activities have to sign a pledge form. They promise that they will respect all those involved on and off campus and not bring disrepute to the university.
Above all, they must not allow any sexual harassment.
They would be required to report any allegation of sexual harassment to the university authorities immediately.
Each freshman should be allowed to enjoy university life, and the experience should not be marred by such unwelcome orientation games.
Punish culprits with immediate expulsion
FROM READER DAVID SEE LEONG KIT
The sexualised orientation games will denigrate the dignity of students and tarnish the reputation of the university.
Reported incidents of sexual harassment and bullying include a boy doing push-ups on top of a girl with his crotch against her face, acting out of an incestuous rape scene involving a young man and his younger sister.
Students also had to pass each other M&M chocolates with their mouths - an unhygienic act that promotes the spread of diseases.
An outraged mother remarked: "Enough is enough. It has been a whole decade and yet nothing has changed. Such activities have a long-term impact, not just on students, but on Singapore's image as well."
Acting Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung's Facebook post on the matter is not proactive enough to nip the problem in the bud.
Perhaps an effective deterrent solution could be a joint statement by Mr Ong and NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan making it clear that the culprits will be dealt with by immediate expulsion and not just some unspecified "strong disciplinary action".
Switch games for talent show
FROM READER RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO
There has been a fierce debate over the recent sexualised games at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Given that the image of NUS has taken a beating following the negative publicity, it is timely that the NUS students' union has apologised for the freshman orientation games that went dreadfully wrong.
NUS needs to go further to rebuild its image as it is reputed to be a world-class university that attracts students from across the globe.
Ragging that borders on humiliating female students through sexually driven games must cease.
Already there have been reports of the students who participated in the games being on the receiving end of unkind comments, and this can adversely affect their self-esteem.
While ragging students is a common practice in universities worldwide, it is vital to recognise that we in Singapore are very much an Asian society with conservative views.
Therefore, it is crucial to carry out such activities in a decent and acceptable manner, though in a light-hearted way.
I propose that for future orientation games, the organisers at NUS could incorporate creative talent shows done in a wacky and fun manner.
America's Got Talent is a popular TV show that attracts large viewership worldwide.
So why not organise an "NUS Got Talent" show where students can perform either solo, in pairs or as a team.
It can be done tastefully, and there is bound to be laughter and bonding as male and female students display their talents through singing, sketches or even circus acts.