Orientation suspension: Key questions to answer

No photos of freshmen as there were no outdoor activities for the Tembusu camp in the morning.
No photos of freshmen as there were no outdoor activities for the Tembusu camp in the morning. No photos of freshmen as there were no outdoor activities for the Tembusu camp in the morning.

Suspending orientation activities can prevent additional breaches of the rules and unacceptable activities ("NUS suspends all orientation activities"; last Saturday).

However, this possible overreaction may be treating only the symptoms but not the root of bigger problems.

In addition, this unprecedented action has left many key questions unanswered. These need to be addressed properly, so as not to affect the credibility and good standing of a highly admired university.

For example, why stop a project that can help students develop leadership, teamwork and other positive values just because of some recalcitrants? This doesn't set a good example for how our students should address current and future problems.

Why had top management not earlier put a stop to such rule breaches that had been happening and growing in intensity over the years?

How has top management improved its whistle-blowing policy and ensured that similar behaviour and unacceptable activities would not be repeated?

What actions have been taken against the recalcitrants to ensure that they have learnt from their mistakes and will not repeat them while they are still students, and even after graduation?

Why were some of the students following instructions blindly and not helping to put an end to unacceptable activities?

If some of these students, who are going to be key leaders in the future, did not address major abuses, will they be able to address social injustices in the future?

Is there a bigger issue with the way we are potentially focusing less on helping students develop their character than more on enhancing their knowledge and employability?

Is the students' behaviour a reflection of a possible degradation of moral values in our society because of many negative influences, including unhealthy influences from online and other forms of media?

Universities are key pillars of the nation-building process because they help to influence the next generation of leaders in becoming moral, responsible and productive members of our country.

Thus, they should respond professionally, promptly and positively to unacceptable behaviours and ensure that they do not happen again.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'Orientation suspension: Key questions to answer'. Print Edition | Subscribe