'Time needed' to review varsity orientation camps

NUS president makes first public comments on the recent furore over such activities

Screengrabs of a video shared last week showing an alleged dunking during orientation activities at Sheares Hall in NUS.
Screengrabs of a video shared last week showing an alleged dunking during orientation activities at Sheares Hall in NUS. PHOTOS: STOMP

The National University of Singapore (NUS) is fully committed to comprehensively address the problem of sexualised activities at its orientation camps, but needs the time and space to do so over the next few weeks and months.

In his first public comments on the furore over such activities, NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan said there are a wide range of issues to consider and it has called "a time-out" on student-organised orientation activities for now.

NUS had announced the suspension of orientation activities last Friday, after it was reported that some students had complained about being pressured into taking part in risque orientation activities.

These included the alleged re- enactment of an incestuous rape scene and a dunking incident involving Sheares Hall students.

Yesterday, Prof Tan stressed that NUS does not approve of these.

Addressing freshmen at the 2016 Freshmen Inauguration Ceremony yesterday, he said: "We make our stand very clear: We do not condone behaviour, games and activities that denigrate the dignity of individuals and that are sexualised.

"It is very disappointing that a few in our student community have clearly not internalised this."

While noting that NUS does not intend to do away with orientation, he said that it does expect "orientation activities to be fully respectful of the dignity of all those participating" and has put in measures to help ensure this in recent years.

Prof Tan also told the freshmen that he was "very sorry that your first days at NUS have been clouded by the controversies".

Meanwhile, the NUSWhispers Facebook page is still abuzz with comments about the controversy.

A female freshman, who is "thankful" orientation week is cancelled, said: "I doubt I'll be able to enjoy a camp where I have to be in perpetual fear of being forced to do immoral deeds or have them rendered upon me."

But another student said: "I was really looking forward to O (Orientation) week but now that it got cancelled, my freshman experience is really bad."

NUS undergraduate Charlie Woo, 24, suggested a more consultative planning process. "Perhaps, in future, the university can have closer cooperation with student leaders to review student-led activities before they are carried out," he said.

When asked, an NUS spokesman declined to say how long the ban on orientation activities would last, but said faculty-led activities such as welcome receptions would go on.

One activity that will proceed is the annual NUS Students' Union Rag and Flag today. Thousands of NUS students will take to the streets to raise funds for the needy.


Orientation suspension: Key questions to answer

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline ''Time needed' to review varsity orientation camps'. Print Edition | Subscribe