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NEWS

VOL. 3, ISSUE 11

TUESDAY, 7 APRIL 2015

YALE-NUS, SINGAPORE

MISMATCHED EXPECTATIONS: CIPE’S SELECTION PROCESSES

Several CIPE opportunities as advertised on its website.

story Li Ting Chan photo Centre for International and Professional Experiences

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everal students have expressed disgruntlement over how the Centre for International and Professional Experiences (CIPE) chooses its program participants, following the release of application results to summer opportunities in the past few weeks. According to Dennis Chiang ’17, there has been general frustration with CIPE’s lack of transparency. He said that some students felt that there is miscommunication with regards to the selection criteria for different programs, such as on prior experience, which made students feel frustrated when rejected. He felt that CIPE needed to communicate their selection criteria more clearly so there will not be false expectations. Such was the case for Goh Si Yuan ’18, who had submitted a proposal to CIPE for a Travel Fellowship after attending a CIPE-organized workshop on proposal writing. After the results were announced and his application rejected, he sought feedback from the then Dean of CIPE Anastasia Vrachnos and realised that CIPE was looking for very different things in Travel Fellowship proposals. “One feedback that we never got from the proposal writing workshop was that you are supposed to write … about group dynamics,” Goh said.

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Students should speak with the respective CIPE program managers if they want to be sure about selection criteria, Senior Manager Adelle Lim emphasized. “There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all approach to [admitting students into] summer programs especially since our offerings are very diverse,” she wrote in an email. While CIPE generally looks at longterm student development, the criteria is also dependent on other factors, such as specific skill sets requested by external organizations, according to Ms. Lim. However, providing CIPE with student feedback is equally important. Sanjana Tadepalli ’17 said that while CIPE could have provided clearer information about selection processes, individuals should take the initiative to give structural feedback. Input on the students’ part can help change things and improve the process in both the short-term and the longterm, she said. The CIPE Student Advisory Council (SAC), which acts as an intermediary between CIPE and the student body, is one such feedback channel. Echoing Tadepalli’s sentiments, Ng Sai Ying ’17, a member of the CIPE SAC, noted that “one of the best things about being in a small start-up school is that we can really tweak the way we do things immediately”.

Although taking these steps might make CIPE’s selection processes more transparent, Christopher Tee ’17, another CIPE SAC member, cautioned that students should not expect too much transparency. CIPE tries to model the real world as closely as possible, Tee explained. “It can’t be so utopian since [that level of transparency] does not exist in the real world,” he said. Meanwhile, students have also started sourcing for alternative summer opportunities. Soh Wee Yang ’17 has since started a group on Facebook, called Alternative Summer Plans, to provide a platform for students to share such programs. “There are many more opportunities out there that are just waiting for us to discover, so we do not all need to compete for the same few limited opportunities,” he said.

Check theoctant.org for coverage of the IRCG, an exchanged article from the Yale Daily News, and a review of Machine.


ARTS/NEWS

ARTS FEST ’15 LEAVES ITS MARK SERVING THE

COMMUNITY AT YALE-NUS

Students contribute their footprints to the Leaving tree.

story May Tay illustration Tong Xueyin

T story Kavya Gopal | photo Bozy Lu

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s Yale-NUS College prepares to move to its new campus next semester, the memories made in its temporary home—Residential College 4 (RC4)—will not be easily forgotten. To commemorate the physical space that the College has inhabited for the last two years, a group of seven students, headed by Director Jevon Chandra ’17, coordinated and organized Arts Fest ’15 which consisted of over thirty events and programs. Arts Fest ’15 was held from March 11–31 in locations around RC4. The festival was structured around the theme ‘Before We Leave’. Various student groups and activities were involved in the festival, such as The Spring Sing organized by the Yale-NUS Singers’ Guild, CANVAS organized by the Visual Arts Society, and a circus workshop held by Circus In Motion, a contemporary circus arts company. Michelle Koh ’17, a member of the planning committee, said, “We ensured there was a wide variety of events to cater to all interests. Even if [students] did not enjoy the performances, they could go for a workshop or talk instead.” The festival was almost entirely studentrun, with the Educational Resources and Technology department supporting students with resources and consultancy. Gurjeet Singh, Senior Manager of Arts, said in an email interview, “That is exactly our intention, that the student community starts projects and we come in to build upon and support.” He said that the festival had been “extremely well executed” and that “there was a great deal of [student] ownership”. Aside from performances and workshops, community art was also a large focus of the festival. According to Koh, these projects were intended to include everyone in the community, and to celebrate RC4 before leaving for the new campus. One example was the creation

