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First Year Adventures in SEA

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RC2 Orientation
RC2 gearing up in Sarawak, Malaysia. (Lim Chu Hsien)

story Spandana Bhattacharya | May Tay

RC2 gearing up in Sarawak, Malaysia Credits to Lim Chu Hsien
RC2 gearing up in Sarawak, Malaysia. (Lim Chu Hsien)

On 7 August, the college’s freshmen class packed their bags and embarked on their 5-day Orientation Adventure Trips. These trips were part of their 18 day long orientation program, and took place in three different Southeast Asian countries: Laos (RC 1), Malaysia (RC 2) and Vietnam (RC 3).

There were three main goals for the trips. The first was for the students to explore a new location in Asia, the second was for them to learn more about a country’s culture, and the third was to encourage team building within each residential college.“Most schools don’t send their students abroad for Orientation but Yale-NUS is not most schools. Going overseas encourages people to step out of their comfort zones and challenge their world views,” said Chris O’Connell, the Student Programs Manager who with the rest of the Office of the Dean of Students staff, Dean’s Fellows, Rectors and Vice-Rectors scouted out locations and planned all three trips over a period of just eight weeks.

Each trip’s itinerary had a mix of cultural, team building and fun activities. In Laos, the freshmen of RC 1 landed in Vientiane and drove to Vang Vieng where they bonded over outdoor activities such as mountain biking and kayaking and also spent time with students from a local primary school. They then returned to Vientiane and explored the city’s temples and markets. RC 2’s freshmen travelled to the Malaysian island of Borneo. They briefly toured the city of Kuching before traveling to the longhouses of the Iban people, where they spent time navigating the river, visiting a waterfall, assisting with cooking, and getting to know the community members. The freshmen of RC 3 landed in Hanoi and took an overnight train to the village of Sapa where they had a home stay of two nights. The freshmen engaged in community service and cultural exchanges with local families and then returned to Hanoi, where they participated in a spring roll workshop, and a city tour.

RC1 exploring Laos Credits to Julianne Thomson
RC1 exploring Laos. (Julianne Thomson)

On his biggest takeaway, Dave Chappell’18 of RC 1 said, “For me, the takeaway moment was a trip to COPE, set up to assist disabled citizens of Laos, in particular those affected by cluster bombs dropped by the USA during the Vietnam War. While it was easily the most depressing moment of the trip, seeing the effects the aptly named “secret war” had on Laos – effects that are still being felt today – was certainly eye opening.”

Some freshmen, however, wondered about the amount of positive impact they generated for the communities they visited. “Our trip included a home stay, which allowed us to get a more in-depth look into Vietnamese culture and day-to-day life, but I felt like we played a role that was more passive than I would have liked, as guests with everything done for us,” said Lishani Ramanayake’18 of RC 3.

When asked whether there would be overseas Orientation trips in the future, Chris O’Connell from Dean of Students Office responded in the affirmative and remarked, “We noted the exciting potential of Orientation Trips and would love to have the input of current students, faculty and staff in shaping how they look like for the future incoming classes.”

For 90-95 percent of the freshmen, it was their first time visiting the locations they travelled to for their orientation trips.

RC4 trekking along padi fields in Vietnam Credits to Shina Chua
RC4 trekking along padi fields in Vietnam. (Shina Chua)

Editors’ Note

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Octant

In the wee hours of 8 October 2013, Panopt was born. There was little kicking and screaming, and sounds of ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘ahh-ing’ soon accompanied the blue and orange papers on elevators, notice-boards, and common lounges. It was a smooth delivery.

Panopt started out as an academic newsletter under the Vice-Rector’s Office. We no longer exist in that capacity.

We hear your voices – a newsletter that simply praises its institution without critical thought has outlived its usefulness to the community. Moving forward, Panopt is an autonomous school newspaper that is committed to free speech and critical discourse. Discourse is essential for any community, and Panopt is a platform for this to occur.

As with any baby, problems arise when they start teething. We don’t know how the shift from two to 14 staff will work out; neither do we know whether our weekly distribution rate will be sustainable. But we face these problems willingly because it marks the way forward. We may fall, but we will get up better and stronger. We care deeply about serving the community, and vow to constantly improve, issue by issue.

We cannot do this alone. This semester, we are immensely blessed to have on board with us a group of talented and passionate individuals. We extend a warm welcome to our new staff members:

Associate News Editor | May Tay
Associate Sports Editor | Raeden Richardson
News Reporter | Yonatan Gazit
Sports Reporter | David Chappell
Features Reporter | Kavya Gopal
Features Reporter | Regina Marie Lee
Opinions Reporter | Kaushik Swaminathan
Designer | Angela Ferguson
Web Master | Iwani Mawocha
Business&Distribution Manager | Alex Pont
Photographer | Christopher Khew
Photographer | Pareen Chadhari

You will hear from them in this issue and following issues, and be simply blown away, just as we were and still are. More importantly, we need you, our readers. To our faithful readers the past year, thank you. A newspaper without readers simply does not exist. Help us make PANOPT yours just as much it is ours.

Enjoy the first issue of this semester!

Joyan and Spandana
Managing Editors of PANOPT

Bleeding Blue and Orange

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Yale-NUS versus NYUAD. (Yale-NUS DoS)

story Dave Chappell


Whilst a sudden downpour may have rained off the semester’s first basketball match on Friday 29 Aug. 2014, it did little to dampen spirits. The rapturous applause drowned out the pummelling rain, the claps of thunder sticks rivalled those of the actual thunder and the screams from the crowd brought a hush to the howling wind – even long after the game had concluded. Despite the early finish, the match was in many ways an unqualified success.

