Student and media response to Ambassador’s comments deemed unsatisfactory
Story by Dave Chappell, Managing Editor, and Spandana Bhattacharya, Editor-in-Chief | Picture credit to Dave Chappell
Respondents to a recent campus-wide survey expressed disatisfaction with the reaction of the media and members of the student-body to recent comments made by Ambassador Chan Heng Chee.
Respondents were asked to rate how satisfied they were with the response of the student-body, the media and the administration, on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 1 being very unsatisfactory and 5 being very satisfactory), to Ambassador Chan’s defense of Section 377A, a law that criminalises sodomy. The survey, conducted by The Octant, followed an opinion piece, published in the paper, which suggested that her comments were incompatible with her role on the Yale-NUS College Governing board. The responses from the survey are presented here:
The majority of respondents rated the student body’s response as either very unsatisfactory or unsatisfactory, with a mean satisfaction score of 2.3. The main issue identified by respondents was individual students speaking on behalf of the student body. One respondent wrote, “It [the opinion piece published in the Octant] presumed that it is representative of the school/student body’s opinion when it was maybe just a few peoples’.” The respondent criticized the use of the word “we” throughout the article, as they felt that it may be misconstrued to represent the collective view, even with the disclaimer at the end.
Similarly, another wrote, “Keyboard warriors that pursue their agendas need to stop assuming that the rest of us cares about their causes. Stop imposing your views on the rest of the community and [acting] as if you are representative of all our views.”
Others, however, felt that students should be able to express their views openly, regardless of their stance. “While I personally take no issue with Ambassador Chan’s actions, I recognise that some members of the student body do, and they have every right to express these views, and even call for her resignation from the board,” one student wrote.
The majority of respondents also critiqued the media coverage of student reactions, scoring them an average satisfaction score of 2.3. The debate was picked up by national newspapers such as The Straits Times, Mothership.SG as well as international news sources such as The Yale Daily News, a Yale University student publication.
Many students felt that both national and international outlets had not given enough coverage of how the majority of the student body felt. One respondent wrote that the opinion piece published in the Octant “has been painted to look like the sentiment of our community.”
Respondents also expressed concern about how the media coverage of individual opinions might negatively impact the school’s perception. One respondent wrote that these comments only served to reinforce the perception of Yale-NUS “as a liberal flag-waving hotspot for the crazies,” and advised the student body against “knee-jerk reactions.”
Students were, however, more positive about the response of the administration, who received a mean satisfaction score of 3.4. Pericles Lewis, President of Yale-NUS College, in an interview to The Straits Times, said that Yale-NUS College “will not consider asking Ambassador Chan to relinquish her position… She has been an integral member of our governing board, and a firm believer in our mission and vision to build a community of learning, where all viewpoints are heard and a respectful understanding of different opinions and beliefs is tolerated and understood.”
One respondent wrote that they supported the administration’s stance on the matter and hoped that the “student body will continue to view such matters as worthy of debate and discussion with minimal hostility, even to those of opposing viewpoints.”
The Dean of Students Christopher Bridges also met with members of the G-Spot, the gender and sexuality alliance at Yale-NUS. Ambassador Chan is set to attend a closed-door dialogue regarding human rights in Singapore in the first week of March, according to minutes published by the Yale-NUS Student Government.