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NEWS

VOL. 3, ISSUE 8

TUESDAY, 17 MARCH 2015

YALE-NUS, SINGAPORE

MAKING MAJOR DECISIONS: YALE-NUS’S INAUGURAL CLASS DECLARES MAJORS

Yale-NUS major offerings.

story Li Ting Chan | illustration Rachel Johanna Lim

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aving spent most of their past two years taking Common Curriculum courses, the pioneer class at Yale-NUS College has finally declared their majors. While this marks a milestone for sophomores, it is only the first of many in their academic careers. Unlike other Singaporean universities, YaleNUS requires students to declare their major only during their sophomore year. The first two years are spent on building foundations in the liberal arts and sciences, according to the YaleNUS admissions website. Moving forward, professor Nomi Lazar, Head of Studies for Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE), said that it would be wise for sophomores to “meet with the Head of Study and plot out a course path as soon as possible.” According to Ms. Lazar, this will give students a sense of which requirements they have already met and still need to meet. This helps students “make good decisions in terms of course distribution across [their] four remaining semesters,” she said. Sophomores can also expect to be assigned new major advisors, according to Vice-Rector Eduardo Lage-Otero in an email sent to Saga

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College students on March 9. He said that a student’s existing faculty advisor will no longer serve as the official advisor, unless the faculty advisor also happened to be in the faculty for the student’s major. Although the deadline for declaring majors has passed, students may still change their majors. “We don’t want it to be a rigid structure,” Rajeev Patke, Director of the Humanities Division, explained. However, changing majors will be “like a dwindling cone of possibilities,” he said, as different majors will have different prerequisites and students may not have enough time to fulfill them. For many of the students interviewed, choosing majors involved many considerations. “I was having a hard time choosing majors because they all seem so interesting,” said Kevin Low ’17. Eventually, he chose Psychology because its study “covered most of his interests.” For Koh Wei Jie ’17, considering the type of capstone project he preferred to work on was a decisive factor. “I realized that I would be more interested in an anthropology capstone than doing a long essay in philosophy over one

year,” he said. Some students interviewed chose their majors after taking certain classes. Valerie Pang ’17 had planned to major in Global Affairs, but changed her mind after taking the Introduction to Environmental Studies elective last semester. “The most difficult part about deciding to major in Environmental Studies was convincing myself that deviating from my original path was alright,” she said. Hoa Nguyen ’17 found talking to her professors and learning about plans for future courses and faculty hiring through major advising sessions helpful. Catherine Sanger, Vice-Rector of Cendana College, said that efforts to publicize information, organize sophomore advising nights for each college, and arrange major-specific advising sessions were meant to alleviate students’ stress stemming from perceived ambiguity and lack of experience in making such decisions. Dean’s Fellows (DFs) also played an important role in advising students, especially because they had undergone such a process before. “I changed my major twice when I was at the National University of Singapore and didn’t settle on a major until late in semester two of my junior year, so I can definitely empathize,” DF Cher Yumei said. Together with DF Tse Hao Guang, she organized an informal advising session for students in their DF groups. Ms. Sanger added that in the future, one difference would be that “juniors and seniors will be able to share their own experiences.” Many students interviewed ultimately expressed confidence in their chosen majors. Brian Huang ’17 said there are students concerned with how there are only two pure Mathematics professors at present. “Luckily I trust those two professors are doing their jobs pretty well so I’m confident in their ability to construct a pretty strong [Mathematics curriculum] in the future,” he said. Nguyen also said that it was a good sign that some faculty sought feedback from students when planning when to offer certain electives. The window for declaring majors ended on March 13.


NEWS/FEATURE

ALLY WEEK REACHES OUT LAMENTABLE TO YALE-NUS AND BEYOND LEFTOVERS THE FOOD WASTAGE

The opening event of Ally Week, a panel on workplace diversity policies, placed the issue of sexuality in a real-world context.

