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Fluffy Things | Yes, I’m Sure I’m not an Airplane Pilot

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Story | Olivier Danvy (he/him)

Editing | Cindy (she/her), Managing Editor; Soroush (she/her), Copyeditor

Photo | Joshua Vargas (he/him)

”Introduction to Computer Science” (YSC1212, Intro to CS for short) and ”Proof” (YSC2209) did what they could to patch the blind spot in the college’s common curriculum – namely no Computer Science and no Mathematics [2]. And so in the second week of Intro to CS, the students are made aware that there are many notions of computations, and that for each of them, there are many notations (a.k.a. programming languages). Like natural languages, programming languages are specified with formal grammars. However, where the grammar for a natural language is descriptive at best, it is prescriptive for a programming language, hence the notoriously incontrovertible syntax errors in one’s programs: The computer doesn’t ”see what we mean,” not just because it doesn’t see, but also because most of the time, what we mean is a work in progress. The students are also made to realize that in programming languages, formal grammars can be used to generate syntactically correct, but semantically random sentences. By the fourth week, they are introduced to random-number generators, so they can program their own generators of grammatically correct sentences. Thus, in the spring of 2021, just in time for Valentine’s day, Leonard Tng programmed the generator of love letters at https://lovelettergenerator.com. (Rumour has it that some of these letters were facetiously field-tested on Tinder and that somehow, they did not fare well at all.) 

Good times.

In “Functional Programming and Proving” (YSC3236, FPP for short), the students are made to realize that mathematics and statistics are expressed in a language that can also be formalized with a grammar, and that logical statements and their proofs can be checked. Therefore, proofs are not a subjectively convincing argument, nor a mere social convention: They have a concrete, quantified existence that is rooted in linguistics and mathematical logic and that can be checked independently and objectively.  In FPP, we use The Coq Proof Assistant to write programs and proofs, based on the correspondence between propositions and types. That semester, our students write more proofs as well as longer proofs than they had ever done before in their life. FPP, like Intro to CS, is very much hands on, so by the middle of the semester, the students are asked to formalize and to prove that the product of two consecutive natural numbers is even, a deceivingly simple exercise that makes them mobilize everything basic they know about programming and proving in a safe setting and in a way that scales beautifully. 

Good times too.


Here is how ChatGPT fared with that simple exercise on Monday 6 February 2023, a candid reminder of Ted Chiang’s Lifecycle of Software Objects [1], to say nothing of Ken Liu’s Perfect Match [3]:

Q. Is the product of two consecutive natural numbers even?

A. Yes, the product of two consecutive natural numbers is always even.

Q. Why?

A. Because if you have two consecutive natural numbers, one of them must be even (for example, if you have the numbers n and n+1, then n must be even). When you multiply an even number with any other natural number, the product will always be even.

Q. Is the product of three consecutive natural numbers divisible by three?

A. Yes, the product of three consecutive natural numbers is divisible by 3. Since consecutive natural numbers differ by 1, the three numbers must have a sum of 3 times the middle number, which is divisible by 3. The product of any multiple of 3 with any other number is also a multiple of 3, so the product of the three consecutive natural numbers is also divisible by 3.

Q. Is the product of four consecutive natural numbers divisible by four?

A. No, the product of four consecutive natural numbers is not necessarily divisible by 4. While the product of the first two consecutive natural numbers will always be even, it may not be divisible by 4. Whether the product of four consecutive numbers is divisible by 4 depends on the specific numbers involved and cannot be determined just by the fact that they are consecutive natural numbers.

The answer to the first question is correct, but its argument is incomplete (the claim should be “if you have the numbers n and n+1, then either n or n+1 must be even”).

The answer to the second question is correct, but its argument is off (involving a sum?).

The answer to the third question is incorrect. (The two first numbers are consecutive and therefore their product is even, and likewise for the two last numbers. And multiplying two even numbers (say, 2x and 2y) yields a number that is divisible by four (namely 4xy).)


References

[1] Ted Chiang. The Lifecycle of Software Objects. Subterranean Press, 2010.

[2] Pericles Lewis. In Asia, for the world: The creation of Yale-NUS College. Symposium on Globalising the Liberal Arts, June 2016. https://campuspress.yale.edu/pericleslewis/ in-asia-for-the-world-the-creation-of-yale-nus-college/.

[3] Ken Liu. A perfect match. Lightspeed Magazine, December 2012

[4] Dean Martin and Foster Brooks. The Bar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F662rWlkzrI. 

Addendum (revised on 12 Mar 2023):
The title of this article is a quote from The Bar, and is meant to illustrate the contrast between a blind watchmaker, a drunk inference maker, and an idiot not very savant.

Olivier Danvy is Professor of Science (Computer Science) at Yale-NUS College. He is pretty good at `l’esprit de l’escalier <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%27esprit_de_l%27escalier>` and can be contacted at danvy@yale-nus.edu.sg.

The views expressed here are the author’s own. The Octant welcomes all voices in the community. Email submissions to: yncoctant@gmail.com.

BREAKING: NUS Law to Move into Yale-NUS Campus Following Closure; Spaces to be Shared with NUS College

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This article is a collaboration with The Quadrant, the upcoming NUS College student publication. 

Story | Ethan Lim (he/him), Avery Huang (she/her), Cindy Huang (she/her)

Image | Joshua Vargas (he/him)

The Faculty of Law at the National University of Singapore will relocate to the present-day Yale-NUS College campus following the College’s closure starting Academic Year 2025/26, The Octant has learnt. The University’s exact plans are unclear dividing the space between the Law School and NUS College, which currently uses part of the campus as its West Wing. 

In an email to NUS Law students, the administration stated their decision to move the Law campus is “an important development” that has been in consideration “for some time”, despite no mention during the NUSC Open House in January. They confirmed the School’s “commitment to foster closer integration and collaboration across different disciplines and domains,” and continuing efforts to make Law studies more interdisciplinary. The email ends with the information that students are to expect a townhall next semester for “feedback and suggestions”, despite indicating that this is an already-made decision.

In an email sent to NUS College students, Simon Chesterman, Dean of NUS College, announced that “NUSC will still be taking over the entire residential component of 1,001 beds,’ indicating that the suites within Elm, Saga, and Cendana will still fall under NUSC administration. However, designated work and common spaces will be allocated to both faculties as part of the University’s effort to optimise the usage of facilities within the YNC campus, according to the email. 

Reactions by NUS College students were first seen in ‘Battle Royale’, NUS College’s college-wide Telegram group that contains current students, alumni and professors. The discussions began when a photograph of NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye presenting the announcement of the Law campus’ move in an auditorium was sent to the Telegram group. The Octant is not aware of outreach made to NUS College students prior to the photo.

Three weeks later, on June 18, NUS College Vice Dean (Outreach) Quek Su Ying announced the formation of a Space Optimisation Committee (SOC) in 2025 involving student input, following discussions with the NUS College Club Management Committee. The SOC would operate following space allocation decisions by the NUS Administration.

Reduced Housing Duration Expected; Deliberations to be Made after Allocation

Quek announced in the same email the reduction of guaranteed on-campus stay for NUS College students from three years to two, split between the first year and two following semesters of their choosing. “Active engagement” with NUS College student life would improve students’ chances when applying for housing beyond four semesters.

This policy change will apply to students matriculating from Academic Year 2025/26 to cope with “increasing demand for limited residential experiences across NUS,” according to Quek, and brings NUS College in line with the other Residential Colleges in University Town. 

Simon Chesterman, Dean of NUS College, first announced that all NUS College students would receive three years of guaranteed on-campus housing at the College’s official launch event on 20 February 2023. About 400-500 students per year were expected to enrol at the time. 

This is the only likely change to be known so far. The SOC, according to Quek’s email, would deliberate on further space use such as in the Sky Gardens, “once allocations are made by NUS.” The Committee would also address “operational issues” such as “scheduling conflicts” and “maintenance of shared spaces,” and consult the NUS College community in its plans “once the allocation of spaces has been made known.”

It is unknown if the Committee can influence NUS decisions on space allocation itself. 

Taking the College Apart? Exact Plans Unclear

Regardless of who holds decision-making power, allocating space between two faculties would present considerable difficulties. In the other residential colleges, classrooms and other learning facilities are generally in separate buildings from the residential towers students live in. 

As previous Octant reporting elaborated, the original plans for the Yale-NUS/West Wing campus placed classrooms and student rooms in close proximity in anticipation for a liberal arts college separated into residential colleges. Dissecting the campus into residential and teaching spaces occupied by separate faculties with low cross-registration represents another departure from the vision following Yale-NUS’ dissolution, and may create obstacles in the aims of both NUS College and the Faculty of Law.

Gwyneth, a rising Sophomore at NUS College studying Law, is concerned about whether the Yale-NUS campus will be able to support both faculties. “Law’s cohort size is about 240 per academic year, first and second years have to take compulsory cohort-wide modules as well. I wonder how everyone would be able to fit in,” says Gwyneth. 

Only the recently renamed Yale-NUS College Hall at the Yale-NUS/West Wing campus offers seating capacity for a class of this size. Plans are currently unclear how multiple classes can be held on a regular basis, but may involve other lecture theatres at University Town. 

NUS College students are also concerned with whether they will have ownership over spaces dedicated to NUS College following Yale-NUS’ closure. An email to law students had stated that, like the Yale-NUS library, the gym and “performing spaces” will be open to the wider NUS community following this transition. 

Having grown attached to the facilities at Bukit Timah Campus (BTC), Gwyneth says that she will miss the architecture that has symbolised the Law faculty for the past 19 years. As a NUSC student, however, Gwyneth notes that the sudden announcement disrupts NUSC’s community and identity formation. “Personally, I chose NUSC mostly because I’d wanted to study in YNC but that was simply not possible given its closure. I’d hoped NUSC would be a way of preserving the legacy of YNC, even without the tie up with Yale.” 

“But as it turns out, it’s safe to say that NUSC is really rather different from YNC, and doesn’t live up to the legacy very substantially (if at all). NUS Law moving to the YNC campus kind of feels like yet another step away from keeping the YNC memory, I suppose,” says Gwyneth.

However, several law students mention that the shift back to Kent Ridge gives Law students more opportunity to engage with community events and CCAs that occur predominantly at Kent Ridge campus. The two campuses are currently connected by a shuttle bus scheduled every 30 to 45 minutes, a frequency lower than most other shuttle services, according to University Campus Infrastructure.

Currently, common spaces within the campus are open from 8am to 8pm daily while residential spaces are access-controlled. It is unknown how the large number of non-residents from the Law faculty using the Yale-NUS/West Wing space impacts current security arrangements or may raise security concerns. 

Unconsulted Decision Raises Frustration

Many NUS College students are expressing sentiments of frustration as they face the unconsulted administrative changes on their prospective campus space, made blindsided by the top-down decision-making reminiscent of Yale-NUS’s closure. 

Concerning loss of campus culture, one NUS College student in the groupchat expressed how the promised dream of building an NUS College culture seems to have fallen short before it even started. One student voiced their concern over ownership and belonging in Battle Royale, “…many of us have been holding out to have that feeling of belonging to our spaces….how do we navigate that tie to our spaces if they are constantly shared/not even ours in the first place?”. 

Siddhika, a rising Junior majoring in Economics with NUSC, shared that she and her friends fear that NUSC students will not have a space for themselves within the residential college they reside in. “I think it’s the general ‘fear’ that we won’t have our own space as NUSC students. For example, if law tutorials are held in West Wing classrooms, then it’d be very weird to run into random people as you go about your day or return back to dorms.” says Siddhika. 

The constant changes to how space is used and interpreted also affect how NUS College’s identity is formed and understood. Other NUS College students in ‘Battle Royale’ have pointed out that the ambiguous delineation of space within NUS College’s ‘West Wing’ in the previous academic year of 2024/25 had made them ‘uncomfortable’ or even ‘unwelcome’ within the Yale-NUS campus. This announcement may prolong the friction NUSC students face in crafting their collective identity.

Jonathan, an alumnus of both the Faculty of Law and Yale-NUS, shares these concerns. “It just struck me as yet another poorly thought-through decision with no accountability again,” he told The Octant. “Moving a non-residential faculty to what was always intended as an integrated fully residential campus/programme sounds like creating bad solutions to problems that don’t actually exist.”

While the decision seemed ‘inevitable’ given NUS College’s size relative to the Yale-NUS campus, David, a rising sophomore at NUS College studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics who deferred his matriculation into Yale-NUS, says his biggest issue with this move is how it was communicated and the lack of student involvement in the decision-making process. 

“As a YNC deferred matriculant, I’ve been through these enough times to become desensitized. I don’t think we as students are owed anything specifically because we pay tuition or other superfluous reasons. I think if NUS had heard our concerns and had a more consultative approach, but still ended up making this decision – that would be a much better way to handle things.” says David.

