Though conversations about sex and sexuality are gaining momentum at Yale-NUS, the college has yet to establish administrative bodies or formal resources dedicated exclusively to promoting sexual health and combating sexual misconduct on campus.
Yale-NUS’ Office of the Dean of Students, which includes a wellness team, is students’ primary point of contact for sex-related issues. In September, the office hired Doris Yek as its first health coordinator. Additionally, for the first time, Yale-NUS is hosting “Doing it Right” this week — a series of conversations and events that serves as a counterpart to Yale’s Sex and Sexuality Week. These developments come amidst increasing student calls for sexual health resources.
But unlike at Yale, where resources such as the Consent and Communication Educators, the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct and the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center are dedicated exclusively to sex-related issues, Yale-NUS’ resources have a less specific scope. For example, while Yek’s responsibilities include assisting students with sexually transmitted infections, she also provides basic medical and nursing treatment, health advice and information about the school’s health policies. Administrators in the Office of the Dean of Students said student-driven efforts on sexual climate have been more important than administrative ones.
“Frankly, student-run campaigns on issues of sex and sexuality are far, far more successful than those run by administrators,” Interim Dean of Students Brian McAdoo said.
Still, the school does offer some formal training and workshops similar to those at Yale. Every year, Yale-NUS collaborates with both local and international organizations to provide training for the deans’ fellows, college rectors and health and wellness staff to tackle sexual issues. The school partners with the Association of Women for Action and Research, Singapore’s leading gender equality advocacy group, to explain social norms and local laws and resources, as well as Speak About It, a U.S.-based organization that works in campus consent education to acquaint community members with the types of issues that can arise in a residential college.
Just as Yale’s CCEs offer the “Myth of Miscommunication” workshop for freshmen during Camp Yale, staff from Yale-NUS’ Office of the Dean of Students organize a compulsory workshop on consent and communication for all incoming freshmen. Although Yale-NUS does not mandate workshops for upperclassman like Yale does, it offers optional bystander training to leaders of student groups, members of athletic teams and students interested in organizing social events.
And while the college’s Wellness Center does not exclusively focus on sexual health, it does provide counseling and therapy for students who face emotional and psychological stress as a result of sex-related issues, said Yeo Sha-en, senior manager of wellness in the Office of the Dean of Students and wellness director of the Wellness Center. The Center also organizes mandatory one-on-one sessions with every freshman and optional walk-in sessions during which students can talk about any issue related to their well-being, including sexual health, Yeo added. Still, her work also includes other aspects of student wellness including sleeping enough, eating well, managing expectations, gender and identity issues and spirituality.
According to an August article in the Straits Times, Singapore’s leading newspaper, there was a 60 percent rise in the number of sexual crimes filed or convicted in State Courts between 2011 and 2014. But neither Yek nor Yeo expressed concerns about the fact that their work is not focused exclusively on sexual health or sexual misconduct. Daryl Yang YNUS ’18, president of The G Spot — a student organization tackling issues concerning sexuality, gender, feminism, race, social class and disability — also noted that sexual misconduct is “not a big concern” on campus. The efforts by administrators and students are more proactive than reactive, he added. G Spot is the only student organization at Yale-NUS that deals with sexual issues.
This week, The G Spot is partnering with other Yale-NUS student organizations that are not dedicated purely to sexual health, such as peer counselors, as well as external community groups and the Health and Wellness Works team on “Doing it Right.” This series of conversations address issues of sexual health, sexual assault prevention, female sexuality and sex work.
Yang said there is more to be done to enhance the campus sexual climate, but he did not identify any specific areas of improvement. He also pointed out that Yale-NUS, as compared to its peer institutions in Singapore, is at the forefront of fostering a healthy sexual climate. The fact that Yale-NUS, unlike other schools in Singapore, makes condoms available at several locations on campus to encourage safer sex is indicative of such efforts, he said.
“Our institution is only in the third year, [and] I think it is commendable the efforts that the college, on both the part of students and administrators, alike have put in to create a safe and open climate with regard to issues of sex and sexual wellness,” Yang said.