Yale-NUS rejects call on envoy to quit post

Yale-NUS College has rejected any suggestions that Ambassador-at-Large Chan Heng Chee should be asked to relinquish her position on its governing board, after she spoke in defence as to why Singapore still has a law which criminalises sex between men.

In a column published in student- run online publication The Octant on Wednesday, Yale-NUS student Nicholas Carverhill called on Prof Chan to either reject the Govern- ment's stance on Section 377A of the Penal Code, or give up her seat on the college's governing board.

He was responding to Prof Chan's remarks at Singapore's second Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations' Human Rights Council in Geneva the week before.

Prof Chan reiterated the Government's stance that S377A will be retained but not proactively enforced. "Singapore is basically a conservative society," she said. "We have to manage such issues sensitively and in a pragmatic way without fracturing our society."

She added that the civil service hires LGBT people and there are plays about the community and public gatherings such as the annual Pink Dot. "We firmly oppose discrimination and harassment and we have laws to protect our citizens from such acts," said Prof Chan.

Her remarks prompted Mr Carverhill's column, in which he wrote that if Yale-NUS is to live up to its claim of creating a "pluralistic and inclusive college community", it cannot have leaders who advocate policies such as S377A. He argued that the section "perpetuates damaging norms and leads to tangible discriminatory practices" - and rejecting discrimination "should not be up for debate in the Yale-NUS College community".

But other students The Sunday Times spoke to saw things differently. Said Ms Teo Xiao Ting, 20: "What I would be concerned with is whether our school's policies are discriminatory on the ground, rather than statements made by one member of the governing board in a separate professional capacity."

When asked, Yale-NUS president Pericles Lewis said the college's leadership "has been in close dialogue with our students and we've heard their views", including the columnist's. "In our meeting, we advised our students to be open to a range of views and to engage broadly, rather than to be intolerant of perspectives that are different from theirs," he added.

"Yale-NUS College will not consider asking Ambassador Chan to relinquish her position...She has been an integral member of our governing board, and a firm believer in our mission and vision to build a community of learning, where all viewpoints are heard and a respectful understanding of different opinions and beliefs is tolerated and understood."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 07, 2016, with the headline 'Yale-NUS rejects call on envoy to quit post'. Print Edition | Subscribe