“Fake rape” allegations bring crackdown on National University of Singapore freshman events

Photo: Gaurav Vaidya/CC BY 2.0

By Dimitra Stefanidou

The student-organized freshmen Orientation Week (O Week) at The National University of Singapore (NUS) has been suspended due to inappropriate student activity. This follows reports that previous weeks included inappropriate and intensely sexualized games.

As a result the NUS announced that a large number of events, including those in student accommodation and residential colleges – such as orientation camps and freshmen activities – were also suspended until further notice. “The university has received recent information that there have been instances of unauthorized and unsupervised freshmen activities despite the university’s earlier instructions on this matter,” said university sources.

“Who is the sluttiest?”

Those activities included the dunking of two freshmen, a boy and a girl, into a pond, which was recorded in a video and posted online, as well as a game called “burning bridges”, which requires the freshmen to reply to inappropriate questions. A female participant reported that she was asked which man’s bodily fluid she would want to drink, who among them is the sluttiest, and who would die alone without getting married. Freshmen were even asked to re-enact a rape scene where a brother is about to rape his younger sister.

Explaining what happened one nineteen-year-old woman said, “The girl had to lie on the floor, then the guy pretended to kick open a door and say, ‘Kor kor (big brother) coming.’ The girl had to respond, ‘Mei mei (little sister) don’t want’. He then kicked open her legs and did push-ups while lying on top of her. The girl looked very uncomfortable and covered her face throughout the whole thing”, she adds. The same girl also reported she was grabbed by students and touched on several parts of her body.

It is worth noting that similar reports on inappropriate students’ behavior were also made back in 2008 and 2011, and the University claims that before freshman camps began, the Office of Students Affairs (OSA) contacted the students taking part, informing them about the week’s guidelines and instructions. University authorities are, “very disappointed” about the latest developments.

Authorities at the academic institution say they are ready to conduct a thorough investigation and take, “strong disciplinary actions” to find out who is responsible. This should provide some reassurance that it will not happen again.

An NUS representative explained, “NUS takes an extremely serious view of the recent media report and feedback on instances of offensive and completely inappropriate orientation activities,” and that “We are very disappointed that… instances of offensive and completely inappropriate orientation activities that were not submitted nor endorsed have surfaced.”

Shocked reactions

Mr Seah Kian Peng, member of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Education said the activities that the students conducted were, “unnecessary and humiliating” and the University should reexamine the orientation camps and their purpose. “If the purpose of an orientation camp is team bonding or a rite of passage, such behaviour cannot be justified in any way. They have definitely crossed the line,” Mr. Peng added.

Mr. Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister for Higher Education and Skills posted on Facebook that, “at all times, we must respect human dignity and remember the point and purpose of a university education …goading others to act out a rape scene not only degrades the real suffering of rape victims, it inflicts fresh humiliation on female students”.

Parents of students were shocked to hear about the incidents and say they are having serious concerns about sending their children for their studies at the NUS. Netizen Yoshimura Isaac wrote, “Frankly, if my daughter goes for such an orientation, then I will make sure I change her to another school. It’s supposed to be teaching things that are useful to their future, not teaching them to do or act (in) such a manner.”

Alvin Teow, continued, “If NUS doesn’t deal with this in the right way, then all parents should think thrice about letting their daughters enrol in NUS.”

According to the University’s announcement, some events will take place as planned. “The Freshmen Inauguration Ceremonies, Welcome Receptions by Deans, Heads of Department and Masters, as well as Faculty and Department briefings, will continue as scheduled. The NUSSU Rag and Flag activities, which raise funds for 22 Singapore”, were also still scheduled, NUS says.