Recently, I can’t go on Facebook without seeing posts or be asked in real life by family and friends about the whole sexualised/risque nature of NUS uni camps. (For more info: see here).
Now, while I don’t agree with the blanket ban on all orientation activities – I think it sets a dangerous precedent but hey this is Singapore – I find it troubling to see numerous posts on Facebook from acquaintances defending these camps to the core. You would think it was their religion or something when you read some of them. I know standing up for your beliefs is important and all but guys, pick your battles. Life is too short to be arguing constantly. Most of these posts are saying oh these things didn’t happen in MY camp in which I was part of the ExCo so of course it doesn’t happen in the whole of NUS (which consists of numerous departments and faculties). Just because it didn’t happen in your camp doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen at all. This all feels eerily similar to victim-blaming of those that were sexually assaulted or harassed tbh. It’s not helping to solve the problem of sexualised forfeits in camps.
While the camps that I attended freshman year were not as horrible as those mentioned in the media or those that I heard stories of from my friends, I remember having a cultural shock when OGLs brief us the games and the possible forfeits that we have to go through. Even the most memorable and enjoyable one – Tembusu Orientation Camp – was not spared. There was a game where teams have to go through an obstacle course made of ropes where it inevitably ended in members being transported from one point to another by other members – basically strangers met just hours ago – and having no control over where they’re being touched. I was so nervous once I saw what I had to go through but I just kept quiet and braced myself. Looking back, I know I should have spoken up and said I was not comfortable but I guess I just wanted to fit in. Everything was so new to me back then and so different. There was also a Blind Date night game where everyone is blindfolded and the OGLs match us up and bring us to different parts of UTown. Thankfully, I was paired with someone nice (in fact, someone I was crushing on) but still.
Overseas readers might think, ah this sounds very tame actually, but you have to understand that Singapore is pretty conservative. Being brought up in such an environment, I consider myself pretty conservative as well. We didn’t have such games throughout our entire 18 years of education so seeing all these games once we entered uni, I can understand why many freshmen and parents were shocked.
Another thing I’d like to add before ending my response is that many posts I’ve seen have said how orientation camps were how they forged friendships. While that is true, the way they say it seems to imply that these camps are the only way to make friends in uni. That once school starts, it’s oops you missed your chance be a loner the next 4 years. That is just preposterous. Only 350+ FASS students out of an assumed 1000 attend such camps each year. Does that mean the majority of students go on their uni life without making friends? Please. Camps may be the stepping stone to creating friendships but taking similar classes and going through the struggle of studying and earning that degree is also another great way to make friends. In fact, most of my uni friendships were made with people I wasn’t close to/hadn’t met in camps. So please, stop the exaggeration. I know you’re upset with the blanket ban (and rightfully so) but do not make the situation worse with dramatic statements. It doesn’t help your cause nor the university’s.