Similarly, Eric, a rising junior at NUS College studying Computing and Business, argues the community’s strong reaction comes from disenfranchisement rather than practical issues around space.

“I don’t think the issue turns around students actually being unhappy with having to share the space. I know the community and we’re not petty or selfish like that,” he says in a message to Battle Royale, “The fact that it even is a question whether we are stakeholders in OUR OWN community really showcases how little agency the community feels they have.”

“Remember we are all on the same side here. And is there anything wrong with a more consultative process, if it would make the students feel like they have a bigger stake in their own community?”

LIVE: Elm College to Close in Fall 2024, Room Draw to be Based on Group Completeness

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This is a developing story. New information and coverage will be added as they become available.

Elm College will close in Academic Year 2024/25, leaving Cendana College the only Residential College (RC) within the Yale-NUS campus to house students from the closing liberal arts college, Student Government President Ashley Rehn ’25 announced on Thursday 26 October.

Room Draw to be Based on Group Completeness

Room Draw systems in the final year will not be based on RC affiliation out of fairness concerns, Rehn said. Room allocation priority will instead follow the number of people confirmed to stay within the group applying for suites. Six people applying for a sextet will therefore have higher priority than a five people applying for the same suite, but incomplete groups do not need to receive a randomly allocated student.

The Administration is also considering opening all unoccupied rooms as extensions of suite common areas, with a minimum of four occupants, added Dean of Students Cory Owen, though details can only be determined closer to Room Draw applications.

Decision Result of Focus Sessions

The deliberation process for residential arrangements in the final year of Yale-NUS started at a Town Hall on 12 September, when Owen and Rehn announced “pro lists” for students to advocate the advantages of staying in each RC, as well as focus sessions targeted at the Class of 2025. Remaining in both PCs was not a given option.

There has been little discussion on College-wide messaging groups on the RC deliberations. The paucity of enthusiasm contrasts with the past year, when initial Student Affairs Office proposal to close one of the three colleges provoked strong resistance and prompted the formation of a Residential College Advisory Committee. According to Rehn, “only a few people” attended the focus group discussions.

The Committee, populated mainly by Cendana students, oversaw a survey that eventually advised closing Saga College despite staying in all three compounds being the most preferred option, citing that the latter was also cited by the highest number of students as the least favorable outcome.

Dining and Curriculum Concerns

Student discussions focused on dining quality, an issue previously discussed in the September Town Hall when students and an Octant investigation discovered identical items despite administration promises otherwise. “The sets themselves have no difference,” said a student pointing out the continuing lack of differentiation.

Owen responded by encouraging feedback to Smorgasbord such that the caterer can be made aware. “I personally have sent tons of feedback, but we need folks to voice for themselves too,” she said.

Other issues mentioned include the possibility of sugar-free drinks and insufficient quantities of fruits available at the salad bar. Rehn added that the Administration is working on restoring waffle service.

Dean of Faculty David Post also said the Administration is keeping track of students who have not taken Historical Immersion courses and will work to ensure everyone can fulfil curriculum requirements.

“We are trying to have a surplus of courses so you all have options,” Post said, though the administration cannot rule out unexpected faculty departures.

Post also cited the last-minute addition of Spanish classes in the ongoing semester as a way the College has responded to student feedback, adding that the Dean of Faculty Office is currently planning for the next Academic Year.

“We have resources to offer courses to you,” added President Joanne Roberts, “if there’s a strong demand for courses, say, Science Fiction, we can try to make that happen.” She and Post also said that the administration is concerned a large number of surplus electives would mean very low student numbers in each class, which could compromise student learning experience and faculty morale.

“Pedagogy is radically different if you only have one or two students in the room when you’ve designed a class for 16 to 18 students,” Post said, adding that the administration is “running out of degrees of freedom” to acclimatize faculty to teach in the College if it is for one year only.

Student Life and College Futures

When asked on reported limitations on Fabrication Labs use, the administration responded that restricting resin 3D printers to curricular uses only is not their policy and would coordinate with NUS Libraries. “The expectation on the Fab Labs is that they would be operated in a similar manner as before they came under NUS Libraries’ oversight, and it’s not a resources issue,” Post said.

When asked, Roberts said the obscure Advisory Committee on Expression on Campus was established in 2018, and Lynette Chua, former Rector of Elm College, is its sole member.

Residential Life Officers, Assistant Deans, and Counsellors will remain available across the remaining lifespan of the College, Owen said in response to student queries. “We have a more robust counsellor to student ratio than ever,” she said, adding that staff-to-student ratios will be maintained even if the numbers decrease.

The College will also continue to support P.S. We Care and other student groups, as well as funding for commemorative productions by seniors in 2025, but there are “very strict rules” on how the College can manage its physical assets and what can happen to property purchased with College funds after the closure.

The Graduation ceremony for the Class of 2025 is scheduled for Wednesday, May 14, 2025, with the year’s Alumni Reunion happening on May 17.

A Smorgasbord of Concerns Surround Yale-NUS’ New Dining Plan

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Story | Sheriah Peries (they/she), Staff Writer

Photo Credits to Instagram Account @yncdininghalltea

Smaller portions, less flexibility and limited alternatives greet students this semester

As a new academic year dawns and the student body reluctantly returns to its daily routine of sleep deprivation, last minute readings, and Indomie-induced saline crashes, an old foe rises to beat the monotony: the dining hall.

Yale-NUS’ dining halls are the centre of the time-honoured traditions of democratic representation, a space where students gather together to sample what is generally subpar but edible food, before offering their opinions and engaging in healthier discourse than the menu options for the day about it. The dining halls have inspired the witty epithets of Instagram food critic yncdininghalltea, prompted mass student mobilisation in favour of larger portion sizes and spawned dubious gastronomical creations such as the panini press pizza, a personal favourite.

This year, it seems that the dining halls’ notoriety will continue.

The Timeline

Last semester, former Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dave Stanfield announced that a new caterer would be servicing the Yale-NUS dining halls at Elm and Cendana from the beginning of this academic year. In July 2023, a follow-up email confirmed the new caterer to be Smorgasbord by Select Group, which also provides catering services to NUS dining halls, including those at NUSC and other residential halls. 

Given the higher residential fees incurred by YNC students relative to NUS residential fees, the student body’s biggest concerns centred around whether there would be a noticeable difference between the services provided within our dining halls, with the latest SAO email update reassuring us that “The budget that we’ve allocated for each of your meals is much more than the average meal cost for NUS students, and as such, you should expect a higher quality dining experience”.  

However, a week into the semester, expectations for a “higher quality dining experience” have been dwindling.

The problems

The most noticeable change between the current system and its predecessor, run by the SATS corporation, is the transition from a buffet style system to a set meal system. Under the buffet style system, students were provided four options each for a carbohydrate, protein, vegetable and supplementary dish, in addition to a free flow salad and fruit bar, and a panini press. Students could also access a Grab n’ Go option-either a sandwich or a wrap, along with a fruit and canned beverage- through vending machines at Cafe Agora, available outside of dining hall hours. 

The current system does not allow students to access dishes outside of the set meal options, significantly limiting our choices. This is especially concerning for vegetarian students and those with other dietary concerns, such as gluten allergies. For example, vegetarian students who wish to consume eggs for added protein are not allowed the option to do so, leading to concerns surrounding their nutritional intake. 

The Grab n’ Go options now consist of a single croissant or muffin with a juice carton for breakfast, hardly sufficient as a meal. And while we were informed that “Grab & Go will be available in the dining halls during all meal periods from Monday to Fridays”, at lunch  today dining hall staff at Cendana informed me that there were no Grab n’ Go options available. 

Additionally, portion sizes themselves have reduced, with students pointing out that only a single protein portion is available per tap. This is particularly disheartening considering previous student efforts to negotiate for larger protein quantities and portion sizes following similar issues with SATS, which resulted in students being allotted extra taps per meal. 

The credit system has also been scrutinised for not allowing students to transfer unused meal taps to different meals, an established practice under the old provider that came in handy for students who were willing to forfeit breakfast for a heartier lunch or dinner. Given the non-transferability of taps and the requirement of extra meal credits for more protein, concerns that students may run out of taps later in the semester have surfaced, an issue that would particularly impact low-income and accessibility needs students who may struggle to supplement their nutritional intakes due to budgeting or  accessibility constraints. 

Now What?

Despite its gathering power, I think it’s time to let students enjoy their meals in peace. While the food itself remains palatable, and the presence of halal menus,a more extensive salad bar, and longer dining hall hours is commendable, the fact remains that this is not a “higher quality dining experience” for many members of our community. Jokes about democracy aside, even if none of these policy changes affect you personally, they do affect your peers, your friends, your dining hall comrades.

Individual feedback must be sent through the NUS Dining Hall App, greatly diminishing the power that collective bargaining has provided in shaping fairer dining hall policies for us in the past. Alternative channels of feedback ought to be found, and hopefully used, to share our concerns and feedback. Whether or not today’s town hall will be one such avenue of communication remains to be seen.

The battle may be long and arduous, but it is worthwhile, and are we truly happier than when we gather together on YNC Forks and Spoons to bemoan our culinary fates?

Probably. Nevertheless, we prevail.

The views expressed here are the author’s own. The Octant welcomes all voices in the community. Email submissions to: yncoctant@gmail.com

Identical Items Observed at NUS College and Yale-NUS Dining Halls under New Meal Plan despite Differing Costs

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Story | The Octant Team

Photos | Joshua Vargas (he/him)

The Octant would like to thank two guest reporters who contributed substantially to the investigation but requested anonymity. Their identities have been independently verified.

Update 17 August, 3.16pm: we have received the Student Affairs Office’s response that they had been independently aware of the similarity and had been working with NUS and Smorgasbord, the caterer, to rectify the issue. More details can be found under the section “Caterer Responsive to Feedback: Student Affairs Office”.

Dining Halls open to NUS College and Yale-NUS College served visually identical meals to their students over at least two days, The Octant has found.

On 14 and 16 August, reporters compared meal offerings across breakfast and dinner at the four dining halls allocated to NUSC and Yale-NUS and found no identifiable difference among the fifteen items on offer. This is despite a higher residential cost charged to Yale-NUS students and repeated reassurances from Yale-NUS officials that the College has a significantly higher food expenditure.

No Significant Difference in Items Served

At breakfast service on 14 August, both the Cinnamon Wing and the Cendana College dining halls served fifteen items, according to menus available on the NUS Dining app. The items served for each set meal are substantially similar, barring minor variations in names and appearing on the menu apps in different orders.

MealCinnamon WingCendana College
W#01 Potato Wedges
#02 Chicken Ham Frittata (HC)
#03 Roasted Root Vegetables (HC)
#1 Potato Wedges
#2 Chicken Ham Frittaha (sic)
#3 Roasted Roots Vegetables (HC)
A#04 Mee Tai Mak Soup
#05 Minced Chicken and Fish Ball
#06 Chinese Spinach (HC) 
#14 Mee Tai Mak Soup
#4 Minced Chicken and Fish Ball
#5 China Spinach
AV#07 Mee Tai Mak Soup
#08 Mock Fish Slice
#09 Chinese Spinach (HC)
#15 Mee Tai Mak Soup
#6 Mock Fish Slice
#7 China Spinach
M#10 Nasi Lemak with Condiments
#11 Sambal Boiled Eggs
#12 Chicken Drumlets (HC)
#8 Nasi Lemak with Condiments
#9 Sambhal Boiled Eggs Spicy Eggs
#10 Chicken Drumlets (HC)
I/IV#13 Nasi Lemak with Condiments
#14 Mock Chicken Dal
#15 Zucchini Aloo Jeera (HC)
#11 Coconut Rice
#12 Mock Chicken Dhal Indian Mock Chicken Lentil Curry
#13 Zucchini Aloo Jeera Spiced Zucchini and Potatoes
Fig. 1. Comparison of food items at breakfast service on 14 August. All names are transcribed from the NUS Dining app from screenshots attached below in gallery Fig. 2. Set meals are grouped based on the parenthetical prefixes attached to each item.

The Western set meals served were also visually identical.

Fig. 3. W Set Meals at Cinnamon (left) and Cendana (right) dining halls.

NUS College dining menus were not reflected on the mobile app at dinner service on 15 and 16 August. However, according to signs displayed in the Dining Halls, the full menus were again substantially similar at dinner on 16 August between Saga and Elm, which are allocated to NUSC and Yale-NUS respectively but share a common kitchen. The only differences lie in the categorization of different dishes under different meals. 

