VOL. 3, ISSUE 9
TUESDAY, 24 MARCH 2015
Condoms are available within sexual safety kits in each common lounge.
story Scott Currie | reporting Yonatan Gazit | photo Pareen Chaudhari
t the end of its second year, Yale-NUS College has yet to put forward any sexual health or education policies for students. However, that is set to change as the College looks into hiring a Health Coordinator, and explores the possibility of including coverage of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) testing in the student insurance. In the meantime, student-based initiatives have been the main source of sexual health awareness campaigns. The University Health Centre at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has the capacity for sex-related care, but that is limited to medical assistance. The NUS Counseling and Psychological Service can provide sexual health advice upon consultation. Although Yale-NUS has a Wellness Centre, its only sex-oriented policy is that of sexual misconduct and support for victims. Beyond those services, Yale-NUS has no publicly available documentation with regard to sexual health awareness or safe sex programs. Dean of Students Kyle Farley said the College does not seek to condemn or endorse sex, but rather aims to encourage “healthy relationships” and ensure students are well informed in this regard. He said students can also approach the Wellness team, consisting of two psychologists, Senior Manager of Wellness Sha-En Yeo, and Dean’s Fellows. They undergo “intensive training ... that includes being
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sensitive to issues surrounding sexual health”. Yeo said in an email that she could not provide a comment in time for this article’s publication. Although Yale-NUS sponsors events to promote awareness, students interviewed remained skeptical about their impact. Mr. Farley gave examples of a Rector’s Tea by a sexologist in Nov. 2013, and sexuality-related sessions held by the Association of Women for Action and Research in 2014, but Megan Chua ’18 said the latter sessions “really just skimmed … [and] didn’t really talk about the real aspect of sexual health.” In the meantime, The G Spot, a student advocacy group promoting diversity and inclusivity, remains the primary sexual health educational resource in the College, having organized multiple related events since its inception in 2014. The group also stocks all common lounges with sexual safety kits consisting of condoms, lubricants and pamphlets on sexual health. Changes may be underway as the Office of the Dean of Students (DoS) looks into altering students’ insurance package. “As we reevaluate ... I think looking at coverage for [STI] testing is something we could look into,” said Mr. Farley. He also said the College intends to hire a Health Coordinator, a qualified medical professional who will work with the Wellness Centre and Dean’s Fellows on student health. Students interviewed agreed that more
sexual health education and support is necessary. “One might be surprised at how many people don’t know basic information about sexual health, or have misconceptions which can be dangerous to themselves and others,” said Koh Wei Jie ’17. Chua suggested having more sexual health workshops centred around different methods of birth control, and “on how being sexually active is a perfectly okay thing”. Luke Ong ’18 said he approached the DoS with a proposal for a condom dispenser on the new campus. “[Sex education] is not something we should be ashamed of … In Singapore it [used to be] kind of taboo to talk about [but] now it’s not so bad,” he added. Should the proposal go through, it will be a first for Singaporean college campuses. In comparison, Yale University has a more specific and comprehensive sexual health program. Testing for STIs is free, even for those who have waived insurance. Their educational program includes a guide to safer and healthier sex, according to the Yale Health website. Cautioning against making direct comparisons with colleges in the United States, Mr Farley said, “We are creating our own community and our own institution, and part of that is to be sensitive to where we are physically located in that community.” Moving forward, Mr. Farley called for more student input in developing sexual health policies. “We’re here for a holistic education and it helps to know what education our students are looking for,” he said.
YALE-NUS TO SELECT DINING HALL VENDORS IN NEW CAMPUS story Ying Tong Lai photo Pareen Chaudhari
ale-NUS College will decide on a dining hall vendor for its new campus by early May 2015. This decision will be made by the Office of the Dean of Students and the Dining Advisory Committee (DAC) with student input. The final vendor chosen will supply meals in the dining hall for two years, with the possibility of extending its contract for an additional year. At the time of publication, Dean of Students
NEWS/FEATURE Kyle Farley confirmed that the options have been narrowed down to three vendors. There will also be a cafe in the new campus, which will be run by either the dining hall vendor or a third party. The DAC was formed in early February, and consists of five students, four Dean’s Fellows, Mr. Farley and Student Life Manager Chris O’Connell. At present, the DAC has moved on to food tastings, Mr. Farley said. The final decision will be based on feedback from the tastings, suggestions from the DAC, and proposals by vendors. The official contract will be signed by the President of the National University of Singapore (NUS), Professor Tan Chorh Chuan. Dean’s Fellow Vanessa Kim, a member of the DAC, said the dining experience is an important part of college life at Yale-NUS, and “the food we provide has to be in line with this experience”. “We want people to stay as long as they want … and have a conversation that they’re interested in or meet new people,” she said. The College intends to find a vendor that is receptive to suggestions. Ms. Kim said that discussions with vendors on the dining
Above: Dinner being served to a student in the current RC4 dining hall.