PROBLEM AT YALE-NUS story Rachel Lim Cheng Woon photo Pareen Chaudhari

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story Lai Ying Tong photo used with permission from YNC Photography

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n March 6, Yale-NUS College saw the launch of its inaugural Ally Week. The event, organized by The G Spot, was the first of its kind at a tertiary institution in Singapore. The G Spot, which works to promote diversity and inclusivity, collaborated with several other student organizations and external groups to organize Ally Week. The event consisted of a series of discussions and activities centered on gender, sexuality, and related issues, with the aim of introducing the concept of allyship. This included a public debate run by the Yale-NUS Debate Society over the role of pornography in empowering women, and a forum where two guest speakers discussed religious faith and the LGBTQ community. The G Spot president Daryl Yang ’18 said he first got the inspiration for Ally Week on the NYU Shanghai exchange in November 2014, when the Queer and Ally Club there shared their experience of organizing an Ally Week. According to Yang, The G Spot is currently the only student organization doing advocacy work about gender and sexuality in Singapore. He raised the example of “Out to Care”, which is the LGBTQA—“A” referring to “Allied” or “Asexual”—student initiative in Singapore Management University. It focuses largely on peer support yet is limited from engaging in advocacy or addressing political issues. The turnout for the event mostly consisted of “non-Yale-NUS students and people who are part of different networks,” said Dean’s Fellow Sara Amjad, who advises The G Spot. The event’s reach beyond the college was a good sign for the organization, she said.

One purpose of Ally Week was to promote discussion not just regarding the LGBTQ community, but also other identities or social issues, such as gender inequality, according to Ms. Amjad. They hoped to accomplish this by engaging other student groups and the YaleNUS community at large, Yang said. Introducing the term ‘ally’ was also an important aim of the event. Members of The G Spot who were interviewed expressed that allyship does not require outright support for the causes brought up throughout the week, since that would alienate all those who did not support feminism or LGBTQ rights. “My understanding of ‘ally’ has been broadened and opened,” Hillary Loh ’18 said, after attending two Ally Week events. “It’s your willingness to have open discourse, and … to express a friendship or a relationship with a person who may be the opposite of you in some very personal ways.” Nur Diyanah Binte Kamarudin ’18, who serves as Vice President of Research & Advocacy at The G Spot, said she also hoped the event would “discard this stereotype that The G Spot is an organization that is not friendly and won’t listen to you.” Meredith Jett ’18 hopes Ally Week’s impact will extend beyond the event. The events she attended “all started conversations ... I hope that that can be a take away.” she said. “That we’re all willing to engage in [such discussions] on both sides.” Responding to whether there should be an Ally Week next year, Ms. Amjad said, “Absolutely. I think it’s been very successful and I really, really hope that this is something that we continue.”

eftover food in SR4 from a major advising session!” a post on the YaleNUS College Students Facebook Group announced. Holly Apsley ’18 rushed down to find pastries and pasta and brought some up for her suitemates. In the recent weeks, Facebook announcements on excess catered food from school events have appeared almost daily on the College group. While some food is consumed quickly, others are left in large amounts in floor kitchens, the Shiok Shack or common lounges, only to be thrown away. Food is also wasted in the dining hall. Twelve kg is thrown away by Yale-NUS diners every lunch service, according to Alejandro Puno, Compass Group’s Unit Manager for the dining hall Yale-NUS shares with the College of Alice and Peter Tan (CAPT). At each breakfast and dinner service, diners dispose of an average of 30 kg of non-halal food and 15 kg of halal food. These figures were from February data. A college-wide survey conducted by I’dECO—the Yale-NUS sustainability movement—over November to December 2014 saw 50.5% of the 95 respondents reporting wastage of a quarter or more of their food. This equates to one-eighth of a meal wasted per person. Unsatisfactory quality of food and servings that were too large were the main reasons why people wasted food, according to the survey. On the issue of serving size, the Dean of Students (DoS) Kyle Farley intends for most meals to be self-service in the new campus, which could reduce food wastage due to staff dishing out too much food. Over-catering is another primary reason why food is wasted, both in the dining hall and at college events. Mr. Puno said that

Above: Unfinished dining hall food is one of the main sources of food wastage.

