By Ng Yi Shu
As the inaugural class of Yale-NUS College settle into their new campus at University Town this week, several of them have started an informal group in light of the academic freedom promised by the college faculty.
In its establishment, Yale-NUS articulated a policy of non-discrimination. NUS and Yale have also set up a Consultative Group to provide advice on issues of academic freedom and human rights – thereby committing Yale-NUS to preserve an atmosphere of academic freedom.
The G Spot, a collection of students supportive of the LGBT community, will tackle gender, sexuality, and feminist issues. The student interest group aims to be open to any student in Yale-NUS and NUS.
Though it has yet to be officially registered, the group made its debut as a community group on Pink Dot 2013 on Saturday, setting up a picnic mat for attendees from the inaugural class and running a booth at the event’s community tent.
TOC spoke to Melissa Tsang, an NUS Law undergraduate who also contributes to TOC, and Abdul Hamid, a first-year Yale-NUS student, on the group and its plans.
1. What inspired you guys to start the group?
Melissa: We wanted to start a group that was forthcoming in its support for LGBT students and their welfare. We also wanted to facilitate a greater understanding of gender identity, feminist, and sexuality issues campus-wide; and to promote safe sex practices among all students.
2. Was there any difficulty finding members?
Melissa: Surprisingly, it was easy to find cisgender, heterosexual members – we were expecting close to all members being LGBT-identified. We thought this was an excellent thing. We were also heartened that other schoolmates, including international students who had just arrived in Singapore, came for our picnic at Pink Dot.
3. Was there any opposition to the setting up of your group? How?
Hamid: Not at all. Yale-NUS has been very supportive of the group, in line with its policy of non-discrimination. In fact, quite a number of faculty and administrators attended Pink Dot and visited us at our booth. However, we were unable to be formalised as a society in the first semester, due to an administrative Yale-NUS College policy that is applied to all student-initiated groups.
4. What do you see the G Spot becoming, now that the Yale-NUS College has provided another avenue for student activity to happen?
Melissa: The G Spot shouldn’t stop at being an “LGBT interest group”, but extend to be a group for the interests of LGBT students and straight students with gender issues. This vision reflects our core recognition that issues of gender and sexuality are not just co-curricular, but significant experiences and markers of identity. Accordingly, we believe in fostering a safer space for LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning, and Allied) students through education and outreach – to both the administration and to the wider student body.
5. How, in your opinion, would this change the LGBT community on campus?
Melissa: We believe a community supportive of LGBT individuals would allow for greater visibility – meaning, they would not feel pressured in any way to keep their gender identity or sexual orientation discreet. This will have a decisive and positive effect on the mental health and quality of campus life of LGBTQA students.
6. Do you see your group being formalised as a student group in Yale-NUS?
Melissa: We have high hopes it will happen.