NUS rethinking its freshman orientation, seeking new approaches to activities

An orientation activity at the National University of Singapore's University Town.
An orientation activity at the National University of Singapore's University Town. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The National University of Singapore (NUS) is rethinking its freshman orientation, the varsity said on its website on Wednesday (Sept 21).

Professor Tan Eng Chye, NUS' deputy president (Academic Affairs) and Provost, said that as part of the university's review of its orientation activities, a committee tasked to look into this has also been asked to "consider new approaches to freshman orientation as well as positive current practices that should be extended and preserved".

He said that "orientation is intended to welcome and introduce freshmen to the university community".

This comes after NUS suspended all orientation camps in July for freshman following reports of inappropriate activities, including one that involved students getting dunked in NUS' Sheares Hall. Prior to that, The New Paper reported that some NUS freshmen went through sexualised orientation activities, including one that simulated rape, which triggered a public outcry.

NUS set up a 14-member Orientation Review Committee in late August following the reports. The university said on its website on Wednesday that the committee comprises representatives for students, from the varsity's faculty, as well as alumni.

The committee is chaired by Professor Tan Tai Yong, executive vice-president (Academic Affairs) of Yale-NUS College, and a former Nominated Member of Parliament.

It has been tasked with providing recommendations on the following areas:

- Key principles that underpin freshman orientation, with reference to the NUS Code of Student Conduct.

- Measures that would enable students, particularly student leaders, to understand and embrace these principles, and build a positive and respectful student culture.

- New approaches to freshman orientation at NUS, and whether there are aspects of past orientations that should be preserved.

- Checks against unacceptable student behaviour in orientation activities.

- Safeguards for students inadvertently placed in potentially vulnerable situations.

 
 

Prof Tan Tai Yong noted that many members in the Orientation Review Committee are NUS alumni and "we understand how a well-conducted orientation can be a crucial and defining experience for all NUS students".

"The (committee) is doing a thorough review of current practices, and will consult extensively with stakeholders, and gather different perspectives, inputs and suggestions," he added.

In the last month, the committee held three meetings with student representatives from NUS' Science faculty, Business School and halls of residence.

Prof Tan Tai Yong noted that students have said that they regard orientation as a critical and valued part of the university experience.

He added that with NUS having a large student population, it was vital that all student leaders and student organisers be made aware of and embrace the objectives of orientation, and that they are trained and equipped to conduct orientation activities in meaningful ways that align with the spirit of orientation

The review committee has lined up more student and faculty engagement sessions in the weeks ahead. It aims to submit its final report to the university's management by the middle of October. The recommendations will also be shared with the NUS community.