The Sunday Times says

Shotgun approach to ragging

The recent response of the National University of Singapore (NUS) to over-the-top ragging activities on campus is a knee-jerk, buckshot approach to an old issue. Suspending all student-organised team-building activities for freshmen is a form of group punishment that one might impose on misbehaving teens. Undergrads ought to be treated like young adults instead.

NUS puts the blame on "some of our students (who) have flouted the rules and behaved in an unacceptable manner". Accountability, therefore, should be discriminate and specific, transparent and effective enough to serve as a deterrent. If staff or senior students were overseeing the events, they should be taken to task as well. Further, as "dunking or any other form of ragging is strictly banned under the university's guidelines for student activities", it should focus on preventing rather than reacting to lapses.

Orientation is the first key event in undergraduate community life. Those minding it, and the students who organise it, must ensure that it serves as a positive rite of passage. Certainly, one can expect the young to display some exuberance and horseplay during orientation week. But good taste and civility are needed. Orientation should not offer the means to disguise bullying as an exercise in shattering a newbie's naivete. Simulations of incest and rape, as well as ditch-dunking, indicated a lack of self-control among student organisers, who had been given "previous instructions on the matter" , according to NUS.

Orientation high jinks have a long history and are part of campus lore - one part fun, one part exaggeration, and two parts humiliation. However, recent excesses were captured vividly enough on camera, as one would expect these days, and circulated via the media. Naturally, these sparked outrage. The university simply had to weigh in but, alas, it reacted rather heavily.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 07, 2016, with the headline 'Shotgun approach to ragging'. Subscribe