Though student organizations at Yale-NUS cannot formally register until next semester, the Singaporean campus is already swarming with unofficial groups.
Since the opening of Yale-NUS this fall, 31 student groups have formed, said Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis. Lewis added that the groups are currently in the stage of planning and experimenting, and last Saturday, they had the opportunity to present themselves at “Start Fresh” — the school’s first-ever extracurricular fair.
Although the student organizations are not officially recognized yet, Lewis said, most are already active. The debate society, for example, has already competed in several tournaments, and the improv-comedy group “Shenanigans” has staged a number of performances on campus.
“There are 31 clubs and most seem to have three or four members, so [almost everyone] is part of something,” Lewis said, “It’s very exciting.”
Lewis said he was pleased with the turnout at the fair and the eagerness of students to form clubs — but official registration for student groups remains postponed until next semester, in an effort to allow students to get to know both each other and their interests before they officially commit to any extracurriculars. Lewis added that he believes it is important for students to adjust to their academic obligations before devoting a substantial portion of their time to nonacademic student organizations.
Over the course of the semester, Yale-NUS Dean of Students Kyle Farley said, his office has made an effort to support the budding groups by granting them funding for individual events. He also said he thinks that students should dare to experiment as much as possible.
“I’ve encouraged the students to try things that may not work,” Farley said. “If they play it safe they won’t be as innovative as they want to be, and together we are creating a community where it is okay to make mistakes.”
Farley also said he is impressed by how quickly students have self-organized into extracurricular groups. Formal proposals for student groups will be due in January, he said, and student groups will likely add more structure and intensify their activities next semester as a result.
Next semester, Lewis said, students will undergo leadership training sessions similar to the ones that have been implemented at Yale. These sessions will focus on leadership, budget management and business plan formation.
Lewis added that the Yale-NUS student groups are very similar to the ones in Yale College, though with some differences — dance groups at Yale-NUS are more popular, for example, and a campus newsletter is the dominant student publication.
Some groups are also specifically tailored to student social life at Yale-NUS. Raeden Richardson, a Yale-NUS student, said he is part of a group called the Xenians, which formally organizes social gatherings such as college-wide events and in-house parties.
“We understand many students find nightclubs overwhelming and expensive — it’s our hope to create an on-campus social culture whereby students can further their relationships, especially in the coming years when our school doubles in size,” Richardson said.
Although students have been successful at forming clubs at a fast pace, they have had their challenges. Joan Ongchoco, a Yale-NUS student involved in a debate organization, said she was initially concerned that it would be difficult to get a group going when starting from scratch without any guidance from older students.
Keziah Quek, a student involved with a group called the Literary Collective, said she thinks the biggest challenge is getting people to commit to one group when there are so many others. The goal of a group is to attract many people, she said, but it is necessary to have enough people commit in order for the group to become stronger.
But Farley said that despite such difficulties, any student who has come to Yale-NUS has made a conscious decision to join the inaugural class of the new college and was probably drawn to the opportunity to create new student groups.
After winter break, Yale-NUS students will return to campus to check in on Jan. 10.