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FEATURE/ARTS approximately 20% of vegetables and 5% of meat prepared at the start of each meal service are thrown away. “At the end of every service, we see a huge wastage in vegetables,” he said. According to Mr. Puno, the dining hall staff have started cooking in batches in order to estimate more accurate portions. Moreover, when the dining hall is booked for an event, pre-packed meals catered for Yale-NUS students are often unfinished. Mr. Puno lamented that for CAPT’s Valentine’s Day Dinner in February, the dining hall prepared pre-packed meals for 260 students, but only 171 turned up. Mr. Farley explained that he informs the dining hall to prepare fewer meals in advance, if necessary. With a new dining hall contract at the new campus, the DoS Office will have more control over operations, and student representatives will meet with the company regularly to give feedback. Currently, student feedback is not given in a formal representative capacity. According to Mr. Farley, sustainability will also feature more prominently: all of the companies bidding for the contract had to include sustainability initiatives in their bids. Over-catering food also occurs at many student-organized events, talks and academicadvising sessions due to overestimating turnout. Mr. Farley said that over-catering occurs for a variety of reasons: exams, sickness, or other commitments, resulting in a lesser turnout than expected. Melody Madhavan ’17, Director of Publicity and Design of the Yale-NUS International Relations and Political Association (YIRPA) agrees that it is hard to estimate portions, especially for larger events. “Usually we order food for about 90% of the turnout. Let’s say there are forty people coming to the event, we estimate that 35 will come and then we order for about 30 to 35 [portions]. For very large conferences, it is a lot harder to estimate.” But under-catering is not always a good option. Mr. Farley said, “Then people are frustrated, and you don’t want people frustrated at an event especially when it is for a speaker.” He said that the DoS Office uses existing information “to order as accurately as we can, while being optimistic about student turnout.” Not all food is wasted when turnout at events is dismal. Leftovers are partially consumed by students before the remainder is thrown away. Apsley said, “I am glad that people post on Facebook when there is extra food rather than tossing it out, so that hungry, frugal college students can finish what was already paid for.” Food remains an important part of events at Yale-NUS. Mr. Farley explained, “Food is a beautiful way to build community ... There is something about food that encourages people to mingle, to talk to each other in an informal way ... The role of the DoS Office is to build community and food will be one of the central things we use to build community.” Yale-NUS will only grow in size, and food

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will continue to play a central role in the countless activities and events to come. Kwok Yingchen ’18, Vice-President (Research) of I’dECO, is hopeful about the College’s efforts in moving towards greater food sustainability. He said, “I really think that Yale-NUS has a special place in trying to move not only itself but possibly Singapore as a whole in a more sustainable direction.”

NOSTALGIA IN THE SINGAPOREAN SHORT FILM story Theodore Lai photo Pareen Chaudhari

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he short film is the moving image in its most elegant manifestation. It shies away from the eyes of mainstream media and speaks to the most private of our emotions. Like poetry, it talks in riddles and rhyme. The genius behind the short film is its ability to deliver a message, experience or emotion in a matter of minutes with the scarcest resources. This is why the best short films are those that impart the longest impressions. They compress the infinite mess of life into the briefest of moments. Such enigmatic works of expression are familiar to the National University of Singapore (NUS) art scene. Just last month, a series of short films made their public debut in the University Town Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium. The films were selections from the 6th Singapore Short Film Awards, and featured work by film graduates, professors and freelance filmmakers. Entitled Degrees of Affinity, the screening emphasized the theme of Relationships. From a broken romance to the celebration of family, the selections wrestled with difficult

Above: Nostalic sepia filters fail to work with modernity.

feelings and reenacted fond memories of Singapore’s past. Much like essays on emotion, they revealed the nostalgia present in the personality of each work. Be it the grainy flashbacks of childhood memories, or the resurrection of culturally rich physical spaces, Singaporean short films tend to reminisce about the past. But is this becoming a formulaic trope? “It just seems like we keep harking back to the past, trying to grasp at the winds of inevitable change,” Janel Ang ’17, a member of the YNC Filmmakers, said in an interview conducted online. Bittersweet emotion is compulsory for short films to work. But wistfulness is slowly transforming into tired melodrama, evident in the sepia filters and archaic backdrops that dominate short film cinematography. “While this is highly appealing on the aesthetic side of things, I really hope more filmmakers will push the limits of reminiscing beyond the humble tau sa piah (bean paste biscuits, a delicacy defining of Singapore’s heritage),” Ang added. Surely good films can be created without the need to constantly examine our past. So, why is this a trend? Consider the physical spaces available to filmmakers working under the burden of creating poignancy. “[Nostalgia] is a reaction by artists to the constant renewal and redevelopment of Singapore’s urban environment that may leave one disoriented and perplexed,” said Timothy Chua ’17, a budding filmmaker, in an online interview. Perhaps nostalgia isn’t a quick-fix solution to filmmaker’s block, but a necessary spark for emotion in a country advancing faster than we can follow. “The rapidity of the Singapore lifestyle makes it hard for us to arrive and settle at an encapsulated idea of culture,” Ang said. The filmmaker is thus trapped by the modernity of his own workspace, to the effect that he turns to nostalgia to produce films that can once again tug at heartstrings. But is the Singaporean short film cursed to live in the past? “Our country moves forward too quickly and film is a very potent medium for capturing memories,” Jevon Chandra ’17, a member of YNC Filmmakers, said in an interview online. Like an old photo album, it seems that the short film has become a sanctuary for reminiscing amid the buzz of urban life. Such a purpose requires the short film to represent our past, but it is certainly capable of much more. “Filmmakers should present work in refreshing and bold ways, rather than sticking to certain genres which are already well-received,” Chua argued. If Singaporean film refuses to face forward, we force the art form further into its rut of nostalgia. All film does then is chase old demons, capturing our dissatisfaction with contemporary culture and feeding our obsession with a world we can never return to. Perhaps it’s about time Singaporean short films started living in the present. Ang psaid, “It’d be interesting if someone made a film in a shopping mall instead.”