SetSaga CollegeElm College
I/IV (Saga)Seafood Tofu
Indian Prawn Masala
Lady Finger with Tomato
Brinjal Pakora
This option is not offered. Similar dishes are found under the “Malay” set.
AHong Kong Steamed Fish
Braised Potatoes
Herbal Chicken
Stir-fried Chye Sim
Braised Potatoes
Sauteed Napa Cabbage 
Hong Kong Steamed Fish (HC)
Herbal Chicken (HC)
MKashmiri Pulao
Ginger Fish
Chicken Rendang
Kashmiri Pulao
Ginger Fish
Chicken Rendang
Sayur Lodeh
Seafood Tofu
WCreamy Mash
Ratatouille
Beef stroganoff
Creamy Mash
Ratatouille (HC)
Beef Stroganoff
AVCauliflower/Capsicum Stir Fry
Stir fried Chye Sim
Mapo Tofu
Stir-fried Napa Cabbage
Sauteed Napa Cabbage
Stir Fry Chye Sim (HC) 
Stir Fried Broccoli
Mapo Tofu
Steamed Rice (White/Brown)
Fig. 4. Comparison of food items at dinner service on 16 August. All names are transcribed from the dishes mentioned in the aforementioned dining halls.

Variety and Quality Used to Explain Higher Costs

Prior to the adoption of the new catering contract, Yale-NUS administrators promised higher quality and more variety in the meals served to justify higher costs despite having the same caterer as the NUS Residential Colleges. 

In the email first announcing the dining arrangement on 31 March, former Vice President (Student Affairs) Dave Stanfield wrote that “the Yale-NUS dining menu will remain distinct from the other UTown RCs with an emphasis on quality and variety.” This was concurred by Acting Dean of Students Cory Owen on 10 August in a college-wide email. 

“I want to reassure you that your meals will not be the same as the rest of campus. The budget that we’ve allocated for each of your meals is much more than the average meal cost for NUS students, and as such, you should expect a higher quality dining experience,” Dr Owen wrote.

Yale-NUS charges students $4525 for the upcoming semester prior to financial aid. This is $292 higher than NUS College residential fees of $172 a week for 18 weeks and dining fees of about $1137 charged to its students on the Yale-NUS campus, according to a Straits Times article documenting a NUS-wide fee increase. 

The College also subsidizes student meals considerably. In 2019, Executive Vice President of Administration Kristen Lynas spoke at a College-wide town hall that students were only charged 40% of the total cost of meals available. 

We do not yet know if the subsidy has increased or if Yale-NUS is affected by meal plan price hikes across other NUS residential locations, which can be as high as 40%. Students will not be given bills higher than that in their year of admission under the College’s fee policies.

Student Sentiments and Complaints Regarding Changes

On August 14, students began flooding the “YNC help! I need…” chat with more concerns about the dining hall meal and the meal plan itself. Previously, it had garnered a similar buzz after Dr Owen and Serene Tam (Cendana College Manager)’s emails regarding the details of the new dining hall plan.

Alongside numerous other complaints, many students have noticed the similarity between the meals at Yale-NUS (Elm and Cendana) and NUSC (Saga and Cinnamon).

In the aforementioned groupchat, Amogh N. Agarwal (Class of ‘24) had sent, “Hi folks…it also seems to me that elm food might be the same as NUSC food in saga.…” Other students echoed this idea for later meals, like Jenelle Lee (Class of ‘24) who quickly added that, “also saw that dinner for elm and saga looked pretty much if not exactly the same…isn’t nusc supposed to be on a diff meal plan.”

NUS, Caterer Responsive to Feedback: Student Affairs Office

Dr Owen told The Octant that the SAO had been independently aware of the issue at the start of the week and had been communicating with NUS and Smorgasbord, the caterer. 

“​​We became aware of this on Monday night and a member of our team reached out to NUS immediately,” wrote Dr Owen in an email responding to Octant queries, “NUS has been highly responsive and quickly provided us with a response and plan of action to improve the dining experience for us.”

When asked to elaborate on funding differences, Dr Owen said that Yale-NUS and NUS College operate on different billing models “due to differences in our curriculum, campus life, and amenities. The dining model at YNC is also different because we provide lunches and pay our food vendors a higher rate to ensure that quality food and service is provided.”

She attributed Smorgasbord’s errors to unfamiliarity as the new caterer adjusts to operating within a new college. “As discussed during the Town Hall, each new vendor needs a bit of time to acclimate to their roles and Smorgasbord has been using our feedback to change the menu to better meet our needs,” she wrote, “I am pleased that we have been seeing positive adjustments every time feedback has been shared.”

Town Hall attendees were told they could see improvements reflected by the end of Instructional Week 4, and Owen said the SAO would continue to liaise with Smorgasbord and NUS according to feedback. 

“We will continue to push for more changes in the dining hall to reflect the quality of food expected, if quality and service levels do consistently fall below our expectations, we will consider making changes to the contract,” she wrote.

Class of 2025 declare their majors: Economics becomes the most popular major, MCS relegated to second-place

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Story | Suman (they/them), Co-Editor-in-Chief

Photo | Joshua Vargas (he/him)

Figure 1: Distribution of Majors in Class of 2025

On the 17th of March in AY2022-2023, the Class of 2025 concluded their major declaration exercise, with a total of 226 participants, including 14 DDP students, 3 Admit Year 2019 students, and 3 Admit Year 2020 students. 

The Class of 2025 currently includes 223 students from Admit Year 2021, however, 3 of those students are yet to declare their major. As the ‘last’ Class of Yale-NUS, this marks the end of the annual major declaration exercise conducted in the students’ second semester of their sophomore year.

There have been significant changes in the spread of majors chosen across the batch (Figure 1).

Mathematical and Computational Sciences (MCS), which has been the most popular major for the past three major declaration exercises, has been relegated to second place in terms of popularity this year. For the first time in Yale-NUS’ history, Economics was the most popular major choice in the exercise, with 33 students.

Figure 2: Proportion of students spread across departments

Figure 2: Percentage of Students Declaring Majors in Each Division

The proportion of students spread across different departments remains relatively the same, however, with around 50% of students in the Social Sciences. The Sciences department which typically constitutes of around a quarter of the total students has decreased to around 22% with the Humanities department gaining more students (Figure 3).

This drastic increase in Humanities majors is evident in Figure 4, where the percentage change of majors between the major declaration exercises of 2022 and 2023, has almost doubled, like History, leading to double the number of students in that major. In contrast, it is the Sciences department that has decreased in popularity with a significant percentage change decrease in MCS and the Physical Sciences. Environmental Studies, as well, which for the past couple of years, has been on an increasing path, had a significant decrease in students. 

Figure 3: Percentage Change in Class Composition by Major between 2022 and 2023. NB: Small changes in absolute numbers can lead to large percentage fluctuations for majors with low enrollment

One of the highlights of Yale-NUS’ liberal arts education has been its freedom to explore different disciplines and being able to change majors within the course of our degree, and in the penultimate years of the college beginning, one might be curious to note how this spread will change. A new factor to be considered in the change of majors for the Class of 2025 will be the availability of introductory courses in the final years for majors that don’t necessarily have a clear NUS-equivalent like Urban Studies. Typically, majors change as students get more freedom to explore beyond the common curriculum and through students’ study abroad, but it can be expected that flexibility will become more rigid as the college begins to shut down in a more literal sense. 

Major201720182019202020212022202320242025
Anthropology10141591371278
ArtsHum16101611866511
DDP8131112158131315
Economics8913161927172133
Env. Studies141213131720233015
Global Affairs10111171220251818
History109145118837
Life Sciences38861298821
Literature695128191034
MCS121422332724333627
Philosophy455786677
PPE172313343132212123
Phys. Sciences35841261082
Psychology131312171919221816
Urban Studies991882017181520
Total143164184194232228232213226
Figure 4: Raw Numbers of Students per major from different batches

Space Use in AY23/24: What We Know

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Story | Avery Huang (she/her)

This is an ongoing story. We will update this article as more information becomes available.

Yale-NUS gradually confirmed the closure of Saga College over the Spring 22/23 semester, with the former Residential College’s (RC) living spaces designated for use by NUS College students in the next academic year. We speak to outgoing Dean of Students, Dave Stanfield, on how campus space will be shared between Yale-NUS and NUS College.

Saga Closure and Space Availability

While residential spaces, including Sky Gardens, will be reserved for NUS College students, common areas within the former RC remain largely accessible to students holding Yale-NUS cards. This includes the Common Lounge, the courtyard, as well as the Buttery, though NUS College does not plan to maintain student-run evening food services.

Meanwhile, classrooms will be allocated exclusively to either institution, with Yale-NUS students having access to classrooms designated as Yale-NUS and vice versa. About eight classrooms will be handed to NUS College, including Saga LT1, according to an announcement on 17 February, though this number is yet to be confirmed.

“At the beginning of each semester, we will announce to students any new spaces being handed over to NUS College,” Dr Stanfield said.

The College administration will seek alternative placements for physical items located in spaces to be handed over. Games in the Saga Buttery, for example, will be transferred to the other RCs.

However, alternatives are not always straightforward. Brewhouse, the beloved volunteer-run coffee institution serving the campus, announced on April 27 that they could no longer operate from the Elm Courtyard after losing access to the Saga College Office, where their cart is usually stored. Brewhouse would instead operate at the Cafe Agora space.

As Yale-NUS moves out of the RC, students currently residing in Saga are given “reserved suites” in other Residential Colleges, according to the same February announcement made in advance of the annual Room Draw.

These suites are reserved for groups with a majority of Saga students, and released starting with the highest floors if Saga groups select other suites. According to Dr Stanfield, this is done “in recognition that the greatest burden falls on those living in Saga.”

However, some question if this is enough protection.

Rewind: Why did Saga Close?

The decision to close Saga College was announced in a mass email sent out in December 2022, following a survey conducted on student preferences for space use over the semester.

The RC Advisory Committee, which oversaw the survey, argued that while the greatest number of respondents preferred spreading the Yale-NUS population across all three RCs, it was also ranked as the least preferable option out of three by the most number of students. It also said that “75% of responses ranked [preserving Cendana and Elm] among their first two choices,” and that closing Saga would be “the most acceptable to a majority of students on campus” in AY 23/24.

This decision received criticism from current and alumni members of the Saga community, who argued that the survey results were inconclusive. In a letter to the administration, they suggested that no option emerged as the clear favorite and that responses were divided strongly along RC lines, suggesting instead a strong preference among the student body not to sacrifice any RC. They also believed the survey was unrepresentative, with a larger number of Cendana respondents than either Elm or Saga.

The school administration held a Community Dialogue in January regarding these concerns, but did not change their decision.

Following the expiry of Rector Neil Clarke’s appointment in June 2023 and Rector Lynette Chua’s departure from Elm College, former Saga Rector Hoon Eng Khoo will become the only rector in the Yale-NUS RC system. Assistant Deans and Residential Life Officers will work with the same students they are assigned to under the three-RC model.

Elm and Cendana Futures

According to the same housing announcement, 27 Elm suites—slightly less than half of the tower’s total capacity—will be given to NUS College students. According to Stanfield, this decision was “supported by administrative and community reasons,” including “the optimal deployment of operational and staffing resources” by NUS College administrators and “the desire to house students closer to each other in order to build a strong community.”

The Community Living Report released 5 December 2022 announced the closure of Saga but did not address the use of other living spaces.

While there is speculation that Yale-NUS students would be housed exclusively in Cendana College in AY 24/25, when asked, Stanfield responded that “the decision on which RC to hand over in AY 24/25 has not been finalized.”

He also said that the Yale-NUS administration would maintain authority over the entire campus until June 2025, and that “decisions regarding housing allocations for next AY were made jointly between Yale-NUS and NUS College administration, considering the respective needs of each community.”

The Community Living Report did not specify the degree or presence of NUS College involvement in its recommendations. A student member of the committee, who requested to remain anonymous, added that no communications were made with NUS College.

We are grateful to Associate Dean of Students Cory Owen for her assistance with fact-checking.

Are you a reader from NUS College? We are eager to hear your perspectives. Please reach out to us at yncoctant[at]gmail.com with your thoughts and comments.

Reflections on The Death and Life of Great Halcyon RCs and Saga Courtyard

Story | Thomas Bean (they/them)

Image | Avery Huang (she/her)

I first planned and drafted The Death and Life of Great Halcyon RCs around 2 years ago after reading Jane Jacobs’ analysis of downtown spaces in an urban studies class. At the time, I discussed my observations about Yale-NUS courtyards with my close friends and found that many felt excited when theorising the relationships between the physical structures of the courtyard and the life that takes place within them, so I proceeded to pitch the article to The Octant and got it published. I had fun writing it as it was the first time I had ever taken such a strong stance on an issue and written such a polemical piece.

