NUS cracks down on sexualised orientation games
Uproar over sexualised NUS orientation, MP tells organisers to ask themselves: Would you want your daughter to do this?
As the National University of Singapore (NUS) began its crackdown on sexualised activities during orientation games yesterday, Members of Parliament (MPs) expressed surprise and concern that such activities are still happening.
Several orientation camp organisers in NUS were called up for questioning by the school administration, following The New Paper's report on sexualised games at some of the camps.
Some female participants said they were pressured into taking part in these games despite their discomfort. The games included a simulated rape between siblings, embarrassing questions about sluttiness and bodily fluids, and inappropriate body contact.
TNP understands that the NUS Students' Union, in particular, is under intense scrutiny, but has so far denied allegations of indecency.
Many people were outraged by the report and MPs called on the school to take a closer look at such activities.
In a statement yesterday, an NUS spokesman said that inappropriate activities and behaviours are not condoned by the school and "strong disciplinary action" will be taken.
"NUS takes an extremely serious view of the recent media report and feedback on instances of offensive and completely inappropriate orientation activities," she said.
"We are very disappointed that... instances of offensive and completely inappropriate orientation activities that were not submitted nor endorsed have surfaced."
About 40 orientation camps were organised by the different faculties, halls, student union, and school societies in NUS this year.
The spokesman said that all students involved in organising and leading the camps were briefed by the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) before the activities were carried out.
They were also given a list of dos and don'ts. (See report below.)
She said: "Students were also made aware that strong disciplinary actions will be taken against offenders.
"In addition, all proposed orientation programmes and activities had to be endorsed and cleared by the relevant supervisors, such as hall masters and vice-deans, as well as OSA, before they could proceed. Students were asked to remove inappropriate activities."
An e-mail was sent to all NUS students yesterday to assure them that the school is "committed to providing students with a safe and secure environment".
Mr Seah Kian Peng, who is on the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Education, was surprised that sexually suggestive activities were still going on despite complaints over the past decade.
After finding out details of some of the activities, he described them as "unnecessary and humiliating".
He urged the universities to take a hard look at these activities and examine the purpose of such camps.
"If the purpose of an orientation camp is team bonding or a rite of passage, such behaviour cannot be justified in any way. They have definitely crossed the line," he said.
"During the planning process, the leaders should just ask themselves: Is this something they would want their younger siblings to go through?
"If they had a daughter, would they want her to experience this?"
Ms Denise Phua, GPC chairman for education, urged the organisers to reflect on the purpose of orientation camps. She said: "They should consider other activities that are less controversial and still fun and memorable."
Many parents were shocked to read about the sexualised activities at NUS and some went on TNP's Facebook page to register their disapproval.
Netizen Yoshimura Isaac wrote: "Frankly, if my daughter goes for such a orientation, then I will make sure I change her to another school. It's supposed to be teaching things that are useful to their future, not teaching them to do or act (in) such a manner."
Another netizen, Alvin Teow, wrote: "If NUS doesn't deal with this in the right way, then all parents should think thrice about letting their daughters enrol in NUS."
TNP reader Josephine Ng, 46, a housewife, called the activities ridiculous and embarrassing.
"When I read the article, I could not believe it. I've read past reports and this is not excusable," said the mother of two girls aged 12 and 14.
"If the school cannot handle it, then I think it's time the Government steps in," she said.
"Such activities have a long-term impact, not just on the students but on Singapore's image as well."
Ms Phua said that parents are understandably concerned.
"But their children are no longer kids, and they must let them decide if they wish to take part in such activities," she said.
In previous years, it was reported that the Social Development Unit (SDU), which was formed in 1984 to promote marriages among graduate singles, had sponsored many of the orientation camps in universities.
In 2008, a letter to The Straits Times forum page complained about risque activities at orientation camps and called for SDU and the universities to monitor the activities.
An SDU spokesman said at the time that it had informed students who sought its support to keep physical contact to a minimum.
The unit was renamed the Social Development Network (SDN) in 2009.
An SDN spokesman told TNP yesterday: "Since January 2016, SDN has ceased its funding for university camps and events."
If the purpose of an orientation camp is team bonding or a rite of passage, such behaviour cannot be justified in any way. They have definitely crossed the line. During the planning process, the leaders should just ask themselves: Is this something they would want their younger siblings to go through?
- Mr Seah Kian Peng, who is on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education