The team performed admirably and the atmosphere set a high standard for all future Yale-NUS sporting events. As Zach Mahon ‘17 noted, “We play because we like the sport, but our main goal is to proudly represent Yale-NUS College in the best possible light” – a goal the team and its supporters most definitely achieved.

The atmosphere both prior and during the game was electric. As the first basketball match of the semester, expectations were high. The players have been training with an external coach, intensively, twice a week, since the start of the term. Yale-NUS support outnumbered the home-side’s three to one, with notable guests including President Lewis, Dean Farley, Sebastian and Paloma. A sea of posters and placards declared support, encouraged the “Zach Attack” andbegged the question, “Who’s #Juan?” The level of anticipation was palpable.

Some may argue that this level of pressure may hamper player performance, but that was not the view of the players on the court. When asked about the effect the build-up has been having on the team, Mahon pointed out that “it has helped us stay focused,” a sentiment echoed throughout the squad with the phrase “No pressure, no diamonds.”

In fact, the encouragement was greatly appreciated by those on court. “The hype has been unreal. We really appreciate our supporters and always give our 100 percent for them. They bleed as much blue and orange as we do,” Subhas Nair ‘17 stated, when asked about the hype surrounding the game.

Indeed, this was demonstrated repeatedly, throughout the match. Described as “a group of hard working and dedicated men,” by their captain, Nair, the team lived up to their reputation. Despite falling behind by 12-6 near the end of the first quarter, the team fought back to 12-12,owing to a couple of two pointers from Sebastian Cortes ‘18 and two free throws from Nair. At 16-12, a pair of twos from Mahon and Aaron Kurzak ‘17 brought Yale NUS level once again. A two pointer and a successful free throw by Nair, a two from Cortes and three pointer by Mahon, took Yale-NUS, from 26-18, to 28-26. Time and time again, the team retaliated, spurred on by the crowd’s rapturous applause. If the game had not been prematurely halted, it would still have been all to play for.

Hopefully this level of college pride and spirit can be maintained throughout the year, not just in basketball but all sports. Starting with the Inter-Faculty Games this week, all students and faculty members are encouraged to come and give their all for the players. As Nair notes, “I do not believe there is such a thing as ‘too much pressure’.”

Spirit of the Independent Course

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Yale-NUS professors engage in intense discussion.
Yale-NUS professors engage in intense discussion.

story Graham Link

Yale-NUS professors engage in intense discussion.

Independent Courses are arguably one of this college’s most compelling benefits. The opportunity to propose, build and shape your own course is simply unique in higher education. These courses erase our major labels and grade anxieties, allowing us to pursue knowledge with no other purpose beyond itself. In short, we become learners before students. There is a certain purity about the whole idea.

But all this could soon change.

On Aug. 19, 2014, the Curriculum Committee laid out a new policy on Independent Courses. [1] Unfortunately, although some reasonable points on formal assessment and overloading are made, there are also some serious restrictions introduced as follows:

(1) All so-called ‘2MCs’ must now be capped at five students. If more than five students are interested in a course, it is up to the professor to whittle it down “by any criteria they desire”.

(2) Enrolment in 2MCs will now take place through the standard add/drop system used for all other courses.

These restrictions are cause for concern. Arbitrarily limiting class size to ‘X’ number of students is counter to the spirit of the 2MC courses, where desire to learn should be the only selective criteria. The new restrictions cite space limitations and the absence of Committee review to justify X=5. But neither of these reasons are satisfactory. First off, students who take 2MCs are passionate. Practical concerns such as space will not stop them – a classroom is just Starbucks minus frappuccinos. This problem will of course be resolved in the new campus.

On the issue of curriculum review, we must remember that these are independent courses. Their content is student proposed and designed according to personal interest – indeed this is one of their primary benefits. Imposing a requirement for Committee review would become a limiting hurdle and stub out proposals before they gain legs. Separately, it’s inevitable that more than five students will participate in 2MCs anyway, if the professor will have them. If there are eight interested students, three will just have to audit. Being truly curious, they won’t miss the credits. Five (possibly random) students will get credit for their passion while the others will not. If there are to be size restrictions, they should be left to individual professors. They should not be imposed from the top across the board.

As for the new enrolment procedure, if the course registration process becomes just another online ‘add/drop’ listed alongside every other course, we risk diminishing the proposal process. We lose the fun of the chase. For me, crafting these courses has offered just as much value as the courses themselves. Collaboration with interested peers and professors toward your own curriculum is extremely rewarding. But under the new policy, students may no longer need to have a personal hand in this process. Instead they will simply sign up after the fact when it’s all already said and done.

To address both of these issues, I suggest that we distinguish between faculty and student proposed 2MC courses. Use the public ‘add/drop’ system only for faculty proposed courses such as ‘Math for Economics’. Retain the current ad hoc system for student proposed courses. This would both ensure student involvement in course proposals, and allow every student who contributes to a course proposal to receive their rightful credit. Separate kinds of courses deserve separate policies. Annette Wu ’17, current student in a 2MC course, sums it up thoughtfully: “Yale-NUS is about doing things differently and if administrative barriers are enforced at the sacrifice of an amazing, view-changing, totally unique course… it would be a real waste of our pioneering potential… We clearly care about our education, and we know our professors truly care for us. Why not make the most of it?”

[1]. Yale-NUS Registry. “2 MC Courses in Semester 1 (AY 2014/2015 – Aug-Dec 2014).”

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