S'pore Poly explains why radio DJ's talk did not take place

Singapore Polytechnic (SP) has rebutted an allegation by local DJ Joshua Simon that it cancelled his talk at an event there last Saturday in order to abide by Ministry of Education (MOE) regulations.

A school spokesman said yesterday that the student organising committee of the TEDxYouth@SP event had given Mr Simon a chance to change some sensitive parts of his script, but he declined and decided not to speak at the event.

Mr Simon, 29, is a DJ with SPH Radio station Kiss 92FM. He had said in a Facebook post on Sunday that SP had cancelled his talk due to its inclusion of content about his sexuality and LGBTQ+ themes, and that it had done so to "abide by the rules of the Ministry Of Education".

The SP spokesman said all speakers were required to submit their scripts before the event to ensure their content was aligned to the theme and appropriate for the audience.

"Joshua Simon was advised that certain references to his sexuality might be sensitive, given the diverse profile of the audience," the spokesman said.

She added that the student committee which received the script the night before the talk had reviewed it and "found it inspirational but assessed that certain parts relating to his sexuality might be inappropriate for the target audience".

They sought the advice of the staff of SP, who agreed with the students' views and suggested that Mr Simon "consider reviewing how these mentions are expressed in his script, given the audience profile, while preserving the integrity of his story".

"Unfortunately, he decided not to speak at the event at all."

I owe you an answer to why I did not give my TED Talk on saturday morning: the night before the event, I received a phone call informing me that Singapore Polytechnic, upon discovering that my talk included LGBTQ+ themes, removed me from the speakers list. They urged me to edit my script and leave out any content in relation to it. I said no. Many of you know how instrumental TED Talks have been for my growth. I treasured this opportunity and worked very hard for months writing and rehearsing for it. It would be against my principles to flip the gender of my ex when mentioning my breakup and to totally leave out my coming out story to my father - both of which are, and will always be, defining moments of my story. To hide my struggles and sacrifices is to be ashamed of them. To honour my story is to be completely vulnerable on that stage. I told the school I will not do the talk. I chose not to censor my script. Doing so would also set a hurtful precedence to the next gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer person offered a chance to speak. I will not allow anyone to say “if Joshua cut that out of his speech, so can you.” This morning, a representative from the school expressed interest in meeting me to issue a formal apology as they had to abide by the rules of The Ministry Of Education. I appreciate the gesture but right now I just want some time to be with myself. I was however, blown away to learn that a fellow speaker, Victoria Cheng, got up and spoke bravely in my defence during her talk, a move that got her into some trouble as well. I also want to recognise the 3 incredible students from Singapore Polytechnic who fought relentlessly for the integrity of my story with their teachers up til the final decision was made. Muhan, Lijun, Sheree - my incredible allies, thank you. Please know that I am not angry at anyone. I have accepted what has happened. This becomes part of my story now. Our stories matter. The fight to have them told continues. #ted #tedtalks #pinkdot #pride #courage #vulnerability #empathy #love #kindess #truth #integrity #lovewillwin
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I owe you an answer to why I did not give my TED Talk on saturday morning: the night before the event, I received a phone call informing me that Singapore Polytechnic, upon discovering that my talk included LGBTQ+ themes, removed me from the speakers list. They urged me to edit my script and leave out any content in relation to it. I said no. Many of you know how instrumental TED Talks have been for my growth. I treasured this opportunity and worked very hard for months writing and rehearsing for it. It would be against my principles to flip the gender of my ex when mentioning my breakup and to totally leave out my coming out story to my father - both of which are, and will always be, defining moments of my story. To hide my struggles and sacrifices is to be ashamed of them. To honour my story is to be completely vulnerable on that stage. I told the school I will not do the talk. I chose not to censor my script. Doing so would also set a hurtful precedence to the next gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer person offered a chance to speak. I will not allow anyone to say “if Joshua cut that out of his speech, so can you.” This morning, a representative from the school expressed interest in meeting me to issue a formal apology as they had to abide by the rules of The Ministry Of Education. I appreciate the gesture but right now I just want some time to be with myself. I was however, blown away to learn that a fellow speaker, Victoria Cheng, got up and spoke bravely in my defence during her talk, a move that got her into some trouble as well. I also want to recognise the 3 incredible students from Singapore Polytechnic who fought relentlessly for the integrity of my story with their teachers up til the final decision was made. Muhan, Lijun, Sheree - my incredible allies, thank you. Please know that I am not angry at anyone. I have accepted what has happened. This becomes part of my story now. Our stories matter. The fight to have them told continues. #ted #tedtalks #pinkdot #pride #courage #vulnerability #empathy #love #kindess #truth #integrity #lovewillwin

A post shared by JOSHUA SIMON (@joshuasimonxl) on

An MOE spokesman said that all institutes of higher learning (IHLs) can decide what events are conducted on campus. "For this particular event, MOE was neither informed of it nor involved in the event organisers' deliberations on the selection of speakers," he said.

The spokesman added that MOE has guidelines for IHLs. "We encourage open discussions on various topics, but some issues, especially those that concern race and religion, are sensitive and potentially socially divisive. Organisers need to be cognisant of them and exercise appropriate judgment."

Mr Simon told The Straits Times that the talk was going to be on how he was able to overcome personal difficulties, and that he had worked on the script for about four months.

He said that the organisers had called him on Friday last week to ask if he could remove elements of his script that mentioned his sexuality - otherwise, he would not be allowed to speak. He later decided not to compromise on his script and chose not to speak at the event.

The next day, Mr Simon received another call from the organisers, who said that a school representative wanted to meet him personally to apologise for the course of action taken, as SP had to follow MOE's rules. Mr Simon was not told what the rules were. "I am a bit stung by this whole thing," he said.

The SP spokesman said that the students were disappointed but respected Mr Simon's decision.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore Poly explains why radio DJ's talk did not take place'. Print Edition | Subscribe