Increased Regulations At Uni Orientation Camps
While University Orientation Camps have drawn flak over the last few years for their controversial games and cheers, 2016 proved to be the final straw for University management committees.
Last year, the National University of Singapore (NUS) suspended student-organised freshmen activities after a video showing the dunking of students in a pond at Sheares Hall went viral.
The incident coincided with fresh complaints that freshmen were made to participate in sexualized games and forfeits, leading to an overall review of orientation camp guidelines .
Earlier this year, the Straits Times reported that NUS “has implemented a new framework that bars activities with negative features”.
No Incidents Thus Far
With orientation camps ending last week, it looks like these new policies have paid off, given that there have been no reported incidents of transgressive behaviours.
Here are 4 new policies that universities have implemented.
1. They’re Using Surveillance Drones To Monitor Activities
The Straits Times reported on August 13 that NUS trialed the use of drones to monitor orientation activities. With consent from student leaders, the University used drones in 2 orientation camps for “less than 10 minutes each time”.
NUS are assessing if such surveillance would be effective in replacing “in-person spot checks”.
Knowing that Big Brother is watching their every move, freshmen must feel reassured that all games are conducted with an eye on safety.
2. Games That Involve Any Form Of Sexuality Are Banned
Another controversial issue that many have with university orientation camps are the overtly sexual games and cheers.
The public has slammed forfeits such as the one seen in this infamous video as being crass and an infringement of personal space.
A facilitator from SMU’s Bondue Camp, who spoke to MustShareNews on condition of anonymity, shared some of the measures taken to ensure that the camp leaders met with SMU’s new regulations.
He shared that all students involved in the execution of the camp were made to attend a compulsory lecture conducted by the camp’s executive committee.
On top of that, the student-led executive committee has to clear the orientation brief with school administrators before passing the message down to student leaders.
During the talk, clear instructions were given to camp organisers banning forfeits that encouraged excessive physical contact. Sexual topics were also discouraged from being brought up.
3. Scary Costumes Are Banned From Night Walk
Traditionally, camps organize night walks, which incorporate elements of horror, for freshmen to participate in. Freshmen of opposite genders are paired up and made to navigate the walk together.
Night walks are presumably meant to build trust between the partners through overcoming of fears. Station games have been known to include the transference of mealworms from one tupperware into another, and “ghosts” springing up on unsuspecting freshmen.
Those that have a greater aversion to horror tend to dread such programs. Some have ended the night in tears after being peer-pressured into joining the walks.
However, universities have put a stop to such activities by banning the use of scary make-up and costumes.
According to a Straits Times report, an NUS spokesperson argued that such activities do not “serve the purpose of orientation where all freshmen should feel welcomed, assured and supported.”
Perhaps an orientation group outing to Universal Studio Singapore’s annual Halloween Horror Night could be a viable alternative.
4. Orientation Leaders Must Pass An “Exam” To Become Certified Facilitators
Having encountered a case where 4 students were hospitalized for having seizures during an orientation camp in 2014, NTU has mandated that all students involved in facilitating orientation programs go through a safety brief conducted by the Student Affairs Office (SAO).
In addition, students had to complete an e-learning module and quiz on the university’s online platform NTULearn.
The MustShareNews team spoke to a leader of one of the university’s orientation programs and he shared with us that the school had organised at least 3 safety workshops in preparation for this year’s orientation camps. He added that the school sent multiple reminders that all student leaders who failed to complete either requirements would be prohibited from attending the camp.
Stringent Policies Come At A Cost
While it’s easy to understand the rationale behind these new policies, some seniors feel that they have made orientation camps more sterile. One Year 3 student spoke to us about her camp, held at a chalet, which she remembered to be fun because of the games that promoted stronger bonding.
While clear boundaries must be set by universities, it is worth noting that the main bulk of attendees are at least 19 years old or older. One view is that they are mature enough to make decisions and determine their own boundaries. Another view is with group dynamics and peer pressure, the students would be enticed to do activities they normally would refrain from and these new rules protect them.
As Minister of Parliament and head of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education Denise Phua shared with the Straits Times, “Playing too safe kills creativity and fun. Playing it to the extent of lewdness is offensive. There is space for dialogue between students and school leaders to find a good, fun balance. They are not kids any more.”