New NUS framework to bar 'negative' activities from freshmen orientation camp

Students practising dance moves for the NUS Rag and Flag day.
Students practising dance moves for the NUS Rag and Flag day. ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH

SINGAPORE - The National University of Singapore (NUS) has implemented a new framework that bars activities with "negative features" from its freshman orientation camps that had caused a public outcry last year.

These activities include ragging, causing physical or mental harm, violating one's dignity and those that promote deliberate close body contact.

The details of the framework, which was announced in an internal circular sent to students on Thursday (Jan 26), will take effect for all orientation activities organised for first-year students from the new academic semester starting this August.

Orientation camps, lasting four to five days, are usually held between June 1 and just before school begins.

The framework is the outcome of a review launched after media reports last July on sexualised orientation activities in NUS camps which included students being forced to simulate a rape scene between siblings.

Some students also said they were coerced into taking part in other sexually suggestive activities.

In a Facebook post on July 27, Mr Ong Ye Kung, then the Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), had called some of the risque acts "reprehensible".

The Straits Times obtained a copy of the framework sent on Thursday by the university's provost and deputy president for academic affairs Professor Tan Eng Chye.

 

"The aim of this document is to lay down the mission and goals of orientation, and outline the implementation details of the ORC's (Orientation Review Committee) recommendations," wrote Prof Tan in the email.

The ORC had submitted its findings and recommendations to the university in October last year.

The new framework will be applicable 24 hours a day so as to cover even the activities held outside the orientation camp's formal hours.

It also states that at least one safety officer from the camp's organising committee must be appointed, with the suggested ratio of one officer to 50 first-year students.

All activities must be also vetted and approved by the organising committee, staff advisor and the Office of Student Affairs.

These include, among other things, main camp activities as well as activities done during free time, waiting time and night time; including cheers and forfeits.

Student leaders must also attend a peer leadership course and staff advisors will be required to conduct random checks on the camp.