Should Yale-NUS Compete as Separate Residential Colleges in ICG?
story | Justin Ong, Managing Editor
photo | Rachel Juay
When the last road relay runner sprinted past the finishing line on Feb. 16, Yale-NUS College completed its first Inter-College Games (ICG) as a full house. After three years of ICG participation, how has college spirit and representation been, and what can be done to improve it? Some, including Pericles Lewis, President of Yale-NUS, have a somewhat radical suggestion: divide the college into the three separate Residential Colleges (RCs) (Cendana, Elm and Saga) when competing for the ICG. Athletics Director of Student Government Brandon Lee ’20 also said that this is a sentiment shared by neighboring colleges. “One of the athletics directors [of a neighboring college] did ask me if it was possible for us to compete as separate colleges,” said Lee.
The first merit of splitting the school into separate colleges is to increase student participation. “You’d want to get people who don’t always play out there on the court,” said Mr. Lewis. Having fewer students to choose from means that more students have to participate. Asher Chua ’19, captain of the College’s Ultimate Frisbee team, said that separating into three RCs for ICG would mean not only more student involvement, but also another avenue to build RC identity. “You’re able to build that competitive spirit but at the same time maintain good relations within the RCs,” said Chua. Mr. Lewis also said that competitiveness is integral to college spirit, and that it would be good to have a platform to “build a little bit of healthy rivalry.”
Lee said that building RC spirit would be a potential benefit of competing as separate RCs, but also said that “that seems to be the only benefit.” Although ambitious on the outset, logistical challenges loom. Focusing specifically on space and scheduling concerns, Lee said that since the college only has one Multi-Purpose Hall, it is difficult to have three separate colleges training at different times, especially when the current schedule is already fully packed. Lee also said that whereas other colleges have one training facility per college, this would not be the case if Yale-NUS were to split into three colleges. Splitting the three RCs would also mean that each RC would have roughly 300 students, approximately half of what the other colleges in UTown currently house. “If you were to hold the ICG at the same scale as it is held now, the individual RCs will face problems getting representation,” said Chua. He added that “only if we were to revise the format of the ICG [with the consideration of smaller colleges] can this idea be feasible.”
A decision to compete as separate RCs would affect some sports more than others. Madeline Tan ’19, captain of the women’s basketball team, said that it would be feasible to send one team for every RC as only three players and one substitute are needed for her sport. However, sports such as Ultimate Frisbee would require higher representation, where each College sends two teams of 10 players, which would be difficult if there were less than 300 students to choose from. Sarah Weiss, Rector of Saga College, also said that “talent is not distributed equally across the RCs,” where some sports would be dominated by good players that happen to be in each college.
Concerns over the College’s performance in the Inter-Faculty Games (IFG) were also raised. Both Chua and Lee said that team chemistry would be compromised should the College train as separate RCs. “What we lose is the ability to train together to build understanding between players,” said Chua. This would thus “affect how competitive we are on that larger scale [of the IFG].”
There are some who said that forging a salient school identity should come before building an RC identity. Tan said that an overall college identity is especially important because “the other [Colleges] are defining themselves against Yale-NUS.” Ms. Weiss talked about the competitive spirit of Yale-NUS in the ICG since the College’s inception. “The animosity that was generated towards us [evoked] a competitive spirit in U-town and [the other colleges have] gotten much better,” said Ms. Weiss. She also said that the individual RCs do not have enough people to generate that same competitive spirit.
Furthermore, lack of manpower and representation are not only problems faced by individual RCs, but with Yale-NUS as a whole. According to Lee, even with more than 700 students to choose from, “forming a full team is already a challenge” and “for almost half of the sports we don’t have a full team.” Lee said that this is partly due to the sporting culture in Yale-NUS, which he said “is still not mature yet.”
Yet RC spirit need not be forged by competition on the scale of the ICG. Inter-RC games were held last year, said Tan, where students could try new sports without the same competitive pressure. “It was way more chill [than ICG],” she said. Overall, Ms. Weiss said “RC identity is okay,” and that there are other means besides sports to build on it. Activities such as Werewolves! organized by RC^3 and the Squat Challenge by Bacon serves to build RC identity in a fun and interactive manner.
At press time, Yale-NUS College leads the ICG standings, with a total of 59 points.