of a yarn tree over the course of the festival. Members of the Yale-NUS community were invited to pen their memories of RC4 on memory leaves that were later pinned on the branches of the yarn tree. Another highlight of the festival was the experiential performance Stairwell to Heaven, which converted the stairwell in RC4 into a hub of performances by musicians, actors, and visual artists. Directed by Anne Caroline Franklin ’17, the performance featured artists across a wide range of mediums and invited the audience to climb the stairs to experience it. Tamara Burgos ’18 found the performance “extremely creative”. “Making people perform in such a venue made me rethink the area and the artistic potential it carried with it,” she said. Yet the festival was not always smoothsailing. The passing of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, founding Prime Minister of Singapore, on March 23 led to the postponement of several events such as Off the Page by the Songwriters Society during the week of mourning. Mr. Singh, however, thought that the loss of Mr. Lee, along with the tour at Bukit Brown “extended [the festival’s] theme towards thinking about the legacy each of us leave behind, just as we recognized Mr. Lee’s”. Koh added that the hiatus could have been communicated more effectively as some people mistakenly thought that the festival had been stopped completely. “There was an information breakdown,” she said. The festival came to an end on March 31 with Leaving—a collaborative art experience where students, faculty, and administration painted a large canvassed tree, using their footprints as leaves to symbolize the journey to the new campus. Mr. Singh added, “I am fiercely confident, noticing the ownership, talent, and community I’ve seen thus far, [that] we will leave a legacy indeed.”

he community service scene at YaleNUS College is off to a slow start as students demonstrate lower levels of interest in community work than expected. This trend may change with time, and as the Service Executive Committee (SEC), which seeks to be a network of socially-oriented student groups, revises its role. The level of interest in community service among the student body has been “lower than anticipated”, according to Nhaca Le Schulze, Program Manager for Leadership & Global Citizenship at the Centre for International and Professional Experience (CIPE). She gave the example of “Give Me A Break”, a CIPE initiative for students to spend their mid-semester breaks engaging in community service. Although “rather generous funding [was] available”, no students signed up. The SEC also faced unexpected obstacles due to a lack of student buy-in. Meghna Basu ’17, one of the founding members of the SEC, said that the founders had emailed the student body last semester in hopes of building a central database and website with community service-related contacts. “We started it to try and build a culture of community service at Yale-NUS,” Basu said. Not a single student responded to the request. Students interviewed observed that community service work by the student body consists primarily of individual effort. Basu said that “individual people seem to do quite a bit of stuff independently, but this isn’t being brought into the larger Yale-NUS community”. Li Nanlan ’17, for example, shared that she

Is there a culture of community service at Yale-NUS?

