VOL. 3, ISSUE 1
EDITOR’S NOTE At The Octant’s first General Meeting of the semester, I posed this question to the team: WHY do we do what we do? My answer came in the form of Cherian George’s words in Freedom of the Press. He wrote, “Journalism matters because it helps people learn about their surroundings and form opinions, and this is important because a society where people collectively determine their future is a better society than one where people don’t count.” As Editor-in-Chief this semester, this is my dream: I hope The Octant won’t simply tell you what you already know, or coerce you into thinking in a particular way with biased reporting. Instead, I want every issue of The Octant to help you learn more about our surroundings and form opinions. By now, you may have noticed our name change. This was a unanimous decision made by all members of Panopt at the end of last semester. But what does this new name mean? Firstly, an octant is a navigation instrument that was integral in opening up the seas to explorers and creating a more interconnected world. As we expand and discuss different issues, we hope to bring different parts of the world in conversation with each other. Secondly, the octant is the first instrument widely accepted for its ability to measure an angle without being affected by external movement. This symbolises our commitment to uphold press freedom and our mission statement—to be an autonomous student-run publication dedicated to critical discourse and free speech. This semester promises to be an exciting one. I hope you look forward to each issue as we strive to deliver breaking news, investigative articles, opinionated pieces, and more. Here’s to a great semester! Yours Sincerely, Joyan Tan Editor-in-Chief
20 Jan, 2015 | 1
TUESDAY, 20 JANUARY 2015
OUTSIDE THE COMMON COURSE Playing with our options.
story May Tay | photo Pareen Chaudhari
bout three to four times a week, Anshuman Mohan ’17 rides his bike or takes the shuttle to the National University of Singapore’s School of Computing. This semester, he is enrolled in four courses, two at Yale-NUS College and another two at NUS. Like Mohan, many students at Yale-NUS take up alternative academic options such as a 2 Modular Credit (MC) module, an independent study module, or an NUS elective. Some students also choose to overload with these courses or with another standard 5MC course at Yale-NUS. Why do students take up these options? Is the popularity of these alternative options a healthy sign or a cause for concern? Most students interviewed cite academic interest for choosing options outside of the standard electives. “To some extent, I’ve always wanted to [take classes at NUS] … It is a great place with really good courses that are available to [Yale-NUS students],” shared Mohan. He chose his NUS courses on Software Engineering and Database Systems to look into specific fields within Computer Science. He is also taking another programming elective at Yale-NUS. Other students highlighted the lack of standard electives at Yale-NUS that cater to their specific interests. Herbin Koh ’17 is taking a class on Investment and Portfolio Management at the NUS School of Business. There are currently no finance electives offered at Yale-NUS. On the limited course options, Koh said, “[That’s] the inevitable result of having such a diverse student body, which is why it’s great we can take classes at NUS too.” Evannia Handoyo ’17, on the other hand, is taking two separate 2MC independent study
courses on Shakespearean works and musical theatre with Yale-NUS professors this semester to explore her specific academic interests in those fields. Among the standard 5MC courses offered this semester, enrollment figures for classes range from one student to more than twenty. On whether this range represents an efficient allocation of resources, Saga College Vice Rector Eduardo Lage-Otero noted that a similar dynamic can be found at every college. Elm College Vice Rector Suyin Chew also noted that low enrollment figures in a class do not necessarily imply low interest. She suggested that timetable clashes could have prevented students from enrolling in all their top choices, leading some to choose alternative options that provide a similar experience. “Also, if you don’t offer a class, how will you know whether there is interest?” she added. All the students interviewed for this article acknowledged the fact that Yale-NUS is a new college and are optimistic about changes to come. Yale-NUS currently faces space and time constraints, but as the college expands into the new campus and hires more professors, more 5MC electives in niche interests will be offered. Sean Saito ’17, who has taken a 2MC module and NUS electives, pointed out that the option to take the 2MC classes and electives at NUS represents “a good show of flexibility [on YaleNUS’ part]”. Until this point, the faculty has primarily taught common curriculum classes instead of electives. That said, “this is only the third semester electives are being offered, and we don’t have enough data yet to make conclusions. We just have to monitor the situation,” said Mr. Lage-Otero.
