This celebration of our 100th issue might not have happened, if not for a lucky, innocent question I asked in what feels like an eternity ago. In an old WhatsApp group conversation, I had asked Dave Chappell ’18, then Editor-in-Chief, on the number of issues The Octant had published up to that point. Dave reckoned the number was 87.
The number was a little off—it was slightly fewer than that—but the memory stuck, and just before I took over as Editor-in-Chief, I spent a good few hours down the rabbit hole of our rather disorganized PDF archives to count them all. After a short back and forth with my fellow Managing Editors Yip Jie Ying ’19 and Kanako Sugawara ’20 about whether to count special issues (we did), it was settled: Vol. 9 Issue 6 was to carry the title of the official “100th issue”.
To celebrate this milestone, we decided to focus on a central question: What does The Octant mean to students, faculty, staff members—in short, the Yale-NUS community? In these pages, you’ll find many different answers to this question, and I think that’s appropriate. The Octant has to be many things to many people, while always staying true to our mission of free speech and critical discourse.
It has not been easy. But a quick look at some of the pressing topics covered in our articles this week reminds me that The Octant’s role is more critical than ever before. As our community grows, and the abundance of information—Facebook posts, meeting minutes, rumours—becomes increasingly scattered, The Octant must work harder than ever to be the reliable messenger standing above the noise. Reading all those old articles during my trip down the memory lane also showed me how far we’ve grown in pushing the boundaries of student journalism in Singapore, and for that I am proud.
And yet: this is only the beginning. The writers, editors, creatives, and more that will take us to not just the next hundred, but the many hundreds after that, will have a long and arduous road ahead. There are so many things to try, so many outlets to explore… and so many new obstacles to face along the way. Kudos to them, whoever they will be, for they will not just be sustaining a newspaper; they will be building an institution.
All of that is to come. But in the meantime, I’m going to get back to work.
Terence Anthony Wang,
Messages From The Community
My heartiest congratulations to The Octant on reaching its 100th issue. The Octant has come a long way since it was first introduced to the Yale-NUS community in 2013. As our College grew from a small community in Residential College 4, moved to our permanent campus in 2015 and saw its first batch of graduates leave its nest in 2017, The Octant has been a keen observer of these milestones and a key contributor to the vibrant discourse on campus. Each new issue provides a platform to update the Yale-NUS community on the various happenings and discuss matters of concern at Yale-NUS.
The Octant is much like our Yale-NUS model of education, founded on the basis of free exchange of ideas with a high regard for pluralism and diverse views. Through its commitment to responsible reporting, it enables different voices to be heard and various community concerns to be raised, upholding our community’s belief in open dialogue and discussion, and respecting opinions that may differ. In this regard, it has provided a common platform for members of the Yale-NUS community to engage in many meaningful conversations.
I hope that The Octant continues to hold firm to its goal of honest and insightful reporting that ensures an outcome where debates are rigorous yet respectful, and where different perspectives are always represented. I am glad that The Octant continues to be an open, safe and welcoming space for the Yale-NUS community to articulate their views and engage in constructive discussions on matters that are important for the College.
Once again, congratulations to the editorial team and members of The Octant for reaching this significant milestone.
– Tan Tai Yong, President of Yale-NUS College
A Bumpy Road: 100 Issues and Beyond
The Octant has been one of the biggest parts of my life at Yale-NUS. It was the first organization I joined in my first year and is the only organization that I am still technically a member of, four years later. I started as one of its most junior members and ended up becoming Editor-in-Chief. I owe The Octant a lot.
The journey has not been an easy one. I’ve seen its highs and its lows. I’ve seen its membership rise to more than 50 members and fall to less than eight. I’ve seen articles change policies or cause an uproar in the student body. I’ve heard some students praise it for being a bastion of free speech and others call for it to be banned on campus. The Octant has been cited by international newspapers and threatened with a lawsuit.
Through all this tumult, however, one thing has not changed. Students have consistently given hours of their weeks to bring important issues to the attention of the community. If it weren’t for their hard work the publication would not be where it is now.