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NEWS/FEATURE currently volunteers with Action for AIDS and Magic Bus, an educational program for underprivileged children. Yet, student organizations with community service objectives also exist at Yale-NUS. The Committee for Appreciating and Meeting the People On Site (CAMPOS) was founded to engage the construction workers and other stakeholders working on Yale-NUS’s new campus. Li said that the CAMPOS does a “great job” of engaging with communities outside of the College. KidsAccomplish, a volunteer-run enrichment program for upper primary students, is another example of a student organization engaging with the community. The program was started by Saza Faradilla ’18 in March 2015. While there is no central group at Yale-NUS that oversees community service, Faradilla said that “people were quite open” to volunteer for KidsAccomplish. Those interviewed suggested reasons for why community service may be less visible on campus. Faradilla said that students could be occupied by other extra-curricular commitments. Ms. Le Schulze said that students may find it difficult to juggle the demands of regular community service alongside student life. She added that public service internships over the summer break are very popular among students at the College. The current situation may be changing as the SEC looks into ramping up their efforts. Seven members of the SEC gathered last Thursday for a “fruitful” and “necessary” discussion, according to Hannah Yeo ’18 of the SEC and founder of Habitat@YNC, a chapter of the Habitat for Humanity movement. Currently, there are ten members in the SEC, most of whom are representatives of service-oriented student groups. Several ideas were suggested during the meeting, such as monthly meetings for members of the SEC, a calendar to coordinate community service-related events for students, and a yearly fair to promote service opportunities to the student body. Students interviewed unanimously agreed that it is important for Yale-NUS students to give back to the community. Li said the student body is in a good position to do so because of its diversity. “We have [many] students who are engaged in other programs in different parts of the world, and they [can] see different faces of [a] problem ... I feel that this kind of variety in ... perspective may shed light on other approaches to solve certain problems,” she said. Yeo said more time could see student groups build up resources and capabilities that will empower them to serve the community better. “It is of utmost importance that service to the community is part of the [Yale-NUS] DNA,” Ms. Le Schulze said. Citing the College’s vision—In Asia, for the world—she said, “If we cannot even be for our own community, how can we be for the world?”

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FACEBOOK FOLLIES

Facebook also strengthens community spirit through interesting and heartfelt posts shared by students.

story Rachel Lim Cheng Woon | photo Pareen Chaudhari

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hen the fire alarm rang at midnight on March 10, Lim Se Ern ’18 was just getting ready for bed. She immediately checked her Facebook to find out what was going on. “Facebook is the platform that connects the student population in the most immediate way,” she explained. The efficiency and convenience of Facebook has made it a dominant communication medium at Yale-NUS College. The Yale-NUS College Students Facebook group, with almost all students and Dean’s Fellows as members, sees more than ten posts daily ranging from information on upcoming events to dining hall opening times. Due to the widespread use of Facebook, many students have used this platform to address issues surrounding the Yale-NUS community. When Peter Lewis ’18 wanted to highlight the problem of second-hand smoke caused by smokers in the sky gardens, he posted on the College Students group, knowing that it was the best way to reach the larger student body. “It worked out really well,” he said. Since then, Lewis has not experienced such incidents. Yet Facebook has also seen polarizing and passive-aggressive discussions. Abel Ang ’17 said that some conversations would not have taken place if not for Facebook, “but at the same time Facebook is not the best place to have to have discussions regarding the kind of community and culture we want to have.” Ang went on to say participants may become more defensive due to the public element of Facebook discussions, whereas “if you have a one-on-one discussion, people are less likely to see it as potential attack on their person [or reputation].” When Lewis was crafting his post, he was aware that it might come across as accusatory and so re-read it several times to ensure it conveyed a friendly tone. He said, “My first goal was to be informative and I did not want

to incite anything … I think Facebook can get rather adversarial because people get caught up in their own emotions, and the platform lends itself more to people writing things they would not say in person.” Indeed, some discussions on Facebook have strained ties in the community. During the fire alarm incident on March 10, many took to Facebook to vent their frustration at being disturbed at night. When students found out that the fire alarm was triggered by burnt toast in a microwave, tensions ran high and many Facebook comments derided the thenunknown individual responsible. Seow Yongzhi ’18, who clarified later that night on Facebook that his actions triggered the fire alarm, said he was surprised at the pace and nature of the discussion after reading the Facebook comments. However, upon reflection, he felt it was understandable as people were upset and wanted answers. Seow believed there should be no policy governing Facebook use in Yale-NUS groups. Rather, “it should be something the students discuss. No one is censoring what you say, but [as] adults, [we] have [to find] more responsible and constructive ways of communicating than being childish, plaintive, and accusatory.” Dean’s Fellow Gina Markle shared that an alternative would be to move these conversations to public and in-person platforms, as was the case in her alma mater Quest University. She said after experiencing how disruptive it was to have such conversations on Facebook, interested parties communicated through town halls and forums instead. Despite Facebook’s pitfalls, the Yale-NUS community is unlikely to move away from the platform in the near future. Lewis said, “I am a reluctant user of Facebook, but whether we like it or not, it is now how we interact with the community and how we stay updated with what is going on.”


