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."
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.