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Strike balance so that university orientation camps don't lose vibrancy

A new framework detailing dos and don'ts for freshman orientation camps at the National University of Singapore (NUS) is in place to rein in risque and inappropriate activities that stirred public uproar last year.

An internal circular to students last Thursday stated that all freshman orientation activities must be vetted and approved by the organising committee, staff adviser and the Office of Student Affairs.

Activities with "negative features" like ragging are also banned under the framework that will apply to freshman camps this year.

The 11-page document, which was first reported by The Straits Times, might appear rigid to some, for it covers details like cheers, forfeits and activities during free time, waiting time and night time.

But it may be a necessary move in stamping out inappropriate orientation activities.

Activities, such as forfeits that simulate rape, were part of an NUS orientation camp last July, prompting even criticisms from a Cabinet minister.

Some students were also reportedly coerced into taking part in sexualised activities.

But there are also concerns that the guidelines could stifle the creativity and enthusiasm of students in planning orientation camps that help cultivate team spirit and a sense of belonging.

After all, most orientation camps are conducted in a wholesome manner.

Going forward, the university and the organising committees will have to strike a balance to ensure orientation camps do not lose the vibrancy of student-led initiatives, yet stay within socially-accepted boundaries of decency.

ENGAGE STUDENTS

For a start, it would help if the university engages students in the planning process and also applies a light touch in enforcing the new framework.

It would also be helpful if participants and student leaders do their best to follow the new guidelines.

Fun for the majority shouldn't come at the expense of the few who feel forced into participating because of peer pressure.

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