BRANCHING OUT: DEFINING
NEW YEAR, NEW
RESIDENTIAL COLLEGES RESOLUTIONS
story and photos Regina Marie Lee
Yale-NUS Rectors: Sarah Weiss, Brian McAdoo and Derek Heng.
ith a new year and a fresh semester, we asked students to share their New Year’s resolutions. Some hope to eliminate a bad habit, or are resolved to adopt good ones, like loving more or going vegetarian. Increased productivity, better health and being more moral were all important motivations for students interviewed.
ANDREW LAI ’18 “I will quit playing [video game] DotA. I used to spend 20 hours a week playing, but I haven’t touched DotA since the semester started and I have so much free time now!”
KAREN HANNAH HO ’17 story Yonatan Gazit photo Alyson Rozells, Public Affairs, Yale-NUS College
anuary 1, 2015 marked six months since Sarah Weiss’s long wait began. Hired in April last year, she had been looking forward to what would possibly be “the best job ever” for her. “I love the idea of being around so many interesting minds and having the opportunity to help shape their college experience,” she said. At the start of the new year, Mrs. Weiss became Rector of Saga College. The Rector’s office supports the student community, by hosting and funding events and promoting student well-being. During YaleNUS’s first year-and-a-half, the Rector’s office consisted of a single Rector, Vice-Rector, and Executive. According to Elm College Rector Brian McAdoo, the Rector’s office is now changing to accommodate three Rectors, Vice-Rectors, and Executives, one for each Residential College: Saga, Elm, and Cendana. Mrs. Weiss’s promotion marks an important step in this ongoing process, said Mr. McAdoo. Professor Derek Heng is expected to officially become Cendana College’s Rector on July 1 this year according to the Yale-NUS Newsroom. As the separation occurs alongside the school’s growth, students and faculty have raised concerns and hopes for the school’s future. Parag Bhatnagar ’17 says there was little distinction between Residential Colleges during Yale-NUS’s inaugural year. During their orientation, the class of 2017 went to Yale University for three weeks, but during the class of 2018’s orientation each RC went to a
different part of Southeast Asia. Mrs. Weiss said this was deliberate, as the Rector’s office wanted to start distinguishing RCs in anticipation of moving to the new campus, where each RC will have its own building and dining hall. Bhatnagar acknowledged the eventual need to separate Yale-NUS into RCs, yet, “I don’t really see ... it being a necessarily good thing for the first two batches, since there aren’t that many of us,” he said. The physical growth of the student body also plays a role, since it now occupies eight stories of the RC4 building, as opposed to just four last year. Both Bhatnagar and Mr. McAdoo pointed out that last year every student knew each other by name, but with the addition of the 170 students from Class of 2018 this has changed. “As the college continues to grow, this necessitates the college breaking down into [residential] colleges,” Mr. McAdoo said. The delayed move to the new campus, however, has hindered the full development of ‘Rectorships’. Partly due to space constraints in the current campus, separate rooms for each Rector will only be available in the new campus. Before each College gets its own building and Rector’s Office, there is “the need to develop not just a college identity and culture, but also the associations and notions of who we are as individual colleges,” Mr. Heng wrote in an email. Nevertheless, the Rectors hope a cooperative environment will develop between the Residential Colleges.
“I think this school could do with more love and I want to be the one to love more radically and spread that. To start, I’m making it a point to love three people in the school and inculcate that loving nature from there.” JASON CARLO ONG CARRANCEJA ’18
“I’m going to eat less, visit the gym, and climb the stairs to my room at least after every class. Look out for Jason 2.0.”
RACHEL HAU ’18 “I want to venture out of my room more often, but I’m not doing very well for my first week.”
AMARBOLD LKHAGVASUREN ’18 “I am aiming to become a vegetarian eventually and only eat meat out of necessity. To start, I am eating one vegetarian meal a day to acclimatize myself.”
2 | 20 Jan, 2015
story David Chappell | photo used with permission from Nicholas Siew
he Yale-NUS College Rowing Team achieved great success at their first ever rowing competition over the break. The team managed to place third in the semifinals of two categories, the double and single sculls. While many students were still recuperating from a busy semester, Bernie Chen ’18 and Nicholas Siew ’18 headed to Sri Lanka for YaleNUS’s inaugural rowing competition. They decided to make the 73rd Amateur Rowing Association of the East and Far East Amateur Rowing Association Regatta their first. This was a bold move, since it is the second oldest event of its kind in the world. Chen noted the team tried to “keep an open mind,” despite competing against people that were on average much older and more experienced than them. Similarly, the team did not allow the levels of tradition, such as ceremonies, flag raising, and oath taking, to put them off. Chen remarked that they “definitely didn’t feel like [they] were out of place.”