experience at the College happened before food tasting. “In our first conversation, we picked up on how receptive … they are about working with us. That’s the framework and the foundation,” she said. Student input is taken seriously in the decision-making process. Already, student feedback has seen changes in the dining hall at Residential College 4, such as the addition of a “waffle station, … salad station, sandwich station [and] drinks that are soy products,”
A TELLING VOICE
For Ms. Vrachnos (rightmost), family is a priority.
story Anna Evtushenko photo used with permission from Anastasia Vrachnos
ith Anastasia Vrachnos, Dean of the Centre for International and Professional Experience (CIPE), you never know what to expect. I came to speak to her for a feature profile before she leaves Yale-NUS College, and was suddenly invited along to pick up her kids
from preschool. Ms. Vrachnos leaves at the end of March to join Princeton University as Vice Provost for International Affairs and Operations. As the inaugural Dean of CIPE, she led a team committed to providing local and international academic, research and professional opportunities for students. In an
according to Roslyn Teng ’18, a member of the DAC. Margaret Schumann ’17, another DAC member, said the committee is working on a college-wide survey to collect feedback on the current dining hall vendor and suggestions for the dining hall at the new campus. According to Schumann, some student feedback regarding the current dining hall include concerns with the lack of vegetarian options, quality of meat, amount of sugar in drinks and amount of oil in food. “Not many people have approached us, but we’d love to hear [more] feedback,” she added. The budget per meal at the new dining hall is set to change. Currently, breakfast and lunch are provided under an NUS contract at a budget of $8 for breakfast and dinner combined, according to Mr. Farley. The College’s budget for each lunch meal stands at about $10. He said the new per-meal budget will be decided in about three weeks. The move to the new campus may be a valuable experience. “I think the transition to the new campus will provide the opportunity to sort of reset the whole system, and we may have a very different quality of food because of the price change,” said Schumann.
email to students, she explained that she was leaving to live closer to extended family and serve her alma mater. “How are you feeling right now?” I asked. She laughed and said, “That’s a hard one. I’m thrilled for the adventure ahead. At the same time, I’m leaving feeling like I will never have an environment that suits me as well as this one: working with students who are so pioneering, and faculty who are so entrepreneurial and willing to work collaboratively … This will always remain a most special time in my life. Both personally and professionally, two and a half years of Yale-NUS equals a decade-worth of things I have learned and experienced. “I have to say that another amazing thing about Yale-NUS is the level of appreciation and intimacy with the students and the amount of handwritten notes I’ve gotten … For those of us who have worked in different educational institutions, having a relationship like that with students, between students and between colleagues—it’s irreplaceable. I hope we continue to work on it at Yale-NUS—making more explicit the habits of our best selves.” As we picked up Kiki and Zoe, three and one respectively, from preschool, she said, halfjokingly: “Parenting is experiential learning to the nth degree. It just takes it to a whole new level. Living in Singapore has been so incredible for our young family: the safety, but more importantly the multiculturalism–that’s something I will really miss in Princeton. Ask my daughter what her favorite food is and
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FEATURE/SPORTS it’s satay, Chinese noodles and sushi. And she insists on eating sushi with chopsticks, a threeand-a-half-year-old!” Ms. Vrachnos has previously worked as a teacher, investment banker and photojournalist, so I asked how she got into the international experience sphere. She said, “[I was] teaching [English] in the Bronx, which was a high-needs district of New York City … And then [Princeton in Asia] started looking for an executive director and I was thinking ‘what a great job that would be’… and then ‘Could I?.. Nooo.’ And then I was like ‘Oh well, what the heck, my name rhymes with Asia, I should try’. “My background for that was very nontraditional, though investment banking really helped. I’d recommend that your path is nonlinear—with experiences that help you grow but which people also recognize as valuable.