I have told my friends why I, a proud Sagan, dedicated a large part of the article to heavily criticise the physical structure of Saga Courtyard but I do not think my reasons are widely known. I intentionally wanted to give Saga the most space in the article as I loved it most amongst the three RCs. I wanted to inspire people to converse and dream about how we could transform Saga Courtyard so that it would become YNC’s indisputable best courtyard. To achieve this, I went as far as saying “For dramatic purposes, let us declare it (Saga Courtyard) dead.”  The most controversial line in the entire article, and one that I still find somewhat hilarious, definitely made Sagans and others in the YNC community laugh and offended a Sagan or two. Most importantly though, I think that line and the general passion conveyed through the article brought about a renewed appreciation for the courtyards. People read it, it sparked conversation and many discussed the article with me afterwards.

I did not expect the article to have the impact it did. Initially, I felt really happy when I heard that the Residential College offices and Dean of Students’ office were circulating the article around internally, reading it, and having meetings about it. In the following semesters after the Octant published the article, Saga Courtyard arguably hosted more events than the more central Elm Courtyard. This was made possible by the dedication of the Rector Khoo, AD Paul, the RLOs Tinesh and Gabriel, and the very enthusiastic first-year students that ran the Saga College Council. The Class of 25’ injected energy, enthusiasm, and spirit that Saga had never seen and made it livelier than ever. Many other factors, including the loosening of pandemic restrictions and Saga’s unique College Council structure, made the above possible but I like to think that the article I wrote had small part to play in rejuvenating Saga as a space and highlighting activity in the courtyard as core to an amazing RC experience.

I have since learnt that one cannot predict how people will take up one’s writing and the impact that has. I did not expect the closure of Yale-NUS when I wrote the paper nor the possibility that we would have to close an RC. While courtyard activity was far from the primary factor for deciding to retreat from Saga first, the committee deliberating on YNC’s housing plan for 2024 and 2025 considered it. They briefly mentioned their view in the report that Saga Courtyard received less regular use and I think the same article that sparked a positive change may have cemented the image of Saga Courtyard as the quietest. I regret that happened and have certainly learnt not to underestimate the impact one’s writing can have.

While we will seldom organise events in this space anymore, I hope that I and others will continue to use it. The landscaping, vegetation, topography, and ventilation of the courtyard make it a pleasant space to just hang out alone and reflect. Even if we cannot physically be there, we will retain some of our greatest memories of hanging out in the space with friends or watching movies on its slopes. For YNC’s best courtyard, let us declare it alive in our memories. Thriving. Forever.

T. K. Bean

Author of the The Death and Life of Great Halcyon RCs

Yale-NUS Library and Fab Lab to be placed under NUS Libraries’ Administration: Roberts

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Story | Suman (they/she), Managing Editor; Avery Huang (she/her), Editor in Chief

Illustration/photo | Joshua Vargas (he/him)

The Yale-NUS Library, which currently maintains priority access for residents on the Yale-NUS campus, and the Fab Lab, as part of a greater Educational Resources and Technology (ERT) move, will be transitioning under NUS Libraries’ direct administration soon, Yale-NUS President Joanne Roberts, revealed in a September 12 interview with The Octant.

Currently, the Yale-NUS Library remains under the administration of Yale-NUS, although it is available for day-time use to all NUS students. However, as the road to the closure for Yale-NUS becomes shorter, parts of Yale-NUS’ physical space, including the library, will be slowly turned over to NUS and/or NUS College (NUSC)’s direct administration; although Yale-NUS students will maintain priority in the access to such facilities.

Unlike the Library, the Fab Lab only remains currently for use by NUSC and Yale-NUS students. As per the transition agreement, Yale-NUS students will maintain priority in facilities use, followed by NUSC students. Access for students not registered in either institution is under discussion.

Rather than waiting until June 2025 to move all staff to NUS, which Roberts claimed would be “extremely difficult to do while providing smooth and well-supported career transitions for all of our staff and faculty”, she hopes a progressive approach would “better provide Yale-NUS students with the service that was promised to them” and allow staff and faculty ample time to plan their career futures.

‘The plan is to move progressively, and only move areas where service remains guaranteed’

On August 31st, through the Telegram Kingfisher Chirps Channel, Yale-NUS Student Government (StuGov) had addressed questions regarding ‘UTown Library’ referring to the Yale-NUS Library which would be opening up fully to UTown residents. In it, they had clarified with Dave Stanfield, Vice President (Campus Life) that Yale-NUS would continue to maintain priority access to the library and its facilities until 2025. Roberts echoed Stanfield’s words, and reiterated that, “a service-level agreement would be locked in” where Yale-NUS would maintain priority as it has until now, i.e. exclusive access from 6pm to 10pm, priority for library space booking.

As the college’s inevitable end comes closer, cession of Yale-NUS physical space also becomes inevitable. In response to the lack of notice about the Global Learning Rooms (GLRs) and Classrooms 7 and 9 being NUSC-only spaces, Roberts apologized that “it felt like a surprise”, but maintained that, “progressively, space that isn’t needed will be released…in future we will attempt to consult with students on this release”. 

In the conversation with Roberts, she clarified that they are just “starting to have the conversation” with NUS LIbraries and are “setting up the time to begin [discussing] with student associates.” She explained that “Yale-NUS’ staff [would report] to NUS Libraries and we have a service level agreement that ensure we maintain services, including reserves, hours and priority bookings,” and the transition would be like that of the Writer’s Centre, which, as of AY 2022-2023, has fully transitioned under NUS Libraries.

Previously managed by Yale-NUS for the sole use of its students, now the Writers’ Centre provides support for all NUS students. Accordingly, 64% of the newly hired tutors in AY 2022/2023 are students not registered at Yale-NUS, to accommodate for the rising NUS population that would be availing of the service. According to Roberts, the Writers’ Centre has nonetheless conducted a similar number of consults for Yale-NUS students as before. 

‘Tangible reminder of the impermanence’

In the meeting, which took place on September 12th, Roberts said that more information would be released on the transition after the “first visit with SAs” after Recess Week. She continued, “taking student feedback is important to ensure that we’re delivering on our promise”, and considering library SAs’ opinions would be an important first step. She highlighted the importance of “especially [engaging] the students who are attached to the area because they really know what are the most important things that we need to lock in, in terms of service” prior to moving forward with the transition. However, as seen below in Figure 1, no information regarding the transition was shared with them prior to the meeting.

Figure 1: A copy of the email that was circulated to the library SAs prior to Recess Week.

Alongside the Library, another Yale-NUS fixture, the Fab Lab, which is currently under the ERT department, will be similarly transitioning to NUS Libraries. The timeline for this transfer is currently unknown, but it can be safe to assume that both will have fully moved under NUS Libraries by the next academic year.

For Roberts, as aforementioned, a big part of the reason to begin transitioning departments now rather than in 2025, is for staff service. Other than the promises made to students, the Yale-NUS administration has certain responsibilities to uphold towards the staff and faculty as well, and this drives the progressive transition. Roberts said, “We have [around] 200 staff…difficult to do it in a couple of months [if done after June 2025]” and by moving departments like the library and the ERT, “service remains guaranteed and we can support our staff with an orderly and smooth transition”.

The transition of the EdTech team within ERT would be with a similar service agreement, where “NUS would support Canvas and Blue, the course evaluation software, for us.” And in particular, Roberts insists that moving the library and the some other ERT teams are teams where “it’s relatively easy to lock in the service level” unlike “moving something the ADs and the RLOs…where we’ll keep those teams here with us until June 2025 because that’s the way we guarantee service.” The plan for administration is to continue “in general, to prioritize Yale-NUS while being fair to the NUSC students”.

Figure 2: A copy of the email that was circulated to the students who frequent the Fab Lab

For most Yale-NUS students, the change perhaps will not even be noticeable. Their priority access remains a given until 2025 by the word of many Yale-NUS administrators. In the transition of the library and the ERT, it can be expected that the greatest student stakeholders’ opinions, those who may frequent the Fab Lab or work at the library, will be heard and taken into consideration to lock in ‘a service level agreement’ with NUS Libraries. Nonetheless, the change and transition is symbolic. Slowly, but steadily, parts of Yale-NUS will no longer remain Yale-NUS’ in the near future.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the administrative transition would open the Fab Lab to all NUS students. Access for students not registered in Yale-NUS/NUS College is still under discussion. We have since made corrections in the article.

Want to tell us how you feel about the transition of the library and the Fab Lab? Have other thoughts on the story? Write to our Letters to the Editor column here.

Changes in Residential College Model Likely; Report to be Published for Consultation: Stanfield

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Story | Avery (she/her), Editor-in-Chief; Suman (she/they), Managing Editor

Photo | Raphael Hugh (he/him)

Yale-NUS will likely reduce the number of residential colleges from Academic Year 2023/2024, Dave Stanfield, Vice President (Campus Life), revealed in an August 25 interview with The Octant.

According to Dr. Stanfield, the College administration is considering these changes as part of a “sustainable staffing plan,” as it grapples with maintaining community in the face of dwindling student numbers. Detailed proposals will be put forward for consultation by the student body later in September, according to the Yale-NUS Student Government (StuGov) in an August 28 statement.

Two Residential Colleges Proposed

Current plans see the 500-strong Yale-NUS student body housed in two residential colleges come AY23/24, Stanfield confirmed.

“We are coming up with a sustainable staffing plan for the next two years, one that may involve consolidation,” Stanfield said, “if students are spread out across three residential colleges, we won’t be able to provide the best experience for them.”

He also confirmed that Prof. Neil Clarke had been given a one-year contract to serve as the Rector of Cendana College. After Prof. Clarke’s contract expires in AY23/24, Yale-NUS College will be served by two Rectors and three Assistant Deans. 

However, details on what actions will be taken remain under deliberation, Stanfield said, denying rumors that the decision had been taken to shut down Cendana College.

“An RC is not just physical spaces but includes ADs, Rectors, and staff” he said, “How will we deploy them? If we won’t have three RCs, how will the students be grouped? There are all sorts of questions we are trying to think through carefully.”

“There are many logistical challenges that must be considered and we haven’t made a decision.”

Stanfield also pointed to the need to maintain a cohesive community as the College size shrinks, citing student feedback that it is important to stay physically close together.

“What’s an RC with 70 people? There’s no economy of scale to achieve a similar type of community.”

Stanfield did not divulge the identities of students he consulted, remarking only they were “informal in nature.” In an interview with The Octant, Vice-President (Campus Life) of StuGov Tang Jia Wen ‘25 said she could not support any particular arrangement.

“We can’t have a stand without knowing what everyone wants,” Tang said, “we’ve recommended the Student Affairs Office to quickly put out a list of pros and cons, so students can be more informed and we can advocate accordingly.”

Plans to be Put to Student Body; Retention of Three-College Model Unlikely

The Student Affairs Office (SAO) plans to publish a report on the future of the Residential College system on a future date, once it has finalized its proposed arrangement. 

In its statement, StuGov also announced that “students will be invited to discuss the proposed recommendations” following their publication.

The SAO remains “flexible” on what format these consultations will take, said Stanfield. “We want to provide a starting point for discussions by sharing a set of recommendations, so while it is not top-down, there are clear benefits to using a structured process that includes multiple opportunities for student input.”

Tang also urged students to approach StuGov with feedback on possible consultation formats.

“Ultimately, [we and the SAO] are working towards the same goal of preserving student experience,” she said, “but it is important for us to voice out feedback and align SAO’s proposals with what students want”

However, the retention of the three-college system is unlikely, even if it gathers significant popular support.

“I understand students have their feelings and desires, and we are trying to take a thoughtful approach,” Stanfield said, “but for a number of reasons it will be logistically challenging to maintain three RCs.”

He also acknowledged the importance of the residential colleges to the Yale-NUS experience, and committed to maintaining a “Kingfisher spirit” across the final years of the College.

“We’ve worked hard to build RC spirit and that makes these decisions difficult, but I hope we can focus on being one Yale-NUS together.”

This may not be the only way in which the student experience is affected, as Yale-NUS moves into its final two years. When asked about the future of student organizations given a decline in student population, Stanfield said the SAO did not yet have a “perfect answer,” though expanding to the wider NUS could be a partial solution.

“We are looking forward to working with students on creative solutions,” he said.

Correction: A previous version of the article quoted Dave Stanfield as saying it was “impossible” to maintain three RCs; in fact, he said it would be “challenging.” We have since made the clarifications in the article.

Want to tell us how you feel about the future of the residential colleges? Have other thoughts on the story? Write to our Letters to the Editor column here.

NUS College Class of 2026 Admissions Data: A New College

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Story | Avery (she/her)

Illustration/photo | Joshua Vargas (he/him)

The demographics of the first NUS College (NUSC) cohort debuted in a report by The Straits Times on Sunday (17 July). 

