Games at NUS camps increasingly sexualised, say students

Despite complaints over past decade, students say games at NUS orientation camp increasingly sexualised

TOO MUCH? Male students doing push-ups over female students at an orientation camp at the Singapore Institute of Management-University of London in 2011.
GAME: A forfeit previously done at camps at the NTU and NUS in 2008 where one person is a pole while the other dances around him or her.

One was asked whose bodily fluids she would like to drink, while another watched her peers re-enact an incestuous rape scene.

These were just two examples of the sexualised activities that hundreds of freshmen were made to participate in some of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) orientation camps in the past two months.

Some students said they attended the camps to make friends, but they were instead pressured to take part in increasingly sexualised activities.

A 19-year-old freshman whom we shall name Chloe told The New Paper that she left the room after she became uncomfortable during an activity called "burning bridges" that required her to answer inappropriate questions.

The questions touched on taboo subjects such as which man's bodily fluid she would want to drink, who among them is the sluttiest, and who would never get married and die alone, she said.

"Every time I didn't take part, I was so scared that the orientation group would write me off as a prude and ostracise me," said Chloe, who requested not to be named for this reason.

She added that the camp's cheering and chanting was also sexualised, with references to the male anatomy, that made her blush.

"(The cheers) were so senseless. I hated them, but apparently it's tradition that has been passed down from previous batches," she said.

This perhaps explains why there have been complaints over the past decade, mostly from women who feel sexualised or harassed by the chants and games, some of which involve close contact.

That they are still happening today despite the complaints, and the universities promising to investigate and take action against offenders, imply that nothing much has changed. 

Another 19-year-old freshman, Kim (not her real name), told TNP that she was grabbed from multiple directions by different students during a game that involved soap and water.

"I didn't even know where they were touching. It was so physical. I ended up in pain, and it was a scary experience," she said.


One of the forfeits for a game required a male and female freshman to re-enact a rape scene between a young man and his younger sister, which was even uncomfortable to watch.

"The girl had to lie on the floor, then the guy pretended to kick open a door and say, 'Kor kor (big brother) coming.' The girl had to respond, 'Mei mei (little sister) don't want'," Kim said.

"He then kicked open her legs and did push-ups while lying on top of her.

"The girl looked very uncomfortable and covered her face throughout the whole thing."

The incident traumatised Kim, who said that she wanted to cry during many of the activities.

"Why in the world would they have such ideas? I wanted to get out so badly.

"A group of us girls wanted to leave, but the orientation group leader stopped us and told us to finish playing the game."

The orientation group leaders are seniors in NUS, and the camp attended by Kim was organised by the NUS Students' Union two weeks ago.

On its website, the union says that it "strives to work towards upholding its vision of being a representative, inclusive and credible institution to promote, safeguard and uphold students' interest and welfare in NUS".

TNP was alerted to the activities by a reader, who said in an e-mail that there were "incidents of sexual harassment" during the camps, as well as the "trivialisation of rape".

The reader also cited the NUSWhispers Facebook page, which had posts about a cheer that "simulated a group of guys ejaculating on a girl's face".

Other participants of the camp that TNP spoke to confirmed this.

A spokesman for the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) labelled such activities "alienating rather than bonding", and criminal lawyers said police reports should have been made. 

TNP asked NUS why it had been unable to tackle the problem of inappropriate activities during such camps despite numerous complaints over the past decade.

An NUS spokesman did not address the question, but instead said that it is currently looking into the issue.

"At NUS, orientation activities serve to welcome freshmen and integrate them into the university community and campus life," said the spokesman.

"Participation in orientation camps and activities is voluntary. Our student leaders are constantly reminded to develop meaningful orientation activities that will help forge new friendships among our freshmen.

"Student organisers of orientation camps are also thoroughly briefed on the guidelines for orientation activities.

"The NUS Office of Student Affairs (OSA) has recently received feedback in relation to some inappropriate orientation activities.

"It is currently looking into the feedback and working with the faculty concerned. Freshmen are also advised to report inappropriate orientation activities to OSA, so that the office could look into their concerns.

"The University takes violations of the Student Code of Conduct very seriously. Disciplinary action will be taken against students who breach these guidelines."

But the students TNP spoke to said the damage had been done.

Kim said: "All I wanted was to make new friends. I wonder why we even have such activities?

"But the camp is over, and we cannot do anything about it."

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