OPINION

SOUL TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER column and photo Adam Goh

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hen President Pericles Lewis first announced that our residential colleges (RC) would be renamed from RC1, RC2 and RC3 to Saga, Elm and Cendana respectively, many of us felt a sense of loss. We had grown attached to our former names—including freshmen, who had barely spent a month here—and even today, some still refer to our RCs as RC1, 2 and 3. With the lack of student engagement from the leadership, most of us did not understand the meanings behind the individual trees, and could not identify with our respective names. History seems set to repeat itself as the leadership considers renaming the RCs once again, this time after donors to the college. Just as Singapore naval vessels are named after admirable traits that the crew should possess, the names of our residential colleges should represent what our community values. How can we do so if the leadership unilaterally chooses names for our residential colleges? We found it hard to relate to trees; how well will we be able relate to donors whom most of us have barely heard of ? Residential colleges are a defining feature of the Yale-NUS College experience, and building our individual RC identities is an important part of it. As we continue to forge our RC identities, we must choose permanent names that build upon, rather than destroy, what we currently have. Suppose we choose to name our RCs after donors: how many of us will be able to confidently explain the significance behind those names, and with true conviction? Our RC names should represent our community— and that certainly cannot be reduced to dollars and cents. Donors may help build the physical infrastructure, but we students are the ones who bring life to the college. Our contributions to the college, both tangible and intangible, are by no means insignificant. Should we not have a say in this? We have the opportunity to give our RCs names that hold special meaning to the community, yet we are contemplating throwing that opportunity away in favor of giving—no, selling—naming rights to people or organizations we are unable to identify with.

A saga tree at the entrance to the construction site of the new campus, with the three RC buildings in the background.

Granted, naming residences after donors as a form of recognition for their contributions is an established practice in institutions around the world (two examples being Berkeley College in Yale University and our neighbor, College of Alice & Peter Tan). But why are we restricting our definition of contributions? As a start-up college, we need not follow in the footsteps of other established colleges in recognizing only tangible contributions. Many in our community have made significant intangible contributions to our college: the college leadership, faculty, staff, and even students. It is the community here, not donors, that has shaped Yale-NUS to what it is today, and will continue to shape what it will be in the future. What better way to honor the pioneering spirit of our inaugural college body than to name our RCs after members of our community? This is but one of the ways to make our names relatable not only to us, but to future generations of YaleNUS students. I am confident we can come up with other ideas as well. I am not against the recognition of donors, whose contributions to the college cannot be discounted. There are ample opportunities to

show our appreciation to them. Scholarships, grants, and fellowships are named after their benefactors, and it is hard to imagine that we cannot find other naming opportunities on our new campus, such as sports halls, auditoriums or classrooms. Our RCs, however, are more than just concrete and steel; they are where we forge our closest friendships, find exciting opportunities, and fight for intramural glory. In essence, they form a part of our identities for these four years (and beyond). This identity should be something we create, not something that the leadership decides fits its agenda. When our residential colleges were first renamed, students had little say. We should not allow that to happen again. Many of us chose to come to Yale-NUS to build a college identity from scratch, and we have the perfect opportunity to do so now, by making our views on our permanent RC names heard. Talk to people who have a say in this: your Rector, Vice-Rector, student representatives in the Residential College Advisory Committee, and Student Government representatives. We need to take ownership over our residential colleges—let us start with our names.

Correction: Volume III Issue 7 dated March 10, 2015. It has come to our attention that the article “Artistic development in the Liwa desert” reported that Glen Kilian Koh ’18 said students spent less time on writing and improving their writing during the UAE trip. However, while students were asked to do many free-writing exercises to get ideas on the page before reflecting upon them, writing and improvement of their writing were also key focuses of the trip.

LETTER TO THE EDITORS

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.

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