SINGAPORE: The National University of Singapore (NUS) on Thursday (Jan 26) issued a new framework that bans activities with "negative features" from freshman orientation camps.
Such "negative features" may include ragging; causing physical or mental harm; intimidating; ridiculing or humiliating others; violating one's dignity; causing discomfort; displaying disrespect for others; lewdness, raunchiness, promoting deliberate close body contact and instilling fear, said NUS.
The details of the framework were sent to NUS students in an email that was obtained by Channel NewsAsia. The framework will apply to all orientation activities organised by students starting from the coming academic year, which begins in August.
Reports of inappropriate orientation activities at NUS last year led to the university suspending all student-organised freshmen activities. Thirty senior students were punished for organising the inappropriate activities, which reportedly included students being dunked in water and a mock sexual act.
Then-Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said in July 2016 that orientation activities must be carried out in a manner that respects the dignity of freshmen, and singled out the mock sexual act as "reprehensible".
NUS set up a 14-member orientation review committee (ORC) in September, comprising representatives from the student body, faculty as well as alumni. The committee submitted its findings and recommendations to NUS on Oct 18, 2016, and the university said on Thursday that it has accepted all of the committee's recommendations "fully".
In the email sent to students, NUS provost and deputy president for academic affairs Professor Tan Eng Chye said that the framework aims to "lay down the mission and goals of orientation, and outline the implementation details of ORC’s recommendations", adding that it should be read together with other documents issued by the university, such as the NUS student leaders' handbook and guidelines on orientation camps.
The framework also states that all activities must be vetted and approved by the orientation committee. These include main activities; activities done during free time, waiting time and at night; as well as cheers and forfeits. The framework also stated that the committee should not allow seniors to gate-crash the camp and hold their own activities.
From this academic year, each orientation camp must also appoint at least one safety officer, who must be a member of the orientation committee. The framework added that the suggested ratio of safety officers to first-year students is one to 50.
Orientation camps are usually held between Jun 1 and the beginning of the semester in August. NUS said all activities involving first-year students held between this period must comply with the framework, regardless of what the activity is called. It also stressed that during this period, the framework applies 24 hours a day, "with no differentiation between formal hours and 'after hours'".
Under the framework, staff advisors are also required to conduct random checks on orientation camps, although they are "not expected to police" the camps. All orientation leaders, as well as the president and director of projects from the camp's executive committee, also have to attend a peer leadership course organised by the university's Office of Student Affairs.