With reference to the recent criticism of errant student activities (Make NUS management answer for improper activities, by Ms Jessie Loy Sze Nah; Poor enforcement from top has allowed actions to continue, by Dr Lim Boon Hee, both published on June 23), let me recount how one young man has successfully argued for the resurrection of a school tradition that was allowed to go extinct for good reasons.
This young man observed that to thrive in his school, it was critical that newcomers learn certain basic facts such as the locations of various school activities, the names of the other school houses, trivia about the seniors (the best person to go to for specific types of advice), and so forth.
A previous tradition of testing newcomers on these facts had been banned as it had descended into bullying.
Having studied the history of this banned practice, he saw its benefits and worked to persuade the authorities to revive this banned tradition, with the focus on the good bits.
He felt that old-timers and newcomers could enjoy a good orientation programme without it being fun only at the expense of the newcomers. He proposed modifications so that everyone could have fun.
Both old-timers and newcomers have rights and responsibilities, with the ultimate aim of helping newcomers settle in and giving both groups the opportunities to learn about one another.
After all, these students have to live in close proximity in surrogate sibling groups during term time.
An orientation programme is not about humiliation, nor is it bullying. It is about helping newcomers find their feet.
It should be measured by how well it prepares them for a successful life in the organisation they are joining, be it a school, university or office.
Lee Siew Peng (Dr)