story | Yip Jia Qi, Editor, Jiang Haolie, Contributing Writer
photo | Yip Jia Qi
Last semester, the student-run forum “Occupy: The Politics of Youth and Space” sparked a debate between students and administration over the use of public space. In The Octant’s article about the controversy, a number of issues surfaced, including a lack of alignment on what constitutes appropriate use of public space and a lack of consultation on these issues. This incident has occured within the wider, ongoing discourse surrounding the tensions between regulated use of campus spaces beyond the classroom and the College’s commitment to academic freedoms.
The newly-formed Public Spaces Taskforce, led by Professor Steven Green, seeks to address some of the issues through a college-wide consultation process. In an email addressed to the student body, Mr. Green outlined the taskforce’s aim to formulate “clearer guidance than is available at present to promote full, appropriate and consistent use of our public open space.”
The current student regulations have been criticized by students for its vagueness and its seemingly haphazard invocation of Singapore Law. While the Taskforce does not directly pertain to the Events Approval Committee, which regulates the usage of campus spaces by external parties, it will instead seek to provide recommendations for a more nuanced approach in governing the use of these spaces that is agreed on by all branches of the school administration, as well as by students and faculty.
The recommendations could have far-ranging impacts on the ways, means and ease by which student activities and installations may be conducted in non-classroom spaces on campus. Such activities range from those concerning sensitive or political issues such as sexual assault, to casual activities such as BBQ events.
To make the public consultation more productive, a pre-consultation information packet, which includes a section on the historical and cultural context of student activism in Singapore, will be distributed to all students. It describes how student activism has been an indelible part of Singapore’s political history, having played a pivotal role in Singapore’s anti-colonial efforts and the formation of the People’s Action Party (PAP), and how for decades after independence, it remained an important force in civil society.
The Public Spaces Taskforce will hold consultation sessions with students and faculty members over the next two weeks. The student consultations will be held on Feb. 13 and 21 from 6 pm to 7.30 pm at Lecture Theatre 1. The faculty consultations will be held on Feb. 14 and 20 from 12 pm to 1 pm at the Cendana Private Dining Room.
Full disclosure: The co-writers of this article, Yip Jia Qi and Jiang Haolie are members of the Public Spaces Taskforce.