Hoggers: Students reserve seats at NUS' hottest studying spot with shavers, towels & blankets
With its spanking new residences and state-of-the-art facilities, University Town (UTown) is the crown jewel of the National University of Singapore (NUS).
But behind the education hub's beautiful facade lies ugly student behaviour - seat-hogging.
The fight for a place in UTown has extended beyond its residential colleges and into its indoor and outdoor study areas, also known as study clusters.
Students have been hogging seats in the 24-hour air-conditioned study rooms there, with some even leaving their belongings unattended on tables and chairs overnight.
With final exams coming up in less than three weeks, such inconsiderate behaviour has drawn the ire of fellow NUS students.
German exchange student Lukas Brecheler was delighted at first when he secured accommodation in UTown.
But the stiff competition for study spaces quickly burst his bubble.
Mr Brecheler, 22, who is on a year-long exchange here, told The New Paper: "You have to fight for the study rooms here.
"I was surprised at first because it's not like that in Germany, but now, I'm used to it."
Even going to the study rooms in the wee hours of the morning does not guarantee students a table.
First-year law undergraduate Samuel Ling, 27, knows this first-hand.
At 5am on Monday, he went to the Ian and Peony Ferguson Study, a 24-hour study room in UTown which requires card access, and was greeted by the sight of a room full of unattended belongings, but empty of students.
Mountains of notes and textbooks lay on the tables, with towels hanging off the sides.
Chairs were scattered with neck pillows and blankets, while half-eaten food, bags and trash lined the window ledge.
Mr Ling told TNP: "Students are obviously leaving their stuff there overnight to reserve the tables.
"They are selfish and entitled and don't spare a thought for others."
Mr Ling, who studies at UTown on weekends, told TNP that some students even hog the tables permanently - he has observed the same items lying on the same tables every week.
"If you look at the amount of stuff that's on the table, it's obvious that it's been accumulating for quite some time.
"There are even shavers, moisturisers and toilet paper. These people have claimed the tables as their own."
When TNP visited the Ian and Peony Ferguson Study on Tuesday during lunchtime, there were no vacant tables.
Of the close to 40 carrel desks in the room, more than a quarter were occupied - not by students but by their belongings.
Bags, pencil cases and laptops were some of the items strewn across those study tables, with their owners nowhere in sight.
It was a similar scene at The Study, a larger study room in UTown with almost 100 carrel desks.
At least two students were spotted circling the room looking for an empty desk, to no avail.
Around 20 tables were littered with unattended belongings. The rest were occupied by students.
This was despite prominent signs on the door stating that students were prohibited from reserving seats or leaving their valuables unattended.
Students TNP spoke to said that while seat-hogging is widespread, UTown, the hottest study spot in campus, is the worst-hit.
Former UTown resident Cedric Poh, 23, told TNP: "Eighty per cent of the time, you can't find a seat in the UTown study rooms."
UTown is popular among students due to the wide availability of power points and its 24-hour study clusters, said the third-year pharmacy undergraduate.
Mr Joshua Tan, 25, a final-year political science undergraduate, said: "Even if I come at 7 in the morning, I can't find a seat.
"When exams are near, you just can't get a seat even in the non air-conditioned areas."
He said that UTown's biggest draw is its conducive environment for studying.
"There's air-conditioning and nice greenery here. I even know of some friends from other universities who come here to study," he said.
Other students, like second-year communications and new media undergraduate Kenneth Kwek, 23, have grown accustomed to the seat shortage.
Seat-hogging is a common practice among NUS students, he said.
Mr Kwek added: "It's already accepted as the school culture. If someone is studying alone, you can't expect him to bring his stuff along with him everywhere."
The issue of seat-hogging is not exclusive to NUS. Students from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) also observe such behaviour in their campuses.
Final-year mathematics undergraduate at NTU Ngaim Jinghan, 26, said that seat-hogging is common in his school.
"The problem is not so bad in the open study areas, but in private study rooms that require card access, many just leave their notes and textbooks there.
"I know some friends who leave their stuff overnight."
The number of halls in the vicinity of these study areas may be a factor behind the seat-hogging, said Miss Constance Yeo, 23, a third-year NTU communications undergraduate.
Since students live so close to the study areas, they have no qualms leaving their belongings there for an extended period of time, she explained.
Seat-hogging is prevalent even in SMU, where most students do not live in campus accommodation.
First-year SMU business undergraduate Crystal Wong, 20, said: "Some people even bring file holders and leave them in the study rooms. Before they go home, they just put everything in a box.
"They treat it as their own house."
Students may be barred from using the study areas if they are found to have repeatedly misused the space.
— National University of Singapore spokesman
NUS steps up efforts to combat hogging
The National University of Singapore has stepped up its efforts to combat the seat-hogging problem, a spokesman for the university said.
The spokesman told The New Paper: "Since last semester, UTown has piloted a trolley system where students can place unattended items if the study space is unoccupied for a period of time.
"Students may be barred from using the study areas if they are found to have repeatedly misused the space.
"Study areas that are not occupied for an extended period of time will be cleared by university staff during routine checks."
Although such rules are in place, sociologist Tan Ern Ser believes that change must also come from the students themselves in order for the situation to improve.
He said: "Just as important is the need to inculcate civic consciousness and a sense of fairness and consideration for others."
A spokesman for the Singapore Kindness Movement told TNP that hogging is ungracious behaviour that stems from a fear of losing out.
The spokesman said: "Hogging is monopolising, dominating, controlling, keeping things to oneself.
"It's selfish behaviour and it's the ugly side of being competitive. With more consideration and graciousness, hogging and other selfish behaviour would naturally have no place in the community and be wiped out."