The data—released first in the national newspaper despite The Octant queries two weeks prior—reveal an inaugural cohort more diverse in some aspects and less in others than the Yale-NUS Class of 2025, the liberal arts college’s final intake.

Greater accessibility is a central tenet behind NUS College’s founding, according to NUS President Tan Eng Chye in a September 2021 editorial defending the new programme, then known as New College.

7,000 Applicants, 400 Students

NUS College will welcome 400 students in its first class, or 6% of its approximately 7,000 applications. NUSC did not publicize the total number of offers, with which acceptance rates are typically calculated.

The size of the NUS College application pool decreased by more than half from the last Yale-NUS admissions cycle, where 14,367 applications were submitted and 240, or about 2%, attended.

“We are excited about the interest for NUS College and are impressed with the quality of applicants for our first intake,” commented Vice Dean (Outreach) Quek Su Ying of NUS College, responding to queries from The Octant.

“We expect to attract more interest from outstanding students in the years to come.”

At admission, the distribution of intended majors among NUS College students is as follows, representing most NUS faculties except Medicine and Dentistry. This aligns with NUS College’s ambitions to offer “flexible access to multiple pathways and specialisations,” according to Prof. Tan.

NUS College students also have the option to change their majors in the first two years of college. 

 NUS College (at admissions, data provided by NUS College)
FASS31%
FOS11%
CHS (undeclared)8%
CDE9%
Law9%
Biz9%
SOC24%

Financial Aid

NUS College said that “a college survey of [first-years’] household incomes found that about one in four can be classified as ‘needy’ students who are likely to qualify for higher education bursaries.” 

This is considerably lower than the proportion of students NUS-wide, which a February The Straits Times article quoted as 55% of all undergraduates.

This also reflects a significant decrease from the Yale-NUS Class of 2025, 39% of whom received merit or need-based aid. In the Class of 2024, the last Yale-NUS cohort with need-blind admissions for international students, that number rises further to 57%. 

The complexities of financial aid also hinder straightforward comparison. On the surface, Yale-NUS is considerably more expensive, with fees ranging from $30,041 per year for Singapore citizens to $74,653 for international students not on the tuition grant. 

An NUS College student will pay $8,250 as a Singapore citizen or $34,250 as an international student without the tuition grant, and a residential fee of approximately $7,000 to stay in Cinnamon College. 

However, Yale-NUS adopted a need-based approach towards financial aid, offering individualized awards based on what it believed each student could pay after an assessment of personal circumstances regardless of citizenship.

While the College does not publicize specific aid quanta, students can sometimes pay significantly less than the asking price. 

What NUS College refers to by “higher education bursaries” is unclear. It is also unknown if the one-in-four proportion includes all students who “are likely to” qualify for at least one financial scheme, or considers only those who receive sufficient financial aid in NUS College’s judgment.

“We will continue to keep the fees at NUSC affordable, while our students will also have access to the extensive financial aid options that are currently available for all NUS students,” says Prof. Quek in response to financial aid queries.

The NUS Office for Financial Aid uses Per Capita Income (PCI) as the main determinant of eligibility for many of its numerous schemes, each with varying requirements, according to its website

Such rigid criteria may not adequately reflect individual circumstances, such as if a family supports multiple university-age children simultaneously or if family members require high medical expenditures. 

International students are also restricted in the types of aid they receive, being explicitly excluded from some types of bursaries in addition to stricter PCI requirements of less than $1,200, as opposed to $2,700 for Singaporeans.

The same February article announced that NUS will cover all tuition fees for Singaporean students with a PCI lower than $1,000, while those with PCIs lower than $690 will receive up to $26,000 over four years for living expenses. Residential Colleges may also award bursaries to offset residential fees.

Schools and Cultures of Origin

NUS College will welcome 20 Polytechnic graduates—a slightly higher proportion than the last Yale-NUS cohort—and five Madrasah graduates among its first students. Yale-NUS did not specify in the past if any students were admitted from Madrasahs.

International students hold 21 different citizenships, a fall from the 35 represented in the Class of 2025, and comprise 100 of the 400 students. 

The Octant has also used the number of students from Singapore-based schools as a gauge of cultural diversity, as citizenship may not accurately reflect the cultural backgrounds of foreign students attending local or international schools in Singapore. NUS College did not address The Octant queries on the topic.

NUS College also declined to provide data on gender identity or legal sex. In comparison, legal sex is one of the few demographic data the NUS Registrar’s Office makes available for the whole NUS student body.

Previously, the Yale-NUS admissions office released data on student legal sex, while declining to do so for gender identity as it did not require new students to answer such a question.

“The NUSC team and senior students are now focused on welcoming our inaugural cohort when they join us in August,” Prof. Quek commented.

Class of 2024 declare their majors: MCS remains most popular major, with ES a close second

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Story | Suman (they/them), Managing Editor

Photo | Joshua Vargas (he/him), Graphics

Figure 1: Distribution of Majors in Class of 2024

On the 18th of March in AY2021-2022, the Class of 2024 finished their major declaration exercise, with a total of 213 participants, including 13 DDP students. This year, more so than in the past, there have been significant changes in the spread of majors chosen across the batch (Figure 1).

As has been the case for the past two years, Mathematical, Computational, and Statistical Sciences (MCS) remained the most popular major choice. A record-high number of 36 students declared MCS as their major, breaking the previous record from the Class of 2023 with 33 students. 

However, the second most popular major choice, Environmental Studies, has beaten out other usually popular majors like Global Affairs and Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) with yet-another record breaking high of 30 students.

In a drastic change, majors like Literature and History have overtaken Philosophy and Arts and Humanities, typically the least popular majors, as the least declared ones with at a new low, 3.

The significant changes have also changed the general proportionality of students in every division. The proportion of students in the Science division has increased from 22%, for the Class of 2023, to 24.5% for the rising juniors. Similarly, the proportion of students in the Social Sciences has also risen from 50% to 51.2%. This increase has also led to the corresponding drop in the Humanities department quite considerably from 13% to 8.4% (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Proportion of students spread across departments

With these unprecedented changes (much like the closure), the changes in class composition from the previous batch to this one have been significant. The most note-worthy changes were in the Literature and Environmental Studies majors, respectively decreasing in almost 67.4% and increasing by 42.4% (Fig. 3).   

Figure 3:

nota bene: Small changes in absolute numbers can lead to large percentage fluctuations for majors with low enrollment

Comparing across different batches, the trend seems to remain similar and STEM subjects remain more in demand, but the significant change in the raw numbers, especially for the Humanities, may hint at a similar trend for the Class of 2025’s major declaration exercise next academic year, the last one in Yale-NUS’ history, where the Sciences and Social Sciences may also be overwhelmingly popular.

More so than the effects of online learning and the pandemic on Yale-NUS’ education, the College’s closure and departure of several faculty members, and the subsequent abnormally small list of modules for the next academic year, have heavily impacted this year’s major declaration exercise and how it might impact the decisions of next year’s batch. 

These implications, especially in the last few years of a tangible Yale NUS existence, become increasingly relevant when we consider the “limited edition degree” some 2000 or so students around the world will have by the mid 2020s. Majors like Urban Studies don’t have an exact equivalent in the greater NUS or other Singaporean higher education institutions, and the popularity of such degrees will become much more poignant in the future job markets, especially in a country like Singapore where a need for urban planning arises. 

For some rising juniors, the results of the major declaration didn’t affect the choices as much as the course lists did. On the other hand, for some juniors like Ryan Yeo ‘24, a Philosophy major, it didn’t make a much of a difference and they said that “the course list might have factored into my thinking as I was undecided between lit[erature] and philo[sophy] until recently…but it wouldn’t have changed what major I actually declared.”  

Figure 4: Raw Numbers of Students per major from different batches

Major20172018201920202021202220232024
Anthropology1014159137127
ArtsHum161016118665
DDP81311121581313
Economics89131619271721
Env. Studies1412131317202330
Global Affairs101111712202518
History10914511883
Life Sciences388612988
Literature69512819103
MCS1214223327243336
Philosophy45578667
PPE1723133431322121
Phys. Sciences3584126108
Psychology1313121719192218
Urban Studies9918820171815
Total143164184194232228232213

A Conversation with Rector Steven Bernasek, Rector of Cendana College 2019-2022

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Story | Genevieve Soh (she/her), Staff Reporter 

Photos | Steven Bernasek

It was a heartfelt moment on the afternoon of January 12 this year when esteemed Professor and Rector of Cendana College, Steven Lynn Bernasek, sent the students of Yale-NUS College an email titled “My Retirement.” In the email, Rector Steven announced his upcoming retirement as of June 30, 2022. Serving as Cendana’s Rector for the past three years, and as a Professor of Science (Chemistry) since joining Yale-NUS in 2015, Rector Steven holds a special place in the hearts of the Yale-NUS community. The announcement of his next milestone was met with overwhelming responses of warmth, well-wishes, and sweet sentiments from everyone. 

The Octant held an interview with Rector Steven in commemoration of his journey with Yale-NUS through these years. Here are some precious thoughts and words from the heart that Rector Steven would like to share with the staff and students of Yale-NUS:

What’s a really endearing memory from your time as the Cendana Rector that you hold close to your heart? 

“Start of Sem and End of Sem dinners, especially the group photos with students.”

Having been with Yale-NUS all these years, which three words would you use to describe/represent your overall journey at Yale-NUS, and why? 

“Exciting: The excitement of starting something new in my career. The excitement of the start of each semester and the return to classes.

Challenging: The variety of interesting problems to solve in various administrative roles. The uniqueness of the challenges in the context of starting up curricula, laboratories, and procedures.

Colleagues: The support of my colleagues in carrying out my work here, particularly my research fellows and students in my laboratory. Also my faculty colleagues who share a dedication to the idea and goals of Yale-NUS College.”

Rector Bernasek in the courtyard of ‘Pulau Cendana’.

What is one word you would use to describe the students and staff of Yale-NUS, and another word you would use to specifically describe the students and staff of Cendana, and why?

“For Yale-NUS—Committed: Students committed to and excited about learning. Staff committed to the goals of Yale-NUS, and to growth in their jobs.

For Cendana—Tall: Everyone knows that our students seem to be the tallest on campus. Must have something to do with the size of Tower A😊. And students and staff stand tall in the building of community in Pulau Cendana.”

Do you currently have any exciting retirement plans that you would like to share? 

“I expect to return to the US, to a home that I own in Texas. I probably won’t retire there long term, but will move to Kansas and a small rural property. I also plan to travel to visit my children and grandchildren, and to see interesting places around the world. I would also like to get my private pilot’s license up to date, and pursue my long time interest in flying small airplanes to visit interesting places in the US.”

Is there anything you would wish to tell the students and staff of Cendana and Yale-NUS before your retirement?

“It has been a real pleasure to work with and live with the students and staff of Cendana and Yale-NUS. Retiring is bittersweet, because I will be leaving friends and colleagues and the excitement and challenges of living and working at Yale-NUS and being in Singapore. I hope to return for visits and will continue to cherish the memories of my time here.”

As our final semester with Rector Steven comes to a close, from all of us here at Yale-NUS, we wish Rector Steven a wonderful and restful retirement, and a great big thank you for all he has done for Yale-NUS!

What the Duck?

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Story | Tanisha Naqvi (she/her), Contributing Reporter 

Photo | Ong Wei Lin

On the morning of Friday, March 11, several faculty members found a small rubber duck and anonymous handwritten note sitting by their office doors. The note read KNOCK KNOCK, and several were emblazoned with smiley faces. Exactly two weeks later, many (but not all) of the faculty members from the first round received a post-it note on their doors, this time reading WHO’S THERE?. The duck, this time, was hand-drawn.

This incident has elicited a range of reactions and theories, and one common question across faculty and students: what the duck just happened?

An example of the ducks. Photo taken and generously shared by Ong Wei Lin ’24.

Duck duck who?

No person contacted for this piece knew, or was willing to share, who was behind the ducks. As Professor Matthew Schneider-Mayerson shared with me, “This is one of the great mysteries of history, right up there with the JFK assassination and the closure of Yale-NUS.”

A professor mentioned to me during office hours that each note bore different handwriting, leading professors to wonder about the size of the group behind the act. I am no forensic expert, and the sample size is small, but the handwriting on the three notes pictured above appears to be different, as do the drawings of the ducks—although this could be the work of a forward-planning individual trying to throw the public off the trail.

This professor also shared with me that not all faculty members received a duck. It is unclear why some were chosen over others; my interviewees did not have any theories.

Wee Chin Wei Bryan ’25 suggested on the (Y)NC help! I need… Telegram group chat that the professors could be playing a game “like the murder game or smth where you slip notes to people to kill them idk.” Perhaps this is a game between professors—although some professors’ reactions suggest that not all are players.

