Check Your Privilege
Lishani Ramanayake || Guest Columnist
Photo by Pareen Chaudhari
Transitioning into college life is a definite change from high school-it’s scary, it’s difficult, and Yale-NUS’ efforts at being the cushion that allows for a comfortable transition is undoubtedly appreciated by us all. This means, however, that we must ask ourselves a difficult question: where is the line between support and hand holding, and how do we make sure we don’t cross it?
Iwani Zoe Mawocha ’18 has this to say: “What made it so much easier to step outside my comfort zone [at Yale-NUS] and ask for help was the abundance of it…this individual attention is what set Yale-NUS apart for me in the first place.”
True, this incredible support structure is what distinguishes Yale-NUS from other institutions, but some would argue that this comes with the threat of too much support which creates a false sense of entitlement. Take for example the DF meetings held right after the freshman orientation trips. When asked what could have been improved about the trips for future reference, most students tended to complain about all the things that went wrong, as opposed to acknowledging the amazing opportunities that had been opened up to us. Constructive feedback does not equate to complaining, and the faculty at Yale-NUS do not exist to indulge our every whim and fancy, which is how their presence is so often misconstrued. This air of entitlement does stem, in part, to the incredible support structure that avails us at every turn. However, having access to this kind of support is a privilege, not an entitlement. We as students have the privilege of attending this institution. We have the privilege of having a Dean of Students Office that caters to our needs in the most comprehensible way possible; whether it is by making more fruit available in the dining hall when we asked for it, or frequent stress relief, whether it is in the form of pancake mixers or the much talked about bouncy castles that were so popular on the student run Confessions page. We have these privileges, and more, and the idea that so many people think that it is acceptable to complain about not getting their first choice for Week 7, or not getting funded to fly overseas borders on the ungrateful, and makes me wonder if this sense of false entitlement stems from the almost overwhelming support structure we have.
According to Dean’s Fellow, James Shirvell, as a start-up college, this sort of support is essential “in order to make sure that the student experience is a successful one.” He adds, “with the student population size so small, the ratio of support to students is very favorable for the latter, but that ratio will change as we add more classes of students, so perhaps to some individuals, that ratio seems skewed, but it will align as the student population grows.”
Maruska Godina ’18 says of the matter, “support systems are extremely important especially in a place like Yale NUS where 40% of the students are not from Singapore and in a experimental academic environment… [however] I feel support should help students solve their own problems rather than it being done by someone else. It’s very hard to say at this point but I am not sure if Yale-NUS is creating support or dependence. Only time will tell.”
College should be about stepping outside your comfort zones, but if we have a security blanket for every time we’re bruised, are we really learning? This is not to dismiss the efforts of our much loved and much appreciated DF’s and faculty, but rather to highlight the disturbing atmosphere of entitlement that has been lurking around campus lately, and to serve as a reminder that the support we have at Yale-NUS exists for personal growth, not to pamper us.