Photo by Pareen Chaudhari
Saga, Elm, Cendana. To most, these trees mean nothing beyond landscaping. At Yale-NUS College however, their significance relates to one of the fundamental principles on which this college was built — the Residential College system. With this as an integral part of the school’s culture, many students have conflicting views on its value.
The RC system defines certain characteristics of life at Yale-NUS, including the Dean’s Fellow group students are assigned to. Especially in the initial stages of settling in, these DF groups are important in establishing relationships. Bing Lin ’18 said, “I think it’s a good way of getting to know people in a more structured manner.”
Similarly, RCs are divided into floors. Saga occupies floors 9 to 11 (with a few students on 12), Elm occupies 12 to 14, and Cendana 15 to 17. “The initial fear is that it creates a segregation and almost unnecessary distinction.” Roshan Singh ’18 said. “The people one floor above me are in the same RC so everyone knows everyone, but the people in the floor below me, we hardly know each other.”
Lin suggested that a possible factor leading to this segregation could be freshman orientation during which the three RCs split up to go to different countries respectively. Saga, Elm and Cendana went to Laos, Borneo and Vietnam respectively. Because of these trips, Lin said, “I feel like I know people within my RC more than people from other RCs.”
The experiences of the sophomore batch on the other hand were very different. Having the summer immersion at Yale facilitated interaction between the class without the RC identity being imposed strictly.
What should be done about the RC split, especially if it seems to be a mostly freshmen dilemma? A member of RC^3, Marcus Koe ‘17 answers “I can understand that [the freshmen] want to be together as a batch, but I definitely see the eventual need for an RC system and I think it’s good to start now and get the building blocks up for when we move to the new campus.”
If RC mobility is an issue between floors in RC4, the new campus threatens to pose an even bigger physical separation as each RC will occupy their own independent building. However, Koe pointed out, “I think that within each RC, there will be much closer community.”
RC^3 is one such student organisation on campus that is dedicated to promoting RC identity and providing platforms for the different RCs to interact. Their latest initiative is responsible living, where consumption of electricity and food wastage during lunch are being monitored and recorded as RCs. The goal is to foster healthy-RC competition by being mindful of the spaces we live in. “We’re not trying to split up the RCs in an antagonistic way,” Koe commented. “What we’re trying to do is recognize that people have to eventually settle into their RCs, and we’re trying to allow that to happen sooner.”
The RC system is also not always as restraining as it seems. There are plenty of means through which meeting members of other RCs is possible, including clubs, sports and classes.
Singh emphasised the importance of mingling to meeting people from other RCs, “We end up shooting ourselves in the foot because we miss an integral part of this school—the people. ”
Singh concluded, “It’s nice to have that identity, but we just have to know how to sidestep it to get to know people … it might be healthier to neither fully reject [our RC], nor live too strictly by it.”