Feathers ruffled

Professor Ricardo Cardoso said the incident reminded him of “that Korean show—Squid Game,” referring to the anonymous calling card received by characters of the Netflix hit. Prof. Cardoso was presumably referring to the inexplicably chosen few and the general vibe, which at least three professors (Prof. Cardoso included) and several students have described as creepy.

“I joked earlier that it was either bad performance art or a macabre warning that we will be purged,” said Professor Benjamin Schupmann (leading me to wonder how much performance art Prof. Schupmann has witnessed/participated in to make this judgement with such flippancy and ease). To some, the ducks are canaries in a coalmine: small, bright yellow harbingers of death. I cannot help but ask—what is coming next?

Rachel Tey ’24 has been theorising with her suitemates. “I htink it’s an april fool’s joke,” she confided in me over text on the night of Thursday, March 31. The structure of knock knock and who’s there led her and her suite to believe that a punchline would land Friday, April 1. She then shared her unease about the incident, pictured in the following screenshot:

Screenshot of conversation between Rachel Tey ‘24 (white) and Tanisha Naqvi ‘24 (green).

April 1 has come and gone, with no followup from the mysterious ducks. But Tey’s incisive “riddler shit” comment implies a political motivation behind the cryptic act—a theory allegedly shared by some professors, as one of my professors mentioned during office hours.

It seemed unclear what this motivation could be, until I emailed Prof. Schneider-Mayerson, who generously shared his theory behind the ducks:

“One can only assume that the knock-knock note, combined with the mini rubber duckie, is a reference to the climate emergency. Gaia is knocking, and in a time of rising sea level and extreme weather events, we will need to learn to (metaphorically) float. The rubber duckie offers short-term survival at the cost of plastic pollution, providing a lesson about the risks of renewable extractivism. The drama of climate change was set in motion by centuries of colonialism and capitalism, yet the punchline, the future, remains unclear. Who, indeed, is there?”Absurdist, dramatic performance art with a political bent? At this point, why not.

Creepy, curious, cute…

Reisha Lee ’23 shared on the (Y)NC help! I need… Telegram group chat that “prof matthew schneider-mayerson left a note that said “who’s there?” outside his office in response and was upset cus he didn’t get a reply, he is still trying to find the mystery messenger.” 

Prof. Schneider-Mayerson elaborated: “I like knock-knock jokes as much (or as little) as the next person, so I responded to the “knock knock” note with my own “who’s there?” note. Cruelly, I received no reply.” To his knowledge, he has not been contacted since by the people behind the ducks.

It is interesting that the “knock knock” and “who’s there” are speech acts expected to elicit a response, and yet those behind the act remain uninterested in conversation, even aloof.

But the reaction to this incident is not universally negative nor suspicious. “Yeah I am soooo curious,” said Qian Zilan ’24, on the (Y)NC help! I need… Telegram group chat. “Don’t know who does this but it is very cute.”

Contacted directly, Reisha shared that she thought the incident was quite cute, and that she respected it.

“I think it’s cute too,” said Hanae Gomez ’23, over text. “probs some ppl trying to make ppls day.”

The case remains unquacked

As stated before, nobody interviewed knew—or was willing to share—who committed the mysterious, yet ultimately harmless and kind of silly, act. Maybe this silence is the bated breath of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe there is no other shoe.

Political act, performance art, creepy, or cute: the jury is still out on the characterization of this incident. General sentiment seems to be divided, leaning towards morbid suspicion, though there are some who think that the act is confusing but kind of sweet.

For now, all we are left with is a joke without a punchline, and a joker cloaked in shadow, with no name or face but the smile of a cheaply-made rubber duck.

Module List for the Next Semester: What’s There, What’s Missing, and What’s Coming

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Story | Avery (she/her), Staff Editor, and Ryan Yeo (he/him), Staff Writer

Graphics | Avery (she/her)

On Wednesday (March 30), Registry released the list of available courses for the Fall 2022 semester. 

The first module list for Yale-NUS’s first post-closure academic year offers a reduced number of courses compared to the indicative three-year course lists distributed in February. On average, there was a reduction in course availability by 14% compared to the three-year course list, compounding student fears of a compromised Yale-NUS experience. 

In an April 4 email to The Octant, and subsequently an April 7 email to the student body, Associate Dean (Curriculum) Steven Green explained that the three-year course list did not include courses to be taught by new faculty, since the College is still finalizing its hiring decisions. He also mentioned the tentative nature of the three-year course lists, which would be continuously updated as changes are made.

Comparison with three-year course list

In February, the Yale-NUS Dean of Faculty released a three-year course list, provisionally listing all the courses to be offered in the college over the next few years.

Prof. Green said the purpose of the provisional three-year course list was to help students “visualize what different Majors will look like over the next three years” in an email to all Yale-NUS students on Feb. 17.

However, the most recent module list released by Registry saw significant reductions in course numbers for ten majors, with some of the worst affected being Philosophy and Environmental Studies. 

The number of Philosophy modules has more than halved, decreasing from eleven to five. Meanwhile, there are six fewer Environmental Studies courses, representing a 38% decline.

The Economics and Life Sciences majors were the only two to see an increase in course availability in the most recent list, with three (30%) and one (8%) more courses compared to the three-year list, respectively.

Comparison with this semester’s course list

Figure 2: A comparison of course availability by primary major as indicated by Registry between the tentative course lists of AY21/22 Semester 2 and AY22/23 Semester 1. Modules are counted under “HI” if they are not cross-listed with any other primary major. Other HI and Science Common Curriculum modules are included in their respective primary majors. The graph does not include compulsory Common Curriculum modules.

There is also a significant decrease in the number of courses offered next semester compared to the number of courses offered this semester. 

The tentative course list for this semester (AY21/22 Semester 2), which was released on Oct. 18, 2021, listed 202 modules. 196 courses were eventually offered.

However, the tentative course list for next semester (AY22/23 Semester 1) contains only 155 courses, or a 23% reduction in the number of modules offered, comparing both tentative course lists. 

This translates to a decrease of 2.6 courses on average, across the 18 possible primary major affiliations registry uses (the 14 majors, Law, Languages, Social Sciences, and Historical Immersion). 11 majors experienced a decline in course availability, by anywhere between one course (for Psychology) and thirteen courses (for Arts and Humanities) (Fig. 2). 

As rising sophomores will be given two more elective module slots each, the decline in courses will be more than proportionate than the fall in demand for electives. The fall in course availability also came despite a reduction in CC teaching needs from 41 sections in the current semester to 15 in the next.

The general reduction in courses corresponds to a decrease in the number of instructors. 53 instructors who are teaching this semester will not be doing so come August 2022. 

Meanwhile, there are only 27 new instructors next semester, including new hires and those returning from semester breaks.

Green attributed this discrepancy to “a more-than-usual number” of faculty undertaking planned study leaves or sabbatical leaves, as well as a few junior tenure-track faculty taking up appointments at NUS. Yale-NUS would retain half of the latter’s teaching contribution despite the reassignment. 

Green also confirmed an ongoing search for 15 new faculty members, who will finalize their courses over summer. Newly hired faculty—all on the non-tenure Educator Track, considering the remaining lifespan of the College—will be expected to teach five courses per academic year, and may partly alleviate the course reduction. 

A search on Times Higher Education, a recruitment platform for academia, reveals 14 open job listings as of April 5 for Yale-NUS across eight different majors. It is possible that more listings, whose deadlines have passed, have previously been posted by the College.

The distribution of open job listings by major, however, is not proportionate to the fall in course availability for each major. For instance, the Anthropology and Philosophy departments only have one open job listing, despite only offering half the number of courses in AY22/23 Semester 1 compared to AY21/22 Semester 2. 

Figure 3: Distribution of open job listings by major. Information accurate as of April 5, though it is possible that more had been posted by the College whose deadlines have passed.

Students express frustration: “What’s the point of planning?”

The course list has caused frustration among students who were hoping to plan their academic careers. “As a prospective PPE major that still hasn’t been won over by Philosophy, I was planning to take Philosophy modules,” said Karel Nareswara ‘25. “Yet, the selection is astoundingly little.”

Some have also criticized the variety of courses offered. While the Economics major may have seen more module offerings than expected, Sheriah Peries ‘25 said: “It doesn’t solve the problem if half of the Econs modules are finance modules.”

According to Green, the three-year course lists should only be used as an indication of the general curriculum, and to “guide hiring decisions,” not as a guarantee for the availability for any course.

“These three-year course lists were designed to help alleviate some of that anxiety [about course offerings] by allowing students and faculty to envision the broad nature of the curriculum between now and 2025,” Green wrote in the emails. 

He added that the lists were intended to be “living documents” to be updated periodically, with the next revision scheduled for late April.

Nonetheless, the confidence created by the three-year lists turned into frustration for many. Nareswara said: “I truly believed that there was enough for us to plan our academic journey ahead. It was quite disappointing as the module offerings did not really match the provisional one that was sent out.”

“If there are already ‘promised’ modules missing when three batches of students are still in the school, it doesn’t really inspire confidence in what is going to happen when the population dwindles even more.”

The reduced course availability comes after several commitments by Joanne Roberts, Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs), that a “full suite of electives” would continue to be offered until 2025.

Others argued this is a direct consequence of the College’s planned closure, given faculty transition plans and decreasing demand for electives. 

“What’s the point of module planning if they close down the College and change everything?” said Ulad Treihis ‘24, who recently declared his major in Mathematical, Computational, and Statistical Sciences, only to have the modules he took prerequisites for disappear.

In the months immediately following the closure, NUS President Tan Eng Chye also said that closing the College was the only way to maintain the full Yale-NUS program. 

“I am actually preventing the Yale-NUS program from being diluted,” Prof. Tan said at a September 2021 town hall with Yale-NUS students.

YNC Module List Until 2025 Released

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Story | Suman (she/they), Staff Writer

Photo | Raphael Hugh (he/him)

After much anticipation from freshmen and sophomores in the student body, on Feb. 17, Assistant Dean of Curriculum Dr. Steven Green released a tentative list of courses that will be offered every academic year until 2025 at Yale-NUS. In previous dialogues with freshmen and at Student Government meetings, Dean of Faculty Dr. David Post had repeatedly promised to try and provide the full Yale-NUS experience with respect to the majors, minors, and courses that would be offered until 2025.

Uncertainty in Course Planning Continues

As promised when the closure was announced, all of the planned majors and minors will continue to be offered until 2025. But the uncertainty of planning for the next three academic years poses difficulties. In the dialogue with first-year students, Dr. Post had said that since he does not know who is leaving and who will be hired, it is reasonable to expect some alterations from whatever future plan they decide in 2022 now. In his email, Dr. Green reiterated this sentiment and wrote that “the course lists may be affected by faculty movement and transition plans, study leaves, or teaching relief to compensate for taking on a large administrative portfolio; on the other hand, there will be new courses taught by new faculty (in the process of being hired) and visitors from Yale and NUS, and there may also be courses cross-listed from cognate majors.”

It is too early to understand and predict both student and faculty migration from Yale-NUS. While NUS had promised to honor tenure and contracts for all current staff and faculty at Yale-NUS, the veracity of this is yet to be confirmed, especially with a lack of real equivalent departments at NUS.

A key tenet of Yale-NUS’s liberal arts education is the offering of a wide variety of majors from across various disciplines. Compared to majors offered in the greater NUS and in other Singaporean higher education institutions, Yale-NUS offers new and niche course tracks like Urban Studies, Global Antiquity, and more. For these majors and minors, there are no real substitutes offered in NUS. The closest NUS substitute for Urban Studies would be Real Estate or Geography, which, though these are distantly related and much broader alternatives, has rather troubling implications. It is a major overreach to consider that Real Estate and Urban Studies, two fundamentally different courses, should be considered equivalent to one another. With the closure of Yale-NUS for NUS College, such niche majors, already rare in Singapore’s higher education scene, are practically going extinct. 

For such niche majors, Urban Studies in particular, will offer up to 25 courses every academic year until 2024, with 17 planned courses for the final academic year of Yale-NUS in 2025. However, 10 academic courses every year from now on will be new elective courses offered by newly hired faculty. This may very well change how major requirements are structured for the Class of 2024 and Class of 2025, depending on what will still be offered then. If students are hoping to study a certain course, Dr. Green mentions “to sign up for desired courses at the earliest possible opportunity to avoid disappointment.” By the time the major declaration exercise for current freshmen occurs in 2023, most will be expected to have an idea of what major they want. However, a key aspect of a liberal arts education is the liberty and freedom to explore between various disciplines, and with major/minor requirements combined with pursuing other interests, this will be difficult with caveats posed by the uncertainties.

Uneven Decline in Course Offerings Across Majors

For more popular majors like Mathematical and Computational Sciences (MCS), the variety of courses offered also decreases incrementally every academic year. There are 39 courses and a Historical Immersion (HI) offered next year, and only 33-34 courses offered the year after. 