Originally the team had only planned to compete in the double sculls event, but due to the prestige, effort, and fees associated with the Regatta they decided to enter into all eligible events to capitalize on the experience. Chen was concerned that the proximity of his singles race with the doubles may have impinged upon their performance in the doubles. He was, however, optimistic that they can address the problem of overloading when they have more members, as they can divide the team into the races. Siew and Chen are creating a recreational rowing club—separate from the competitive team—to spark interest in the sport. The club will cater to those who are trying a new sport for leisure and also those interested in competing. The Dean of Student’s Office has promised to cover all fees for club members. The team, however, needs funding if it is to represent Yale-NUS regularly. In preparation for the Regatta both Siew and Chen trained twice a week at a local reservoir, but as of yet, the team has not paid the associated fees. Additionally, they are hoping to hire a coach and acquire a rowing machine for the gym. Commenting on the need for funding, Siew, who was recently selected for the Singapore National Squad, said that the rowing club has been contacting the athletics department, but that the process has been slow.
Bernie Chen ’18 and Nicholas Siew ’18 in Sri Lanka.
Nevertheless, they are optimistic that the administration will increasingly support both the club and team as the club gains members. Chen said, “As we progress as a rowing club that has a large focus on recreational rowing towards a more competitive and team focus, we hope that the school will recognize this and support us.” Currently the club has twenty members, while the competitive team has six. The rowing club held its first general meeting on Monday Jan. 19.
LETTER FROM THIS MONTH’S RECOMMENDATIONS:
hough The Octant itself is new, its Arts section is even newer. As such, we are excited to finally have a section dedicated to the arts, but also nervous as we set out, not entirely sure of what this section will become. We might spotlight the many talented individuals within our community; we might publish reviews of the events we’ve recommended; we might even put controversial opinions about the arts on the table – but we certainly promise to strive toward expanding your views of art and what it can be. Here in the Arts section, we aim to bring you the best that the arts have to offer, both within YaleNUS and Singapore. We hope you will disagree with what we will write—it would hardly be art if everyone were to nod in agreement. What then of the trepidation in our maiden voyage? Perhaps Ira Glass’ advice is relevant here. He consoles the emerging artist who worries that their creative work will never match up to their “killer taste” by reassuring them to persevere—eventually one’s work will be as good as one’s ambitions. We look forward to this journey and expanding our killer tastes alongside yours. Sincerely, Kavya Gopal and Abdul Hamid Arts Editors
20 Jan, 2015 | 3
ST. JEROME’S LANEWAY FESTIVAL has grown over the years to become a staple in Singapore’s cultural calendar. Since its inception in 2010, the festival has hosted an eclectic mix of artistes before they gained imminent fame. Look out for Mac Demarco and Future Islands when you’re there! The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay Saturday, Jan. 24 from 11 am onward Tickets $165 each (SISTIC and eventCliQue) Co-pay available through the Rector’s Office
WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT by Nassim Soleimanpour, presented by the 2015 M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. We think this performance will challenge you to reconsider what a theater performance is. Forbidden to travel, the Iranian playwright turns his isolation into a wildly inventive play that distills the experiences of an entire generation—born amid the hardship of the Iran-Iraq war—all with no director, no set and a different guest performer each night. Esplanade Recital Studio, 8 pm Wednesday, Jan. 21 to Saturday, Jan. 24 Tickets $22 each (SISTIC)
EST-CE QU’ON EST Charlie Hebdo? (Are we Charlie Hebdo?) column Kaushik Swaminathan, Tee Zhuo | cartoon Tong Xueyin
