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Yet again: NUS investigating case of students stripping at Siloso Beach

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NUS made headlines again ever since the last hoo-ha two years ago after sexualised orientation camp games and inappropriate behaviour in camps were reported which sparked a public furore.

National University of Singapore

The incident was reported to have taken place at Siloso beach on Sentosa on 4 June 2018, one day after the hall’s orientation camp ended. The people involved in the unofficial orientation outing at Sentosa was from NUS’ Kent Ridge Hall.

Students who were queried told the media that the objective of the game was for teams to lay out the longest line of clothes on the beach. To achieve the set-out target, the participating students had to wade into the water to take off their clothes. There were about 50 students in the outing at that time.

The university noted that the activity took place during a private event.

Camp Blue Blood, an orientation camp organised by Kent Ridge Hall on 2nd and 3rd June 2018, invited students for an outing on 4th June 2018 and were instructed not to wear any clothing that would reveal their identity as NUS students.

A resident fellow of the hall was always on site to oversee the students during the camp.

Eight groups of students from the orientation camp had to compete to form the longest line of clothing in one of the games.

Many male students allegedly stripped naked in the sea and tossed their clothes on to the beach.

A female participant shared that a female senior from her group tossed her shirt and bra to the beach while covering her chest with a hand.

The woman’s action shocked some male students, but she apparently just “laughed it off”.

“Initially, the girls were told they did not have to take off anything if they were not comfortable, but they felt pressured to do so after some seniors and freshmen called for more pieces of clothing in their attempts to win,” said the female participant, who wanted to remain anonymous.

“But because it’s a game, people started getting competitive, and when your team is losing, you’ll feel a bit of peer pressure to help the team win. The whole concept of the game didn’t make sense to me.”

At the end of the game, that involved some 40 people, she added that half of the male students were naked in the water.

 

Subsequently, a few other female students took off their tops while in the water, wearing only their beachwear or underwear.

Other participants also shared that many students, including men, were shocked and uncomfortable.

One of them said they were relieved when a group facilitator “had the sense” to intervene.

“He told us to stop as some people had gone too far by stripping naked.”

Ravinderpal Singh, criminal lawyer of Kalco Law and managing director of Hilborne Law, said that any kind of public nudity that is visible to other people is illegal. He cautioned that the game could have been regarded as a criminal offence in the eyes of the law.

He said: “Even though it may just be in the sea, it is still considered as a public place. If any of the students did indeed remove all their clothes, then it can be a criminal offence. But of course, someone needs to lodge a complaint for the police to take action. The police will assess the situation and take action on a case-by-case basis.”

“The law does not differ whether the nudity occurs on land or water, as long as it is visible or seen by the public.”

NUS stepped up and responded that it was unaware of the incident because no beach activity was declared as part of the orientation camp.

“The university takes a serious view of offensive and inappropriate behaviour by any of our students,” its spokesman said in a statement.

“Based on our initial checks with the students involved, they stopped the game when some students behaved inappropriately.

“The university does not condone any behaviour or activity that denigrates the dignity of individuals. We are carrying out a thorough investigation into the matter and strong disciplinary action will be taken against those found responsible.”

Orientation organisers from Kent Ridge Hall declined to comment.

In 2016, the media carried news on orientation activities in NUS involving sexual chants and re-enactment of a rape. The girls were also being humiliated into revealing whose bodily fluids they would like to drink.

NUS then took action, upon investigation, against 30 senior students – suspending some, making others do community service of up to 100 hours and fined up to $2,000.

The university of received similar complaints in 2006, 2008 and 2014. The NUS administration later implemented a new framework to stop activities with “negative features” from its freshman orientation camps.

The hall’s orientation camp included 96 incoming freshmen and 104 current residents of the hall, according to the camp’s page on Sponslist, a platform linking organisers and sponsors.

However, not everyone at the scene thought the game was inapt.

A student who went for the outing but did not take part in the activity, said he did not think anything was wrong about the game.

He said: “This beach activity was not part of the camp, it was the hall’s own gathering. No one forced anyone to take off their clothes, it was completely on your own accord, so I didn’t see anything wrong with it.”

This incident comes amid increased scrutiny and public backlash of university orientation activities.

In January 2017, NUS introduced the Framework for Freshman Orientation to provide training in safety and respect for the well-being and privacy of other students.

To include the activities held outside the orientation camp’s formal hours, the framework is applicable for 24 hours a day.

It also states that at least one safety officer from the camp’s organising committee must be appointed, with the suggested ratio of one officer to 50 freshmen.

 

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