Sunday, July 31, 2016

The NUS Orientation Saga: Everyone is looking for someone to blame

Picture from ST

The whole NUS orientation saga has been filling my newsfeed for the past two weeks. Not surprising, really, considering how many of my friends (me included) were once from NUS. And as someone who has both participated and organised freshmen camp before, you could say I have a personal stake in this.

From The New Paper's first report on the "rape forfeit" all the way to the blanket ban on all orientation activities, I have been closely watching reactions from both sides, students and members of the public. Naturally, both sides are not happy at all at the outcome. Some even furious.

Students are unhappy that the majority are penalised for the actions of a few, while the public are unhappy at how outrageous some of the orientation activities are. To the public, NUS orientation has suddenly become a place where hormones run wild, where students engage in pervert activities (taken from real ST comments) instead of doing what they should: studying.

I don't blame both sides for being unhappy at how things have turned out. And I can empathize with the university administration for using the blanket ban approach to this situation. What else could they do when after warning is given, students still proceed to do whatever they liked (dunking people into a pond, in this matter)?

What I do feel, however, is that we are too quick to blame the other side for what have happened, without truly understanding the perspective of the other side.

From the students' perspective, I understand how unfair it would seem to have your entire orientation taken away just because some irresponsible party decided to flout the rules. I understand that some may be angry at those who reported the activities. You may think that you know what you're doing, that the old people do not understand you. I was once in that position, wondering why the need to submit so many proposals to the university administration just for one orientation camp.

But the rules are there for a reason. As much as you may hate the procedures, there are set up to protect you and the orientation camps. In your mind you may just want to have some fun, but there are always consequences when it comes to fun. In the eyes of the older generation, teenagers are not to be trusted because they're brash and impulsive. You deciding to flout the rules is just giving the reason for the administration and the public to clamp down more.

As for many of the commentators on ST and CNA, I'm sorry that you see orientation and universities as places of evil. As someone who has been through it before, I can tell you that the good outweighs the bad significantly. For many of us, university life was made much more bearable because of orientation. And trust me that the banging girls is not the only thing we have in mind (though it was something a young me was open to) when it comes to orientation.

Do not simply trust what the media may say, as orientation goes way deeply that what is portrayed in the mainstream. This is what something that many students, including your children if they have attended it, can testify to.

I admit that orientation activities are not perfect. Some do flout the rules knowingly in the name of fun, and these people deserve to face the music. After all, uni is the best place to learn that every action comes with a consequence. But to judge the entire student body, and to go as far as asking for students to be named, shamed and expelled is surely a little extreme.

After all, haven't we all been through the period where we're feeling rebellious and exploratory before? It's all part of growing up. Why must we be so vindictive when it comes to people making mistakes?

To be honest, seeing this entire debate made me lose a little faith in humanity. The real danger of the world today is not that everyone is getting their voice, but rather everyone thinking that their voice should be prioritized above that of everyone else. In the process of wanting our to be be heard, we have forgotten to listen as well.

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