n January 7, 2015, two masked gunmen attacked the headquarters of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in apparent response to the publication’s caricature of Prophet Muhammad. They killed 12 people including editor Stephanie Charbonnier, seven Charlie Hebdo employees, and two police officers. A global condemnation of this cowardly attack has since followed, and the magazine, with its often incendiary and controversial content, has become the beacon for freedom of speech/expression — and its protection at all costs. Undoubtedly, freedom of speech must be the cornerstone of any working democracy, but this does not preclude us from recognizing its material as offensive, blasphemous and racist. #JeSuisCharlie is at the center of this debate. The hashtag, which has arisen as a gesture of solidarity and identification with the spirit of the magazine and its right to freedom of speech, has drawn flak. Critics see the hashtag as a careless gesture by users, representing not just support for the magazine’s exercise of the principles of freedom, but also an endorsement of its religiously and racially offensive content. But just as much as we have the right to be offended, publishers (like Charlie Hebdo) have the right to be offensive. One thing is certain: cartoons à la Charlie Hebdo would be harshly dealt with in Singapore. Incidents remind us that a country known for its efficiency, high productivity, cleanliness, and lack of corruption, is also notorious for limiting certain freedoms ostensibly to protect societal values and racial and religious harmony. For example a permit is required to hold public protests — and then only at a fixed venue, Hong Lim Park, ironic in its recognition as an act of freedom of speech. These laws — which organisations like Human Rights Watch have called “draconian” — have intimidating names like “The Sedition Act” and the “Undesirable Publications Act”. Just last year, the Singapore government’s decision to pulp a children’s book inspired by a real-life story of same-sex penguins evoked strong responses, both in the country and international media. In 2013, artist Leslie
Should we be Charlie Hebdo?
Chew was arrested for sedition after posting a cartoon on Facebook in a comic series called “Demon-cratic Singapore”. In 2010, a repairman was jailed for two weeks for placing cards containing questions about Prophet Muhammad on cars he believed belonged to Muslims. He was charged for “injuring the religious feelings of another person”. In 2009, a couple received eight-week jail terms for mailing “seditious or objectionable evangelical Christian comic booklets” — including one titled Who Is Allah? — to Muslims. And the list goes on. Singapore’s questionable freedoms naturally have implications for our college. Yale-NUS’ Core Statement on Freedom of Expression states: “We are firmly committed to the free expression of ideas in all forms...There are no questions that cannot be asked, no answers that cannot be discussed and debated. This principle is a cornerstone of our institution.” But it continues: “However, attacking or disparaging another race, religion or ethnicity is
LETTER TO THE EDITORS
not allowed in Singapore. Singapore has passed numerous laws that prohibit any speech that causes disharmony among various religious or racial groups.” Our school’s dedication to upholding free speech is undeniable, but so is the contradiction of a free speech policy with such a caveat. Even apart from policy, Yale-NUS has generally taken the stance that offensive material should not be published. But practicing a double standard — upholding freedom of speech when it caters to the majority and disparaging it when used by the minority — is an injustice to this privilege right. Following the Charlie Hebdo attack, France was criticised for hypocrisy in its selective application of this right; while the satirical magazine’s cartoons are deemed lawful in France, denial of the Holocaust is punishable by imprisonment. A similar situation exists in Yale-NUS albeit on a different scale. On one hand, the removal of the Occupy Hong Kong elevator posters by campus security was met with condemnation by Yale-NUS students and the swift righting of wrongs. On the other hand, parodies of other posters and the posting of insensitive images were met with calls for removal. Barring incitements to harm or kill, should we cherrypick incidents to stay true to free speech? The conversation on the freedom of speech in Singapore has been — and will continue — evolving as the country matures politically. But how it will evolve is a question without a definitive answer. What is in our control, however, is how we choose to shape the conversation at Yale-NUS — and a conversation must exist. If we continue to silence the non-politically correct members of our community, we betray the principles that we, at least in appearance, place on a pedestal. Brian Beutler of the New Republic summarized it succinctly when he said, we “don’t have to defend acts of blasphemy to defend the right to blaspheme.” If ever there was a sentiment that our school needs to understand, and if not accept at least acknowledge, it is this. For a list of sources, please refer to the online edition of this article.
Send your letter to the editors (maximum word count 150) to email@example.com by 5 P.M. on Friday for the chance to have it published here next week.
CHECK OUT MORE AT: theoctant.org | facebook.com/yncoctant | @yncoctant
4 | 20 Jan, 2015
Volume III Issue 1