“The correct response should be to take this opportunity to improve, right the wrongs, and bring it back later, even after lessons have started” (Orientation Fundamentally Beneficial, And NUS Will Bring It Back: Ong Ye Kung, Toh Ee Ming).
With a commitment to improve oversight – after it “halted student-organised freshmen orientation activities this year following a public outcry over inappropriate behaviour at previous camps” (TODAY, Aug. 17) – the National University of Singapore (NUS) should eventually make its investigation findings public, specify the transgressions uncovered, and outline in greater detail how improvements will take shape. In particular, many will expect the university to pay greater attention to sex and sexuality education, beyond the convenient references to the “rules and processes” which may have been in place, but do not appear to be adequate.
The aim is not to name and shame (unless, of course, the wrongdoings are truly reprehensible) but it is to be specific about what has gone wrong. The discourse which transpired after the New Paper report on sexualised activities at recent orientation camps – on social media and the mainstream media, through conversations within NUS, and perhaps even in parliament – is premised upon personal anecdotes or assumptions, often resulting in groups talking over one another. Information about what actually happened, or what has actually been happening, in recent camps and years should then form the basis for greater accountability and action.
It may even be useful to understand how the NUS administration has gone about with its investigations, and whether there are safe channels for whistleblowers. If it is truly serious, the administration could trace back to determine how pervasive the problems have been, maybe since years ago. For students within the university – notwithstanding the point made by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung that student-organisers of these camps are subject to briefings and are required to submit “detailed orientation proposals” – a discussion about the intent and design of an orientation programme may also be timely. What do prospective and current undergraduates expect from orientation? How effective have activities been, based broadly on numbers if possible and not just personal tales, and do benefits accrue to a wider population?
A version of this article was published in TODAY.