I READ with interest followed by disgust about some activities included in this year's orientation, especially at the National University of Singapore (NUS) ('Orientation - just fun or plain lewd?', Aug 31).
I remember exactly one year ago reading about orientation on university campuses and feedback in The Straits Times on questionable activities in which students were made to participate.
I laud the Social Development Unit (SDU) for its initiative to support and help fund orientation activities organised by the universities. I agree that some students need encouragement and help developing social and interpersonal skills. Creating opportunities through appropriate group activities will help accomplish the original aim.
However, the nature and extent of such activities must be carefully monitored. If SDU cannot spell out the boundaries more explicitly, it is up to whoever oversees the orientation programmes to step in. A spokesman for Nanyang Technological University said action will be taken against students who 'overstep the boundaries of decency', and another from NUS said it will 'investigate and counsel or discipline students' if complaints are received. However, one year has passed and this is the second round of similar if not worse games.
Let us get this straight. Activities do not have to involve distasteful acts in order to promote bonding, develop relationships and foster identity.
Ms Nadya Huang said she has 'never seen people do anything against their will'. Most students will comply and participate gamely in the name of sportsmanship. That does not mean they agree willingly.
In programmes that are common to the whole cohort, such as orientation, it is inappropriate to include activities where students must come into physical contact with the opposite sex.
When I discussed the article with my 16-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son, I am glad they agreed with me that such activities are improper and out of place. I trust they have the courage and conviction not only to decline but also to express disapproval via the proper channels if they are in such a situation.
There are many other appropriate and effective ways to promote and encourage social interaction among freshies. We can be creative without being indiscreet.
Linda Tan (Mrs)
This article was first published in The Straits Times on September 15, 2008.
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