The writer is a third-year undergraduate student at NUS and has both participated in and organised freshmen orientation camps.
A year ago, the media was plastered with allegations of sexual games and cheers carried out by student leaders at National University of Singapore’s Freshmen Orientation Camps (FOCs).
Popspoken covered the saga first with an opinion article by an NUS undergraduate. The article was later updated when the NUS acting provost issued an email to all students.
Come July and August, the familiar sight of confused freshmen and sounds of cheers have returned. These summer months are packed with school camps, but with last year’s events serving as a fresh reminder, NUS has taken several measures in order to avoid similar negative experiences.
Peer Leadership Training
All leaders, including Orientation Group Leaders (OGL) and Organising Committee (O-comm) Members are required to go through a Peer Leadership Training workshop. Leaders who have completed the training are certified with a unique lanyard and sticker, which are required to be worn throughout the camp.
While such workshops are deemed useful for the school, is it truly ensuring that organisers are learning? Some leaders may go to such workshops for the sake of obtaining the lanyards while still harbouring ill feelings towards the school for their cancellation of cheers and games that have been ingrained in camp or house tradition.
A Close Watch
This year, NUS is keeping a close watch on the leaders of the FOPs. This includes visits to the camps in person and watching the events from a distance.
These Office of Student Affairs (OSA) staff members are typically dressed in plain clothing and will only reveal themselves if they witness a serious incident or an inappropriate act.
The OSA has also employed the use of drones. FOPs often have a day set aside for Beach Day, a day for outdoor games at one of the beaches at Sentosa. The OSA has continued to keep a close watch by flying drones over the mass games at the beaches, making their presence known.
However, is this truly sustainable? Will OSA members have to come down for every camp event organised by students? With the OSA’s surveillance, students may also begin to feel a sense of distrust towards the school.
Vetting, vetting and more vetting
Previously, OGLs could come up with cheers and games on the fly. This has changed with compulsory vetting. Cheers, cheer actions, icebreaking games and even the names of Orientation Groups must all be approved by the school.
Cheer lists have to be submitted and vetted by the school before being allowed at camps, and only approved games are allowed. Gone are games like Burning Bridges and Traffic Light. Today’s approved games include R-O-C-K Rock and The Fast Food Game.
This tedious measure has restricted many activities in camps, but NUS can now ensure transparency and that every aspect of the camp is accounted for.
From someone who has been through countless camps in NUS, I can only hope that the culture of such camps remain the same in the face of these changes.
Traditions that have been built throughout the years at camps will return in a different form and hopefully, the camaraderie of the freshmen and the student leaders will continue to exist in the years ahead.
Photo Credits: Duke-NUS Medical School