However, for less popular majors such as Arts and Humanities, the decline of course offerings is more substantial. Next year, the Arts and Humanities track will offer 28 courses and  6 HI courses, but the year after, it falls to 24 with 4 HI courses and finally 19 courses with 5 HI courses. Considering that the major has few students in its discipline, it is reasonable to assume this trend would continue for the cohorts of 2024 and 2025 as well. 

The wide disparity in courses offered in 2023 to 2025 between popular and less popular majors proves the earlier caveat true: for interested students, the earlier they take said courses, the better. Even more important to consider is that for majors like Urban Studies, Economics and History, many of the courses planned are to be new or remain undecided, as they will be taught by yet-to-be-hired faculty.

Major2022-20232023-20242024-2025
Arts and Humanities28 (6 HI)24 (4 HI)19 (5 HI)
Anthropology162014
DDP Law443
Economics252718
Environmental Studies332318
Global Affairs241719
History27 (7 HI)23 (8 HI)25 (8 HI)
Languages1697
Life Sciences251615
Literature222526
MCS39 (1 HI)3433
Philosophy2417 (2 HI)15
Physical Sciences192113
PPE192512
Psychology201414
Urban Studies242517
Number of courses offered over the coming academic years by major. Source: Three-year course lists.

A possible reason for this decrease can be attributed to the removal of introductory modules in the future academic years. Many introductory modules for courses, such as Introduction to Anthropology or Introduction to Environmental Studies, are slowly eliminated over the years and are unavailable in the final year. It is recommended that students interested in the major/minor take them early to fulfill any requirements and prerequisites.

While students would still be able to switch majors up until the end of their third year, the lack of introductory modules would make it difficult to switch that late. The caveat, once again, rings true. Despite Yale-NUS’s promise to offer a liberal arts education until its closure, the removal of introductory modules makes it difficult for the latest cohorts to switch majors. 

A student, who wished to remain anonymous, said that they found it “a pity.” They added that, “a liberal arts education is really this idea of embracing new disciplines… the disappear[ance] of intro mods, that’s really upsetting.” They mentioned a junior in one of their classes who is done with their major requirements and now has the liberty to explore other disciplines for possible minors, or even a major switch, which is a common practice amongst many upperclassmen. With the loss of this system, it cannot be denied that a fundamental part of Yale-NUS is going to be missing for the final cohorts. Even now, there are many upperclassmen who take introductory modules during their junior or senior year, and try out new minors or switch majors drastically as they delve deeper into new disciplines. It is a shame that such liberties will not be available to the cohorts who graduate in 2024 and 2025. 

While it is unrealistic to expect a fully planned list of offered courses to be finalized three years in advance, the loss of introductory modules detracts from the variety offered to Yale-NUS students until 2025. From the beginning, the cohorts most affected by the closure, the freshmen and sophomores, were promised that the closure would not take away from the full Yale-NUS experience that was promised to them. However, as options become more and more limited, this promised ‘Yale-NUS’ experience, with respect to the holistic liberal arts education, begins to ring untrue.

“West Wing” to be NUS College Designation for Portion of Yale-NUS Campus Used; No Renaming Plans until 2025: Roberts

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Story | Avery (she/her), Staff Reporter

Photo | Joshua Vargas (he/him)

NUS College plans to designate the parts of its community using the Yale-NUS campus the “West Wing,” in contrast to “Cinnamon Wing” at the current Cinnamon College.

In response to student fears, Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) Joanne Roberts affirmed that Yale-NUS has no plans to adopt the designation or to alter signage around campus.

“West Wing” Designation Sparks Student Fears of Erasure

The term “West Wing” was first used in an email on March 4 addressed to University Scholars Programme (USP) students about housing arrangements. 

In the email, USP students—who will be considered NUS College students from August—were asked to choose between rooms in the “Cinnamon Wing,” and the “West Wing,” which it clarified was “located in Yale-NUS.” The email also revealed NUS College would house about 120 students in the Yale-NUS campus, and occupy consecutive floors sharing a single sky garden to facilitate community building.

The discovery was met with immediate anxiety from students that NUS may be erasing aspects of the Yale-NUS identity by renaming its campus even before the College’s closure in 2025. Compounding the criticism was signage used for NUS’s Open House on March 5. No mention was made of either USP or Yale-NUS, despite tours scheduled around Cinnamon College and the Yale-NUS campus on which students still live and learn.

Yale-NUS students were informed on March 10 that current USP students would be moving into the Yale-NUS campus, in an email regarding the annual Room Draw by the Student Affairs Office.

In correspondence with The Octant, NUS College Vice Dean (Residential Life) Eleanor Wong explained that “West Wing” is an internal designation specific to NUS College.

“The term West Wing will be used to refer to the community of NUS College staff and students residing on YNC premises,” Ms Wong elaborated, “Like the Cinnamon Wing, the West Wing will have its own Master, Residential Fellows, Residential Assistants and other staff.”

When asked about the departure from the Residential Colleges system, Wong responded, “since NUS College is already a ‘college’, we thought it might be less confusing to name the two residential communities under the umbrella ‘wings’.”

She also disclosed that NUS College has not yet discussed whether to split the “West Wing” into the equivalent of Residential Colleges once there are enough students, stressing that she only has information on the first year of operations.

“For some issues, we may still be exploring several different options,” Wong wrote over email, “for other issues, it would be prudent to review on a periodic basis before we decide next steps such as after we’ve had a chance to experience our first year together.”

No Plan to Adopt Name: Roberts

Correspondence with Dr Roberts revealed there are no plans by the Yale-NUS administration to use the West Wing name in any way. 

“We have no intention of using [‘West Wing’],” Roberts affirmed over email, “until 2025, we will refer to the buildings as we do now and all our signage will remain.” 

“I suspect that new NUSC students living on our campus will begin to use the terms we do to refer to our joint spaces,” she added. 

Partly corroborating this claim, Wong explained that “as the YNC premises will continue (at least certainly in the first year) to be run by the YNC facilities management team, we would likely defer to YNC’s Infrastructure Team as to whether it is feasible/necessary to change any major signs.” 

This came even as both administrators agreed minor concessions could be negotiated on physical signage around campus. Roberts suggested “we should agree to add a few signs to assist” NUS College, such as directions to Cinnamon College or to NUS College offices, while Wong mentioned the possibility of “asking for some flexibility to be able to sign-post as ‘NUS College West Wing’” floors assigned to them. 

Some interviewed are unconvinced by the arrangement. Luca ‘25 argued that “the use of the term ‘West Wing’ creates a complete feeling of separation from Yale-NUS.”

As NUS College grows, “it creates a constant awareness and doom in the last batch of YNC students, knowing the school we grew and love is dying,” they elaborated.

Separately, Dean of Students Dave Stanfield told The Octant the floors in current Yale-NUS Residential Colleges that were allocated to NUS College students were chosen after considering Yale-NUS student preferences, in consultation with Student Government and with reference to housing survey results.

1 + 1 = 3 but 2 + 2 ≠ 5, or Should You Apply to NUS College?

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Story | Daryl Yang (he/him), Guest Writer

Photo | Yale-NUS Digital Archives

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it.” — George Orwell, 1984

When Yale-NUS College first started recruiting students, it was introduced with the slogan “1 + 1 = 3.” Bringing together the best of both Yale and NUS, Yale-NUS was going to be “far more than the sum of its parts.” For those of us who have been a part of this journey, that is probably not too far from the truth.  

So when it was announced last year that Yale-NUS College would “merge” with NUS’s University Scholars Programme (USP), I cautiously held out hope that the new institution could also be better than either Yale-NUS and USP has been alone at providing “broader access to inclusive interdisciplinary liberal arts education at NUS for the longer term.”

As President Tan Eng Chye put it in a Straits Times op-ed, “combining the USP and Yale-NUS would allow us to preserve the distinctive educational approaches that both have been working hard to refine over the years, resulting in a New College which will be greater than the sum of its parts.

However, I have now realized that my hopes were misplaced. Whereas Yale-NUS College promised to make 1 + 1 = 3, and by and large delivered on that promise, NUS College might more appropriately be represented by the equation 2 + 2 = 5. 

From merger to collaboration?

The “2 + 2 = 5” motif was popularized by George Orwell in his novel, 1984: “In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it.”

Of course, in 1984, Orwell was writing about a totalitarian government that engaged in mind control. For the purposes of this article, I am borrowing the motif merely to highlight how the Yale-NUS community as well as the Singapore public at large has been misled to think of it as a merger, when in fact it really is a closure of Yale-NUS—2+2 ≠ 5. 

In a recent interview with The Octant, the newly appointed dean of what will be NUS College Professor Simon Chesterman clarified that the term “merger” was “misleading.” Instead, NUS College’s relationship with Yale-NUS and USP will be one of “collaboration, not integration.”

According to Dean Chesterman, he wanted to “push back against the merger language to assure current students that they would not miss out on the student experience they had been promised.” 

What I am concerned about instead is whether future students at NUS College will miss out on the student experience that they were promised: the best of USP “combined” with the best of Yale-NUS College. 

I have two specific concerns. First, who gets to decide what is the “best” of our respective colleges, and how? In particular, who gets to decide what were the best of Yale-NUS that should be carried over into NUS College? While USP has an official seat at the table with Professor Loy Hui Chieh—a Residential Fellow at Cinnamon College (USP) since 2014—serving as Vice Dean (Academic Affairs) of NUS College, there is no formal Yale-NUS representation in the leadership of NUS College.

Second, the ethos of community that both Yale-NUS and USP have built over the years arguably is one of the defining features, if not the defining feature, of our university experience. Here, I am referring to the student-administration relationship and our colleges’ relative autonomy from NUS, which set both our colleges apart in the larger university landscape.

These concerns are shared by a majority of Yale-NUS and NUS students, based on a poll conducted in December 2021. Most students were deeply unsatisfied with the lack of a collaborative, consultative and open approach in the planning process for NUS College. Only 2% and 5% of Yale-NUS and USP students said that they were satisfied with the planning process. 

As the Chinese proverb goes, a tree can grow to a thousand feet because of its roots (树高千尺不忘根). If the planning process for NUS College—in which key stakeholders were not informed and the decision to close Yale-NUS was presented as a “fait accompli”—already betrays the community-centric nature of our colleges, how can the outcome of this process encapsulate the best of what both of our institutions have to offer?  

It is no wonder then that our colleges are now mere “partners” and “collaborators.” What was supposed to be a “merger” is really an entirely separate and different project run by the NUS administration rather than a genuine amalgamation of our communities—in fact, as this poll demonstrates, many students felt like they were never a part of the consultative process that led to the merger decision in the first place. The point was never to retain what made both USP and Yale-NUS tick. 

How did this happen? How could a “merger” between and “combination” of the best of Yale-NUS and USP become something else entirely? How could two plus two equal five?

How did 2 + 2 = 5? 

After the announcement of the closure of both Yale-NUS and USP, the question that many of us grappled with was: why? Was it really the finances? Or something more insidious

The fact is, we can never know for sure. But what we do know at least is that we—both members of the Yale-NUS and NUS community and the Singapore public—were lied to. What was a “merger” and “combination” is now described as a mere “collaboration.” 

The communities that our colleges have built—the student groups, our college traditions and cultures, our ties and memories across cohorts—will be gone too, purportedly to make “room for an entirely new slate of actors.” 

To be fair, Dean Chesterman expects that there will be an “overlap in the types of student organizations we will see.” But of course, there will be basketball teams, dance troupes, a debate club, and so on at NUS College. That much is obvious. 

The more pertinent question is whether there will—and can—also be a group advocating for NUS to divest from fossil fuels like Fossil Free Yale-NUS? Or groups like the Gender Collective and The G Spot to support women and sexual minorities on campus? What about a political education and advocacy group like CAPE, which was co-founded by both Yale-NUS and USP students?

What I also find interesting is the appointment of Dean Chesterman—who happens to be the son-in-law of former President Tony Tan—as the Dean of NUS College. Lest this be taken the wrong way, I should caveat here that I have nothing but respect and admiration for Dean Chesterman, who served as the Dean of the Faculty of Law when I was a student there. The following paragraphs should not be read to suggest that he is unqualified to serve as Dean of NUS College. 

I am reminded here of the perhaps forgotten controversy over his appointment as Dean of the Faculty of Law in 2011. At that time, many had expected that then NUS professor Michael Hor would be appointed Dean. Professor Hor eventually left to serve as Dean of the Faculty of Law at Hong Kong University. 

In a 2014 Straits Times interview, Professor Hor was asked whether he did not become Dean at NUS Law because he wasn’t good enough for the institution. According to the report, he responded diplomatically and said “I don’t know.” 

