NTU orientation to be more inclusive

NTU's orientation programme, including orientation camps, will now take in all new students who would like to participate. Previously, fewer than half of the yearly cohort of some 6,000 new students took part in it. They had to pay a fee of about $60
NTU's orientation programme, including orientation camps, will now take in all new students who would like to participate. Previously, fewer than half of the yearly cohort of some 6,000 new students took part in it. They had to pay a fee of about $60 and undergo a selection process to join an orientation camp.PHOTO: CORINE TIAH

Fees removed and timing changed so all new students can participate

From this year, undergraduates starting at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) should all be able to go for orientation activities, including orientation camps, a rite of passage at universities here.

In a circular to students last week, ahead of the start of its academic year in August, NTU promised that its orientation programme will be more inclusive.

Fewer than half of NTU's yearly cohort of some 6,000 new students attended orientation activities previously, as a result of "timing" and "logistical constraints", NTU said in response to Straits Times queries.

"From this year, orientation will be able to welcome and cater to all freshmen who want to participate. Anyone who wishes to participate in it should be allowed to do so," Associate Professor Kwok Kian Woon, who is associate provost for student life in NTU, said.

Incoming NTU students will also not need to submit an application or pay to join any orientation activity.

In the past, students had to pay a fee of about $60 to join an orientation camp. They also had to go through a selection process which had drawn flak for being arbitrary.

  • At NUS, SMU

  • NUS

    More than 4,000 new students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) participate in about 10 faculty orientation camps each year, said its spokesman.

    This means nearly 60 per cent of the 6,700 undergraduates entering NUS last year took part in these camps.

    The number of participants for each camp is determined by factors such as the venue's capacity and the nature of the activities.

    The ratio of student leaders to new students in an orientation group is kept at 1:20.

    Orientation camp fees range from $55 to $65 per person.

    Participation is voluntary and on a first-come-first-served basis.

    Student organisers have to attend workshops to familiarise themselves with safety measures for camps and activities.

    SMU

    About 85 per cent of last year's new students at Singapore Management University (SMU) went for orientation camp. Close to 1,700 of the 1,960 undergraduates admitted last year did so, said a spokesman.

    There are no selection criteria or cap on the number of students who can participate in the camps.

    SMU said activities involving close physical contact between genders are kept minimal and those that involve improper themes are strictly prohibited.

    Rules on separate sleeping arrangements between genders are also strictly enforced, said SMU.

    There are also restrictions on the use of raw food as an "activity prop" to protect the safety of participants, SMU added.

    Pang Xue Qiang

NTU said the changes come after it reviewed past surveys, consulted student leaders and found that a significant number of new students had missed out on orientation.

This year's NTU orientation programme will also be held later - two weeks before term starts in August, while past orientation camps began up to 1½ months earlier.

Prof Kwok said this ensured that local freshmen completing national service, and others who are working, on holiday, or arriving from abroad can all participate.

He added: "The new timing also means that all freshmen will be matriculated in time and hence adequately protected by NTU policies, such as group insurance."

He said NTU can cater to all students who wish to attend orientation activities, by focusing the programmes on the schools, halls and four major student clubs.

ST understands that orientation activities would also be made inclusive through rules stipulating that cheers must now be in English only. There were complaints that the use of cheers in Chinese dialects like Hokkien might make students of minority races feel left out.

In addition, horror- or fear-inducing games like fright nights will not be allowed, ST understands.

Orientation camps at varsities here have drawn complaints over the years for things such as safety lapses and sexually suggestive games.

In 2014, four students at a Nanyang Business School orientation camp suffered seizures due to fatigue and insufficient rest.

Students welcomed what some said were long-overdue changes.

A third-year NTU student, who wanted to be known only as Ms Loh, said: "The wait is a little too long... Think of how many batches have passed with students being excluded from camps."

The 23-year-old had applied for a hall camp when she was a new student in 2013, but was rejected without being told why.

"I heard they selected us based on how active you are on social media, or superficial things like how pretty or handsome you are on your profile picture," she said.

Ms Hannah Lim, 20, who is enrolling in NTU's School of Biological Sciences this year, is not sure if she is going for orientation camp, but welcomed the changes."I believe everyone should have the opportunity to experience orientation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2016, with the headline 'NTU orientation to be more inclusive'. Print Edition | Subscribe