Story by | Xie Yihui, Editor-in-Chief (she/her), Michael Sagna, Managing Editor (he/him)
Photo by | Darren Ang (he/him)
In one of the most bizarre happenings this year, on April 18, the Yale-NUS Community Facebook group erupted into an intense debate about the proposed relocation of a rooster, nicknamed Jimmy Nugget. No changes have been made to the official decision since.
Two days before the post, Yale-NUS College’s Dean of Students (DoS) Office had informed the college community of their decision to relocate the rooster after receiving multiple complaints that his crowing disturbed sleep.
“We have notified the NUS Office of Facilities Management and Office of Housing Services and set up traps around the perimeter of the playing field behind Cendana,” Dean of Students Dave Stanfield wrote in the weekly DoS update.
Since the end of last year, Jimmy has taken up residence on the path between the Cendana Green, a patch of grass behind Yale-NUS’s Cendana College, and NUS’s Residential College 4 (RC4). He roams freely within the Yale-NUS compound and crows regularly, drawing haters and admirers alike.
As two of Jimmy’s admirers, Wong Cai Jie ‘21 and Nirali Desai ‘21 made a zine with an illustration of him and posted it in the Yale-NUS Community Facebook group. The main intent is “to highlight a counter-perspective to the swift institutional relocation of the rooster,” the makers told The Octant. The caption read: “#protectJimmyNugget.”
Arguments on Each Side
The post has gathered much support, with many replying to the post with the hashtag and stressing that it is not right to drive a species out of the vicinity just because it inconveniences us. Damion Horn ‘23 said: “Our entire worlds are polished and pretty for us at [Yale-NUS College]. The argument that we should get rid of everything that is a mild annoyance is… a slippery slope to say the least.”
Agreeing, Valeria Gonzalez ‘21 said: “I know it’s annoying and I know it’s hard to consider that perhaps non-humans also deserve empathy, or that their needs can have even a fraction of the importance [your] needs have, but try to think about how much space we have taken and how much we’ve changed our environment … this shows no signs of stopping.”
Citing a personal experience of being awakened by a bird chirping at 6 am, she said: “It drove me nuts but ultimately I thought I’d rather hear birds chirp and get used to it than to never hear birds around me again—a reality that is not unthinkable giving the speed of infrastructure development uncongenial with nature.”
At the same time, the post has drawn many critics, notably those from Cendana College who are directly affected by the crowing.
While not dismissing the environmentalist concern, some students wonder if the empathy for the chicken is misplaced. One of the students who asked the Infrastructure team to relocate the rooster, Kye Been Ng ‘23, explained his perspective.
“What I find rather puzzling is how people find it so easy to empathise with even a chicken, rather than fellow schoolmates…Have you considered that maybe why people are vexed over the rooster is because it disproportionately affects our sleep and rests over and above all the other things listed in the picture?”
Echoing the sentiment, Bing Ru ‘23 said: “Jimmy is affecting me enough that I am willing to make a trip home for the night and return in the day just to have a good night sleep.” However, not all students are able to make the trip home to avoid Jimmy’s crowing.
Ishmam Ahmed ‘23, was awakened by the rooster five to six times in the past few weeks, with the disturbances usually being heard between 5 and 6 am. It has since taken away precious hours of sleep before the 9 am classes he had this semester every day except Sunday.
“I don’t hate the rooster— I just hate that it crows at such ungodly and unpredictable hours!” he told The Octant. Among all those who are affected, he seems to fall under the most unfortunate category: a light sleeper who lives on the 5th floor of Cendana College and whose window faces the Cendana Green, all of which intensify the chicken’s impact. “Its crows are more effective than my alarm clock,” he said with exasperation.
Based on the comments under the post, there is a visible trend: While many sleep-deprived Cendana A tower residents decried the protectors’ lack of empathy for their well-being, the unaffected tended to enjoy Jimmy’s presence. One Cendana student who is fond of Jimmy used noise-cancelling earbuds to minimize the annoyance and advised others to do the same.
Seeing both sides of the argument, Sarah Garrod, a former exchange student at the college, highlighted that we already live in an anthropocentric world and we need to balance the nature-centered and human-centered approach when addressing such issues.
“Sleep is a basic necessity and hugely impactful on one’s mental and physical health … it is not really fair that students who still need to participate in the structures of society that don’t allow for a more non-anthropocentric way of living must carry the burden.”
“For example, if a class starts at 8 am and doesn’t allow for rooster-related natural interruptions to sleep, then surely it is not the students’ fault that society is constructed without regard to the inconsistencies of nature, yet they must carry the burden of poor sleep health. It would be different if it was a matter of protecting something non-essential, but sleep is essential,” she added.
Despite the serious discussion, many comments on the post have been humorous, with Jimmy once again inspiring jest within the college. Students have taken advantage of the debate to destress in the week preceding their finals with light-hearted humor ranging from witty one-liners like “Much ado about nugget,” written by Terrence Wang ‘20, to adaptations of Classical Chinese poetry.
In response to the reactions, Desai and Wong, the makers of the zine, told The Octant that the zine was intended to be a “creative and satirical ode to Jimmy Nugget” and “[they] are afraid that much of the humour and irony of the zine was lost on people.”
By providing a counter-narrative to the DoS’s decision to remove the rooster, they hope to “[start] a conversation about human/non-human relationships.”
While expressing their sympathy towards those whose sleep was disrupted, they said: “Our sympathies to our non-human friends can co-exist with our solidarity with our classmates. We focused on the non-humans because sleep-affected humans can, have already, and continue to, speak for themselves publicly and otherwise.”
A Star is Born
Both within and without the college, Jimmy has turned into an icon. With 221 likes and 127 comments as of April 21, the Facebook post has become one of the most widely discussed topics in the community this year.
In a Reddit poll conducted by The Octant on the NUS subreddit, Jimmy’s popularity has shown to be overwhelming, with almost 70 per cent of the 578 respondents stating that Jimmy should not be removed.
Given NUS’s largely non-residential structure and that only those living near Jimmy’s “territory” have a direct stake in the situation, only a small proportion of the students would have been affected by his crowing. In any case, it seems that the respondents have warmed to the idea of a feathery neighbor.
The solution to the issue of the crowing—trapping the rooster and relocating it—has not been very successful. The cages, pictured below, were set up on April 10 by an external animal management vendor contracted by the college. Though it has not had any success thus far, it appears that the college will continue the current strategy.
When asked about whether the debate about Jimmy will affect the process of his relocation, Dr. Stanfield expressed uncertainty. “On a personal level, my whole family very much enjoys having the rooster on campus. It brings us a little joy every time we pass by. That said, as a light sleeper myself, I’m sympathetic to the toll an unwanted early morning wake-up crow can take on one’s mental health.”
When asked whether the Facebook debate would affect the official decision, he said: “Good question. I haven’t discussed with [the Infrastructure team] since it only just started.”
Unaware of the campaign, the traps, and the numerous social theories he inspired, Jimmy continues his University Town exploration and crows loudly throughout the day.