The road going forward will not be smooth. The Octant still has to find its place in the community. As the only student paper that regularly reports on Yale-NUS College, it has a difficult balance to strike. It has to be accessible to all the community, while still maintaining high journalistic standards. It has to cover a broad range of topics, while still investigating important issues and holding the powerful accountable. It has to balance being an autonomous organization with the responsibility that comes with the exposure it enjoys. And it has to do that many times each week, with overstretched members and barely enough funding to print out its issues.
I do not know where this balance lies. Still, I have the utmost faith in the current managing team (and the future managing teams) to slowly find it. Boundaries will be pushed and new ideas will be tried. But I am confident that eventually The Octant and Yale-NUS will be better for it. I look forward to following this journey from outside the college. Best of luck for the next hundred issues and the hundred after that!
– Dave Chappell ’18, former Editor-in-Chief
Joining The Octant was one of the first things I did as soon as I entered the College in Fall 2015. All things considered: I had fun. Partly because I was a lost and disillusioned freshman, I found communicating at Yale-NUS quite difficult. But at this time, The Octant gave to me the initial space I needed to become comfortable with the culture of communication of Yale-NUS.
Of course, I had my ups and downs with the organizational structure of The Octant. Were those struggles I witnessed just growing pains? Perhaps, or maybe the former Octant was just mirroring my transitional angst. Either way, it has been a joy to see The Octant grow into a central platform for thoughtful discussion. I truly appreciate how it has straddled its precarious position as the students’ new mouthpiece while working with the administration to lead to productive dialogue. It has always kept student well-being and interest at the forefront of all its work.
The sorrows, the struggles, the happiness and the achievements—these are all collected through the life course of any collective effort. And The Octant that I know has collected all these and more. And always with its head held high. So, to each and every person who has contributed to making The Octant grow into such a proud platform—thank you.
And to all other lost and frustrated freshmen, a word of advice: when those long Facebook posts become too much and too confusing, turn to The Octant. I am sure that in some way it will help you find your way back.
– Vasudha Kataruka ’19, former Staff Writer
Counting is in our nature, giving us a sense of our past and our future. We count the number of pages we have read or written by the end of the day, the number of days left until the next break, the books read or countries visited. In the case at hand, we count the number of issues The Octant has published to date. These milestones—big and small—help us understand what has been accomplished in order to plan for the road ahead. This is the case with the 100th issue of The Octant, our student-run College newspaper.
It is evident that The Octant plays a critical role in our College. By design, we are a diverse group, with many viewpoints, coming from different countries and backgrounds, and wanting to speak with our own voices. Amidst this polyphony, The Octant has helped us distinguish the message from the noise on a weekly basis. It has provided thoughtful reporting and analysis on the many issues that impact our experience within this College.
Looking back, it is inspiring to see how much progress such a young publication has made in a relatively short period of time: the overall look and feel of each issue, the professionalism of their management team, the ambition to excel with each passing year and the sense of continuity in spite of the inevitable staff changes and diverse leadership styles. I congratulate all those who have devoted time and energy towards its success and have weathered criticisms, survived late-night writes, and the inevitable anxiety of having to produce a brand new issue each week.
Here is to the next 100!
– Eduardo Lage-Otero, Faculty Advisor to The Octant
History in the Making
The Octant is history in the making. We are too old to be an experiment, too young for our archives to fill a room. If you take all the past issues of The Octant and stacked them up it would be the height of a poodle, maybe slightly taller. If you asked anyone in Yale-NUS College what The Octant is, they would most likely know. They would say something to the effect of: it is our College’s student-run news organization.
And so it is. And so we are. We are history in the making because history isn’t only something you look back on but something that happens moment to moment. The painstaking pursuit of passion is history, the failures and triumphs are history. The picked up copy at the dining hall is history. It is history because, when all is said and done, it is these small efforts that got us there.
And where is there? There is a lot more history to be made.
– Justin Ong ’19, former Editor-in-Chief
An Instrument of Reflection
I had never heard of an octant before I arrived at Yale-NUS. I discovered it was an 18th-century maritime navigational instrument composed of two mirrors used to determine the height of a celestial body relative to the horizon. With this information and some additional calculations, sailors could determine their latitude and hence their location on the map.