Because when you go and do something that they don’t recognize, you have something to fall back on that’s a common currency, and that’s really helpful,” she said. When we stopped at Kent Vale to drop off her children, I noticed that her apartment was almost empty. “We’ve been living like this for three weeks … Basically camping, because all our stuff is already on the boat going back to Princeton. This sort of mental and physical paring down to things that actually mean something to you is a great human exercise. And you guys will have that opportunity soon,” Ms. Vrachnos said. As we were about to return to campus, she added: “I’d like to say two things. Firstly, about the CIPE team: the measure of success in a role like mine is how quickly you make yourself obsolete. You build a team with diversity and different points of view and see what ideas
they bring to the table. And then you can leave and let them run free. I feel like leaving now is the best, because CIPE is in an incredible place and will be able to sustain itself. “I’d also like to bring up what one of the students sent to me: ‘In a way it’s good that you’re leaving, because a lot of us have come to rely on you to push us out of our comfort zones, and now we need to step up and do it ourselves’.” Quotes have been edited for clarity and concision.
Check theoctant.org for articles on the Fifth Wall, this week’s shared article from the Yale Daily News, and a letter to the editor.
TROUBLED WATERS FOR THE YALE-NUS CREW story Josh Ragbir | photo Nicholas Siew
he Yale-NUS College rowing team lost a combined total of twenty kilograms in three weeks to make regulation weight for what would have been their second rowing competition—but their competition ended before their boats touched the water. The competitors, Nicholas Siew ’18, Bernie Chen ’18, Shaun Tan ’17, and Captain and Founder Linus Seah ’17, were scheduled to compete in the fours 1000m at the Asia Cup 1 Rowing Regatta last week, an event organized as a trial event prior to the 28th South East Asia Games 2015. They were prevented from doing so due to mistakes made by their current team manager, according to the team. The team currently signs up for competitions under the EASTer Rowing Club (ERC), a club that organizes both social and competitive rowing training. Their team manager comes from the ERC. According to Seah in an email interview, this is because “Yale-NUS Crew [does] not have the funding nor the resources to hire a personal team manager (which most rowing clubs do)”. Coordinators of events relay information to team managers who in turn inform their members, in order to streamline the dissemination of information. Seah said that the team manager from the ERC “did a very bad job” of communicating with the team, referencing two specific cases. Firstly, the team was originally supposed to enter in two events, with Chen and Siew also competing in the double scull 500m, but their team manager failed to register them despite multiple reminders from the team members. Seah said this was “entirely due to the unprofessionalism of the team manager”.
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Chen ’18 and Siew ’18 (not pictured) represented Yale-NUS in its first ever rowing competition over the break, reached the semi-finals in two events.
Secondly, information “relayed shoddily” by the team manager regarding the location, coupled with the manager’s failure to inform them of a change in the race timing resulted in the team’s disqualification from their only race, Seah said. Seah thinks that this could have been avoided with better administrative structures. He said, “The most frustrating thing is the lack of accountability. There is no one that [the team] can turn to to hold [the manager] accountable for his mistakes.” Although appropriate feedback was given to the Singapore Rowing Association, who organized the event, Seah is skeptical about whether anything will actually be done about the problem. Seah admitted that there was little that Yale-NUS’s Athletics Department could have done, but was hopeful that increased funding
for competitive teams to engage a coach or manager will help avoid similar mistakes in the future. Seah explained that, “Every athlete really just wants to train and play their sport.” The Athletics Department is working toward “ramping up its protocols and trying to provide more support to competitive athletics teams,” according to Seah. Despite facing these setbacks, Yale-NUS Crew members remain committed to competing for Yale-NUS. Seah said that competing with teammates he was familiar with was the main reason he started a rowing club at college instead of applying to the National Team. The rowing team’s first competition was the the 73rd Amateur Rowing Association of the East and Far East Amateur Rowing Association Regatta, where they made it to the semifinals in both the double and the single sculls.