OPINION

A HOLLOW CORE

column Soh Wee Yang | illustration Rachel Johanna Lim

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n his 1978 National Day Rally speech, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew warned the state of losing our “Asian roots” that have served as a blueprint for development. He had felt that while Westernization had served Singapore well in terms of industrialization, he also feared that it might create a “moral crisis” for Singapore. In the same vein, is Yale-NUS College currently experiencing a moral crisis? Recent events such as a perceived rude comment at Town Hall, whether our college should apologize to the College of Alice and Peter Tan for triggering the fire alarms, and many other incidents both online and offline have sparked intense debates. The lack of a defined disciplinary structure and a dearth of institutional crackdowns have seen increases in misdemeanors. While some have argued that these incidents were mere clashes in opinion, but this is a convenient excuse for a more fundamental problem: we lack a valuesystem at our core. Yale-NUS is the first institution that I am a part of which does not have fundamental core values. By values, I mean traditional notions such as Integrity, Honesty, Excellence, Humility, Respect and Compassion. Our

current vision, “A community of learning, founded by two great universities, in Asia, for the world”, is ambiguous and vague about what kind of students we are supposed to be, or are supposed to strive to become. We lack an honor code or a code of ethics, and this lack of a strong core has seeped insidiously into other areas of our community learning and living. Many of us are quick to embrace Western ideals and exalt them to such a high degree that we overlook other important principles such as the values that I have mentioned above. We behave like children rejoicing at newfound freedom from the clutches of our parents and the previous institutions we were in; we hold onto the notions of our rights and individual autonomy dearly, and anything that remotely breaches those boundaries offends us. Without a clear value system, championing for notions such as freedom of speech and individual rights is like trying to build a skyscraper on quicksand. For example, the argument that Yale-NUS should be a “bastion of free speech” has surfaced many times, but our community seems to have a very confused and hazy notion of what that entails. Does free speech include or preclude hate speech?

LETTER TO THE EDITORS

If it does, then does it encompass retaliatory censorship and condemnation? Issues that should be given top consideration such as safety in our school are treated so lightly by both students and administration that it has left me dumbfounded. Our students fear surveillance and inspections by the College even when the staff are just inspecting our living quarters for fire hazards. We complain and refuse to cooperate with reasonable regulations to keep the corridors free from obstructions. Whenever a fire alarm is triggered, we react in a lackadaisical fashion, and then blame external factors such as the sensitivity of the fire alarms, instead of reflecting on how we can prevent such incidents from recurring. The half-hearted attitude the College takes to these issues is incredibly worrying. The immense focus we have on individual liberty and autonomy has made us more selfcentered in many ways. In general, people are perpetually late for appointments, and when we are late, we don’t apologize. We are ambitious, but we lack the self-discipline and commitment to carry many of our visions out. We sign up for many activities, but either fail to turn up for them, or pull out once the going gets tough. We adopt the “PitchPerfect” mentality i.e. we expect great results through spontaneity and without having to put in the necessary amount of hard work. We complain about the curriculum, the food, the community life, but when feedback surveys roll in, we ignore them. We need to be incentivized with food to attend events and do things that we ought to have the initiative to do in the first place. Finally, the perennial paradox: we are the “best and brightest”, and yet we cannot seem to clean up after ourselves. The lackluster attitude that the Yale-NUS community possesses towards truly pertinent issues is a ticking time bomb. It is only a matter of time before someone is injured or harmed by the culture of negligence in our college. I recommend that the first step to countering these problems is to construct a shared valuesystem and to remove all forms of incentives that pamper students to do the tasks that we should be doing on our own in the first place. Hopefully, we can cultivate future leaders who are not only highly articulate and talented, but who know how to wash the dishes and leave the toilets in a cleaner state than before they were used.

Send your letter to the editors (maximum word count 150) to general@theoctant.org by 5 pm on Friday for the chance to have it published here next week.

CHECK OUT MORE AT: theoctant.org | facebook.com/yncoctant | @yncoctant

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Volume III Issue 11

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