When members of the inaugural Yale-NUS class open their student handbooks next August, they will find specific rules pertaining to political life on campus.
The Yale-NUS Board of Governors voted at a meeting last month to accept a set of policies proposed by Pericles Lewis, president of the Singaporean liberal arts college, that will prevent students from creating campus branches of existing Singaporean political parties, in accordance with the nation’s law. The policies, which have not yet been formally published, will allow students to create and join any other type of student group, including organizations that represent different political ideologies but that are unaffiliated with current political parties in Singapore.
Lewis said he will be ultimately responsible for ensuring students comply with the established protocols. He added that the Yale-NUS governing board communicates with the Singaporean Ministry of Education on a regular basis and also receives legal advice to ensure policy decisions comply with the nation’s laws.
“While there won’t be the equivalent of the Yale Democrats or Republicans, I see no reason why there couldn’t be a political union that functions similarly to the [Yale Political Union],” Yale-NUS Dean of Faculty Charles Bailyn said. “Political interest groups that aren’t directly connected with a political party — like the YPU’s Party of the Right and Independent Party — are fine.”
While Singaporean law forbids students from forming campus chapters of political parties, students may participate in established national parties off-campus. Bailyn said he expects many students, faculty and staff to do so.
Lewis said that apart from branches of existing political parties, the only student groups that will not be allowed on campus are clubs that promote “racial and religious strife.” He added that Kyle Farley, who became Yale-NUS dean of students on Sept. 28, will be responsible for preventing the creation of any such groups on a day-to-day basis.
Yale-NUS administrators will advise students not to engage in illegal activities, Lewis said, adding that the Singaporean government will only become involved if illegal activity does occur.
Lewis said all Yale-NUS members will have the option to gather for discussion on campus facilities, including a hall that can hold 300 people, a gym and several dining halls. Because Singaporean law treats public and private events differently, off-campus demonstrations will require advance notice and a police permit, he said. Under Singaporean law, political protests are only allowed in the Speakers’ Corner at Hong Lim Park.
Both Lewis and Bailyn said that no public figure invited to speak on campus will be denied a chance to do so on political grounds, though anyone who aims to disrespect particular religious or racial groups will not be permitted to speak. Lewis added that partisan or political campaigning and fund-raising will also not be permitted.
Bailyn said Farley will lead the further development of the college’s policies concerning on-campus student activity. Farley declined to comment in detail about those policies because he said he is still settling into his new post.
Rayner Teo ’14, a Singaporean Yale student who is co-president of the Malaysian and Singaporean Association, said he thinks open debate will inevitably develop on the Yale-NUS campus.
“I think the powers that be recognize the value of open discussion as my country moves forward,” he said. “What remains to be seen, really, is how Yale-NUS students will make the most of the space that already exists for open and free expression, negotiate the obstacles and help the broader community solidify the gains that have been made over the last few years in the public discourse.”
Roughly 150 students are expected to matriculate at Yale-NUS College next August.
Clarification: Oct. 15
A previous version of this article stated that groups showing disrespect for specific religions or racial groups will not be allowed on campus. In fact, Yale- NUS President Pericles Lewis said groups “promoting racial and religious strife” will not be allowed, adding that those showing disrespect will not be allowed if they target specific religious or racial groups.