IDEALS DON’T MAKE KITCHENS CLEAN AND SAFE story Jessica Teng | photo illustration Tong Xueyin
ale-NUS College is preparing for our move to the new campus. As such, there is a renewed urgency to discuss sustainable solutions that address the slew of problems threatening the habitability of our environment. Our kitchens are a case in point. Since last semester, angry Facebook comments denouncing the insidious draining of milk cartons and miraculous disappearances of protein powder have become an “inevitable” part of our residential culture. Greasy stoves, unwashed crockery and rotting food are daily struggles for those determined enough to use this space, even as the rest of us avoid it by buying our own mini-fridges or throwing in the apron altogether. Dennis Chiang ’17’s radical proposal1 of banning irresponsible students from accessing common spaces may be unfeasible, but highlights simmering discontent. Thus far, trumpeting the ideals of “collective responsibility” and “a community of trust” have produced little tangible result beyond rejuvenating our feel-good factor. With only one kitchen facility per Residential College (RC) next year, and an increase in student numbers, failure to do so can only result in more mess, more mold and more thefts. It is time to look at pragmatic solutions that can actually improve kitchen cleanliness and safety. Student Government representative Nyang Bing Lin ’18 mentioned that solutions for kitchen cleanliness will likely differ from RC to RC, as determined by the Residential College Activity Committee. She shared preventive measures that Vice-Rector Chew Suyin suggested for Elm, such as a booking system to track kitchen use. Although this might deter students from leaving their mess for the next user, its enforcement needs to be further discussed. Will we stop students from using it without a booking? How can we ensure that all students book it before use without making facilities less accessible? For retrospective solutions, Benjamin Leong ’17 suggested a schedule that ropes in the entire community by assigning suites kitchen cleaning duty2. This can result in cleaner kitchens, but it is unfair to impose a mandatory cleaning duty on every student regardless of their kitchen usage. Although mandatory cleaning can be a mutually agreed transference of duty among individuals under the ideal of “collective responsibility”, its imposition on students without kitchen usage is effectively a punishment under the burden of “collective guilt”. Furthermore, while the community expects students to clean up after themselves, there should not be an obligation for individuals to clean up after others. The
altruistic can form a volunteer kitchen-cleaning army if they wish, but they should not distort altruism from a freely given act that it is for the pursuit of “collective responsibility”. Ultimately, some sacrifice of ideals is necessary to pave the way for result-oriented solutions. Irresponsible individuals will always exist, but an effective way to increase cleanliness despite them is to request that cleaners integrate kitchens into their daily cleaning routine with increased compensation if necessary. School policy indicates that common spaces, such as toilets and laundry rooms, fall under their job scope3. It is not clear why kitchens are excluded. Although this solution does not encourage personal responsibility, the trade off in our ideals gives us efficacy. Solutions that directly encourage personal responsibility either incentivize or punish. If a habitable kitchen and the community’s gratitude are not compelling reasons for the irresponsible to keep kitchens clean, it is unlikely that other incentives will work. CCTVs should also be viewed more positively as tools that not only deter thefts but increase kitchen safety. The inevitable intrusion into our privacy is justified if it encourages more responsible behavior, since the perpetrators of crimes can be easily traced. The myth that surveillance is not allowed in the kitchens is just that—a myth. In an email interview, Rector Brian McAdoo stated that there is currently no official policy but he believes the problem is “better solved by discussing community standards and building an atmosphere of mutual trust”. It is understandable for the administration to favor such methods. However, they have yet to provide satisfactory solutions to the scarily
frequent cases of kitchen theft. Restricting lift access to offices and locking the main doors at night both operate on the comfortable assumption that culprits cannot be from our community. If thefts continue, stronger measures must be taken. Otherwise, it sends the signal that the school prizes idealism over tangible improvements to student life. Moreover, CCTVs are a simple solution that surpasses troublesome booking systems. Although a multifaceted approach is needed, their mere presence tackles both security and cleanliness problems by removing anonymity and creating the pressure that produces socially desirable behavior. In making our residential experience more enjoyable, we should not quickly dismiss “draconian” solutions that undermine our ideals. All solutions come with their limitations. Nevertheless, even if it is under the watch of a CCTV, a kitchen that is safe and clean, where all students can leave their items in the common fridge without qualms, arguably does more to foster community spirit than anything we have right now. 1 This suggestion was mentioned on Yale-NUS Ideas Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ groups/868935636498064 2 This suggestion was mentioned on Yale-NUS Ideas Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ groups/868935636498064 3 “Students are responsible for cleaning their own rooms and the common kitchens. Although bathrooms and commons spaces will be cleaned by housekeeping staff, students are advised to help keep these spaces clean.” Taken from the Yale-NUS website under “General Housing Guidelines”: http://studentlife.yale-nus.edu.sg/ residential-living/housing-guidelines
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Volume III Issue 9