NUS spells out rules for orientation activities

NUS students participating in orientation activities, such as this one at University Town last June (above), will have to abide by a new set of rules. The change came after a furore last year over inapproriate orientation activities (below).
NUS students participating in orientation activities, such as this one at University Town last June (above), will have to abide by a new set of rules. The change came after a furore last year over inapproriate orientation activities.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH

Framework barring those with 'negative features' such as violating one's dignity comes after furore last year

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has implemented a new framework that bars activities with "negative features" from its freshman orientation camps that 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 framework, which spells out rules and guidelines, was sent to students yesterday. It covers all orientation activities organised for first-year students of the new academic year.

Although theacademic semester starts this August, the changes kick in for the orientation camps, which are usually held between June 1 and just before school begins in August.

They are also applicable outside the orientation camps' formal hours.

 

Although the academic semester starts this August, the rules and guidelines kick in for the orientation camps, which are usually held between June 1 and just before school begins in August.

They are also applicable outside the orientation camps' formal hours.

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

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

These include 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 advisers will be required to conduct random checks on the camp.

The new framework is the outcome of a review launched following media reports last July of sexualised activities at NUS orientation camps. These 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.

An Orientation Review Committee was convened and submitted its findings and recommendations to the university last October.

NUS students participating in orientation activities, such as this one at University Town last June (above), will have to abide by a new set of rules. The change came after a furore last year over inapproriate orientation activities (below).
NUS students participating in orientation activities, such as this one at University Town last June, will have to abide by a new set of rules. The change came after a furore last year over inapproriate orientation activities (above). PHOTO: STOMP

The Straits Times obtained a copy of the circular sent yesterday by the university's provost and deputy president for academic affairs, Professor Tan Eng Chye. An NUS spokesman confirmed the document and its contents.

Said a Year 2 student from the Faculty of Science, who wanted to be known only as Esther: "There might not be as much free rein as before, and some of us are a bit sore about it.

"But the framework is suitable, and I hope we can all move on from here."

A parent of a Year 4 NUS student, who wanted to be known only as Mr Wong, 59, said: "It might be a little too late, because such activities have been around for so long. But at least now there are boundaries and it might prevent such things from happening again."

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University said separately that their students work closely with the school in the running of freshman orientation camps to ensure safety of activities and that they are appropriate.

Said Professor Kwok Kian Woon, NTU's associate provost (student life): "No freshmen should begin university by being subjected to harassment, humiliation, undue peer pressure and unquestioning obedience."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2017, with the headline 'NUS spells out rules for orientation activities'. Print Edition | Subscribe