SINGAPORE — Yale-NUS College has yet to establish clear sexual health policies or education programming for students, though this could change as the college looks into hiring a health coordinator and possibly expanding student insurance packages to cover testing for sexually transmitted infections. In the meantime, student-based initiatives have been the force behind sexual health awareness.
The University Health Center at the National University of Singapore, currently the primary health center for students, has the capacity for sex-related care, though it is limited to medical assistance. The NUS Counseling and Psychological Service can provide sexual health advice upon consultation. Although Yale-NUS has a Wellness Center, its only sex-oriented policy pertains to sexual misconduct and support for victims. Beyond these services, Yale-NUS has no sexual health awareness or safe sex programs.
Dean of Students Kyle Farley said the college does not seek to condemn or endorse sex, but rather aims to ensure students are well informed in this regard. He said students can also approach the wellness team, comprising Wellness Director Sha-En Yeo and two psychologists, as well as dean’s fellows, who undergo “intensive training … that includes being sensitive to issues surrounding sexual health,” according to Farley. Yeo said in an email she could not comment in time for deadline.
Whereas Yale has Sex Week, Farley said, he does not necessarily see a similar week-long education and awareness program taking place at Yale-NUS.
“I think we should be sensitive to location of our school, in the same way we aren’t trying to recreate Yale in Singapore — we are creating our own community and our own institution, and part of that is to be sensitive to where we are physically located in that community,” Farley said.
He added that sexual health education should be framed in terms of “healthy relationships,” pointing to the example of a rector’s tea, akin to a Master’s Tea in New Haven, by a sexologist in November 2013, and two hour-and-a-half-long lectures focused on sexuality held by the Association of Women for Action and Research during student orientation in 2014.
Students, however, questioned whether the latter sessions were satisfying.
“They really just skimmed … [and] didn’t really talk about the real aspect of sexual health,” said Megan Chua YNUS ’18. Because she comes from a conservative family in Singapore, Chua said, she did not grow up learning about birth control and other means of making decisions about her sexual health.
“I had to figure it out myself. I had to see the gynecologist by myself and talk to people and research,” she said, adding that she feels it is incumbent on Yale-NUS to aid students with these matters.
Changes may be underway as the Office of the Dean of Students looks into altering its insurance package.
“As we re-evaluate … I think looking at coverage for [STI] testing is something we could look into,” said Farley.
He also said the college intends to hire a health coordinator, a qualified medical professional who will work with the Wellness Center and the dean’s fellows on student health.
Students interviewed agreed that more sexual health education and support is necessary.
Wei Jie Koh YNUS ’17 said misconceptions about sex are present on campus, threatening student safety. Chua suggested having more sexual health workshops “centering around different methods of birth control both for men and women, or on how being sexually active is a perfectly okay thing.”
Luke Ong YNUS ’18 said he approached the Office of the Dean of Students with a proposal for a condom dispenser on the new campus.
“[Sexuality education] is not something we should be ashamed of, because in Singapore it [used to be] kind of taboo to talk about. Now it’s not so bad,” he added.
In the meantime, The G Spot, a student organization, remains the primary sexual health educational resource in the college, having organized several sexual health and sexuality-related events since its inception in 2014. The group currently stocks all common lounges with sexual safety kits comprising condoms, lubricants and pamphlets on sexual health, although there is discussion about handing over this responsibility to a peer-to-peer network.