The metaphorical aptness of the octant for the Yale-NUS community scarcely needs emphasizing. Two images, of Asia and the world, brought into alignment through careful instrumentation with the goal of helping us find our way in this world.
Less obvious is the role of The Octant as an instrument of reflection, holding up not one but two mirrors facing each other, showing us ourselves in the eyes of the other, and vice versa. This lesson was most clearly driven home to me when I came across Paul Jerusalem and Daryl Yang’s article last October in The Octant about the alleged disjuncture between a liberal arts college and its “illiberal” setting, Singapore.
“What’s the point of Yale-NUS if the gays are still oppressed?” they asked, tongue-in-cheek but not quite. They proceeded to systematically demolish claims made by a handful of Yale University faculty that Yale-NUS was a misfit institution unable to even bring about any change in the socio-legal attitude of Singapore to LGBTQ+ people living here. As Paul and Daryl showed, the claim itself was hypocritical and simultaneously exaggerated the nature of social change while diminishing the agency of Singapore as a society.
I was proud to see Yale-NUS students dropping some modern social thought on Yale professors. This is at least partly why Yale-NUS exists, or should exist.
In celebration of The Octant’s 100th issue, I can only add: continue holding up those mirrors, to yourself and to the wider world. You will find your way.
-Rohan Mukherjee, Assistant Professor and reader
From the First Editors
To reach a 100-issue anniversary is a feat in itself. While someone who has never been involved in the publication may think that it was simply a matter of continuing a weekly routine, we know better. We faced several existential crises when we were helming the publication—wondering about our relevance to the College, questioning our name and accountability to the student population, worrying about continuity beyond the initial managing team, etc. The luxury of hindsight allows us to look back on these concerns now, and laugh. How insignificant these obstacles now seem in light of how far we have come!
Every issue of The Octant (once named Panopt) is a labor of love and passion. We believe that nothing less will sustain the grueling pace of churning out a weekly publication that champions free speech and critical discourse against all odds. We also believe that The Octant has carved out an irreplaceable space for itself as a student publication in our Yale-NUS community, which this 100-issue anniversary is only further testament to.
As a student publication, The Octant has slowly but surely entered a new season of its own. The days where we debated our name and worried about sustainability are over. No doubt the current managing team now faces new challenges and crises of their own. As founding members of the publication, we offer these words: The Octant is built on strong foundations that can and will withstand the challenges it faces. One day, you too will look back fondly and be proud of this legacy that you have been instrumental in creating.
– Joyan and Spandana, former Editors-in-Chief
The Octant: A Brief History
Oct. 8, 2013: ‘PANOPT’ is born. Started by Joyan Tan ’17 and Spandana Bhattacharya ’17, it envisioned itself as a newsletter that featured “the creative and academic life of the college!”
Aug. 19, 2014: PANOPT announces a change of identity, becoming an “autonomous school newspaper that is committed to free speech and critical discourse.”
Oct. 7, 2014: PANOPT launches website panopt.org, bringing articles beyond Yale-NUS College for the first time.
Nov. 25, 2014: PANOPT changes its name to ‘The Octant’. Editors Joyan Tan and Spandana Bhattacharya explained that the octant was chosen for “opening up the seas to explorers and creating a more interconnected world,” and for being “the first instrument widely accepted for its ability to measure an angle without being affected by external movement.” These elements are symbolic of The Octant‘s mission of free speech and critical discourse. panopt.org is changed to theoctant.org.
Feb. 3, 2016: The Octant’s article “On The Yale-NUS Governing Board, Tolerance Is Not Enough” is the first to be cited in a national newspaper (The Straits Times). The opinion article called for Ambassador Chan Heng Chee to resign from Yale-NUS’ Governing Board due to her support of Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code.
Sep. 22, 2017: For the first time since the launch of its website, The Octant publishes an offline-only issue dedicated to exploring the issue of sexual misconduct on campus.
Feb. 2, 2018: In a collaboration with the student publication Diverge, The Octant featured a pullout for the first time containing Diverge contributions.
Feb. 9, 2018: The Octant launches the first episode of its new podcast, The Octopod, focusing on the topic of stress in the college.
Mar. 16, 2018: The Octant publishes its 100th issue.