However, he noted that there was “certainly a perception that after a certain level, only people with the right kind of politics will make it.” In his view, such a perception, whether right or wrong, was widespread and needed to be corrected. Two plus two should equal four.

More than a decade later, one can only hope that such perceptions will be corrected when NUS College begins operations later this year in August 2022. As Daniel Ng and I suggested in an earlier piece, the NUS College administration can start by affirming its commitment to the principles of academic freedom and free inquiry enshrined in the Yale-NUS Statement on the Freedom of Expression. 

Some advice to prospective NUS College students

What does all this mean if you’re an 18-year-old, or the parent of one, reading this article? Should you or your child take up the offer to join NUS College? I think so. 

After all, the formal education that you will get at NUS College will probably be somewhat similar to what we currently have at Yale-NUS and USP. I am sure that the faculty joining NUS College—some of whom will be from Yale-NUS and USP—will do their best to ensure that every student receives the best possible experience. 

Though NUS College has not committed (and probably won’t) to the principle of free expression like Yale-NUS did, I hope you will embrace the spirit of free inquiry that underpins a liberal arts education. To get the best experience, one as close as possible to a true liberal arts education, be sure to engage actively by arguing and discussing issues—no matter how controversial or politically sensitive—with your professors and fellow students in the classroom. 

But if you wanted to go to Yale-NUS and USP because it offers a politically and culturally more open environment for you to learn through active engagement with the community outside of the classroom, then perhaps you will be in for a more difficult time than we had. You probably will not have the same freedom to learn and explore both in and outside the classroom that we once enjoyed. 

If you are queer, you might also feel less comfortable than we did at Yale-NUS and USP. Notably, in his response to the Octant reporter’s question on maintaining diversity, there was no mention of this issue. 

At the same time, one of the leaders at NUS College is Professor Eleanor Wong who serves as Vice Dean (Residential Programmes & Enrichment). Professor Wong was one of the lead signatories to the Ready4Repeal petition calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality alongside Yale-NUS President Tan Tai Yong and former NUS Law dean Professor Tan Sook Yee. 

Since there may be potential queer allies among the leadership, it remains to be seen whether NUS College will preserve the values of diversity and inclusion that both Yale-NUS and USP embodied after years of advocacy by students at The G Spot and the Gender Collective respectively. 

Ultimately, the safe space for minority communities and the “gray space” for student activism that we forged at Yale-NUS (and USP to some degree) did not emerge naturally just because of Yale’s involvement in the project. Instead, it was built over time by our communities through trial and error, sweat, and tears. 

If these are things you care about, you—as a prospective NUS College student—can still help to prevent all that we have achieved from simply disappearing when our institutions become defunct. Reach out to and engage with Yale-NUS and USP students, alumni, faculty, and staff who can share their experiences of pushing boundaries, fostering brave spaces and holding the administration to account. 

Finally, be wary of misrepresentations, half-truths and corporate spin. Always question the basis for policy decisions, especially those purportedly made on your behalf and for the greater good but without the community’s input. NUS College is as much yours as it is the administration’s and it will be up to you to give life to the principle of #NoMoreTopDown as members of NUS College. 

We may not have been able to stop the closure of Yale-NUS and USP, but that does not mean that the fight for collective decision-making, accountability and transparency is over. There is still much for you to do at NUS College. We still have the chance to keep the renewed spirit of student activism—that many Yale-NUS and USP students helped to rekindle—alive in Singapore, try as some might to extinguish it.

In 1984, the character Winston noted, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.” Though the freedom to insist on the truth does not always come easy, it is now incumbent upon you to insist that two plus two equals four. 

———

Daryl Yang ’19 is currently pursuing a Master of Laws at Berkeley Law School on a Fulbright scholarship. He graduated in 2019 from the Double Degree Programme in Law and Liberal Arts jointly offered by Yale-NUS College and the NUS Faculty of Law. As an undergraduate student, he co-founded the Inter-University LGBT Network and the Community for Advocacy & Political Education (CAPE). 

The views expressed here are the author’s own. The Octant welcomes all voices in the community. Email submissions to: yncoctant@gmail.com

SATS Portion Restrictions Spark Controversy; Dining Halls to Allow Double Taps

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Story | Avery (she/her), Staff Reporter

Photo | Anonymous

Content warning: This article contains discussions of caloric intake (under “Food Portions Fixed by Contract: SATS”). Reader discretion is advised.

A recent policy change in Yale-NUS dining halls that limits the amount of food diners can receive has caused controversy among the student body. 

Following criticism, the Student Affairs Office announced that students would be allowed to tap their cards twice per meal service, though student response has been lukewarm. 

Previously, there had not been a specified maximum to the amount of food the dining halls could dispense per student. While students have been limited to one collection per meal service since the start of SATS’ contract, portion sizes had been freely adjustable when collecting meals prior to this change.

SATS, the caterer for the College’s compulsory meal plan, did not announce the change in its policy. However, the earliest complaint known to The Octant occurred on 8 February, when an anonymous student reported having requests for extra food denied due to a “new policy” in the Cendana Dining Hall. 

Multiple, consistent accounts have since emerged on YNC Spoon & Forks, a 900-member Telegram group dedicated to dining issues among the student body. These include sustained discussions on 12 and 15 February where several students reported limited and insufficient portions of food given across the three dining halls. On one occasion, a student was given six potato wedges and one piece of diced chicken, while another received three meatballs in addition to rice.

Requests for additional food were either refused or inadequate.

Food Portions Fixed by Contract: SATS

Portions of food provided per serving are contractually fixed, according to SATS in a 14 February meeting with the Dining Experience Team (DXT), the school’s main liaison body with the caterer. These include 80 grams of vegetables, 80 grams of chicken or fish, and 150 grams of rice or noodles.

Whereas serving sizes were more generous and freely changed, SATS now intends to strictly follow these apportionments, and will refuse requests for additional food beyond twice the specified quantities. No reasons for the change have been given, though reports of popular options quickly running out have led some to speculate that SATS is reducing the overall prepared amount, either for cost reasons or to alleviate food wastage.

The new policy has been met with widespread criticism. Students quickly pointed out the nutritional inadequacy of the serving sizes: according to information provided by SATS, one standard portion per meal service would amount to about 1500 calories a day, while the Health Promotion Board recommends 1800-2200 for an average adult.

The serving sizes are also unable to meet differing nutritional needs among the student body, such as higher protein requirements by athletes.

Others believed such a change is inequitable, such as Max Pasakorn ‘24, who highlighted “it’s been quite distressing to have to fork out extra money for meals outside because the servings are unsatisfactory” for lower-income students on campus. 

The high prices of the meals themselves have drawn scrutiny, which some argue are not justified by the quality and quantity of food served. The College charges up to $9,050 per year for room and board after subsidies, though the amount paid to SATS per meal tap cannot be disclosed as its contract is confidential.

“We are paying so much money to this school, and the fact that we have to struggle this much over something like food is ridiculous,” remarked Mich ‘22.

Adjustable portion sizes were among promises given to the student body when SATS competed for the College’s catering contract in early 2021. Several other promised services have also not been implemented, such as monthly restaurant-style meals or offering at least two vegetarian options per meal service.

Double Taps Permitted, to Mixed Response

Dean of Students Dave Stanfield provided the first official response by the school administration in a college-wide email dated 17 February. 

Citing cost concerns, he explained the previous unlimited serving sizes were “beyond what is required contractually and what makes financial sense,” and that it was “within [SATS’] rights” to implement the current restrictions. He added that the changes had not been communicated to the Student Affairs Office prior to implementation. SATS has now been requested to inform the Office before rolling out future changes.

Some have expressed incredulity that finances were behind the change in policy. “How does it take so long for a company to figure out its operational costs?” An anonymous sophomore wrote, “who’s putting the checks and balances on them?”

Students would also be allowed to tap their cards twice—and therefore collect food twice—per meal service starting from 21 February. According to Stanfield, this would “allow students more flexibility and the option of larger portions” for students dissatisfied by current serving sizes. Crucially, the maximum number of taps per week remains limited at 19 per student.

While some welcomed the measure, others remained unconvinced. 

“I don’t see how that is a solution,” said an anonymous first-year from Cendana College, “the issue is that we want more protein, but if we [tap twice], it means we have to sacrifice meals on other days.” Another anonymous sophomore echoed the sentiment, arguing it meant “if I want to eat more this meal, I shall have to go hungry tomorrow.”

Zirdi Syukur ‘23 also remarked students might either receive too little or too much food: “I just want some extra chicken, not a whole other meal.”

Leonard Chan, a Residential Life Officer at Elm College and head of the DXT, explained that the double tap allowance was “one of the solutions” DXT had been pursuing, and assured that the team would “continue to push for better portioning,” though SATS had been insistent on regulating portion sizes. He added that SATS would consult its nutritionist on the matter. 

Chan also clarified that “SATS is obligated to give each student a portion for each meal, but they were agreeable with the one-portion top up if students want after DXT gave feedback last semester.”

When asked about SATS’ accountability to the school, Chan commented that the DXT is the “main communication channel” between the caterer and the College, adding that they hold a “cordial and collaborative relationship.”

“Usually, when it’s I who send them a feedback message, they respond immediately and professionally,” he elaborated, though “extremely stringent” regulations by the Singapore Food Authority, global supply chain disruptions, and a centralised procurement process have slowed and impeded SATS’ ability to provide certain services, such as cut fruits and restaurant-style dining.

Aunt Agony Returns!

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Story | Aunt Agony 

Illustration | Ishmam Ahmed

Dear Aunt Agony,

I need your advice. I am really awkward around guys when they express some sort of interest in me and I don’t really know how to act…. I guess most of the time I am really fearful to lead guys on or lacking the courage to start something new by reciprocating the interest. What do I do? (especially when I don’t know them well enough yet as a friend?)

plant

Dear plant,

Experimentation is never bad. You have options and positive intentions. Know that this will neither be your last, nor theirs. You’re not the Wattpad bad boy with the disheveled bed head and swoon-worthy eyes who goes around breaking hearts left and right. Do not delude yourself, dearest child. 

Start slow and stay steady. Be a friend. Establish the necessary systems of communication. Set boundaries and make your intentions clear. Take the initiative to have difficult conversations prior to establishing your romantic and sexual relationships. Don’t feel as if you can’t use personality 5 with the personality 8 individual. If they want to know you, they will try. After all, if you don’t enter relationships being 120% yourself, will you ever feel comfortable in it? 

Being fearful of leading people on may stem from deep-rooted trauma, leading to a fear of commitment. But I’m here to tell you that you will never know how you really feel about a person or an experience until you give them a shot. It might be freer than you would have initially thought. 

And courage? That’s just a matter of hitting the send button. If you are sure of yourself, then trust your feelings a little more and see where it takes you. 

With love, 

Aunt Agony 

Dear Aunt Agony,

My high school ex and I broke up on pretty okay terms and we finally decided to talk. But while talking to him, I felt that he kept dropping hints about how he is not over me. I recently had a break up and am still recovering. I honestly feel super uneasy. I know the best thing to do is to just avoid talking to him for a while, but I can’t stop feeling bugged and somewhat irritated by it. How do I stop myself from feeling this way? :((

Uneasy

Dear Uneasy, 

Avoidance is not cowardly, but quite the power move if you will it to be so. If anything, purposeful avoidance should be normalized. Media has painted an interesting image of what the strong look like: indifferent but charged, passive but direct, and cold but confrontational. But I find that sometimes the strongest thing to do is not to dwell on such things. You’re smart for realizing that and distancing yourself from him. 

Take this moment to reconcile with yourself. The person you were when you were with him is still within you. Don’t internalize the avoidance. Slowly but surely, come to terms with your feelings and consolidate yourself in all your entirety. Remember, if you’re homesick about a person, actively make the distinction that it’s not him you’re missing but the person you were with him. Realize that you are a self-sustaining life force, and that is absolutely gorgeous! 

So go ahead and archive him on WhatsApp, block him on TikTok, and mute his DMs on all social media platforms. Remove him from the periphery of your life and occupy your mind with the better things in life. Reduce his presence in your life. 

Overthinking, however, can be a slightly harder challenge to tackle. People always say that overthinking achieves absolutely nothing. Molehills are made into mountains and feelings begin to create more feelings. Keep yourself distracted, stay hydrated and be social. 

Know that you are more than your feelings, and a passing breeze should be just that. 

Sending love, 

Aunt Agony 

Have a problem? Send it to Aunt Agony at https://forms.gle/RuKiXGFjCVeKqGgk7

Disclaimer: The advice provided in this column is no substitute for professional advice, and should not be treated as such. The Octant understands the sensitivity of such issues. If anyone has any complaints, concerns, or comments please feel free to contact The Octant at yncoctant@gmail.com.

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