story Scott Currie
At 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 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 re-evaluate … 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.
Yonatan Gazit contributed reporting.