UP CLOSE | “The narratives of Yale-NUS were not shaped by us”: the history and unraveling of Yale-NUS

UP CLOSE | "The narratives of Yale-NUS were not shaped by us"

With Yale-NUS’ closure, what happens to the students left?
Published on April 13, 2022

In the days following the August announcement that Yale-NUS College would merge with the National University of Singapore’s University Scholars’ Programme, Yale-NUS students received an email from their student government telling them to express their frustration in “a way that does not jeopardize your safety and the community’s safety,” according to Sam Kouteili Yale-NUS ’23.

Although the student government and administration were trying to prioritize student safety, Kouteili felt that the email was also a warning not to protest, kick up a fuss or do something the school could not protect them from. But why did they rely on their school for protection and who, or what, was it protecting them from?

The National University of Singapore, or NUS, is Singapore’s flagship university. NUS consists of 17 faculties and schools including the arts and social sciences, business, dentistry, law and engineering — all of which are offered as undergraduate majors — that sprawl across three campus locations. The University Scholars’ Program, or USP, is a multidisciplinary undergraduate honors program that has its own residential college, Cinnamon College. Yale-NUS, the partnership between Yale University and NUS, existed as a small autonomous liberal arts college within NUS, the first of its kind in Singapore, with a class size of 250 students and three residential colleges.

Yale-NUS was almost a decade old when the 2025 merger was announced — a decision that signaled the dissolution of Yale’s partnership with NUS, and Yale-NUS’ closure as an autonomous university. NUS College, the institution that will replace Yale-NUS and USP, is set to open later this year.

Through extensive student involvement, Yale-NUS has flourished as a place of student advocacy, academic excellence and progressivism in Singapore. Its closure came as a shock to students, faculty and administrative staff. There had been no hints, no consultation and no discussion by NUS, even with the Yale-NUS governing board, Pericles Lewis, the vice president of global strategy at Yale and founding president of Yale-NUS, told the News. All steps in the decision to close the College had been taken internally, by NUS itself.

Since that announcement, students told the News that it felt as though Yale-NUS’ autonomy was waning and that it was now impossible to ignore NUS’ presence on the College’s campus. Kimberly Wee Yale-NUS ’23 explained that, while NUS always had a presence at Yale-NUS, prior to the merger’s announcement NUS was significantly less visible on campus and in student affairs.

“The day this decision was made, Yale-NUS was no longer an autonomous university,” Kouteili said. “Channels of communication have become a lot more rigid, there’s a lot of chaos on campus as well because everyone’s leaving, there’s a lot of uncertainty, so maybe that’s why it feels like we have less of a voice, but NUS is much more of a presence now, and we as students feel less protected.”

But what enabled NUS to make decisions unilaterally remains an unanswered question. The News spoke to eight Yale-NUS students and alumni about whether there was a pattern of top-down decision-making prior to this and what avenues of resistance students still have.

Structural relationship between Yale-NUS and NUS

The boundaries that existed between Yale-NUS and the broader NUS were often unclear to students — four of the students who spoke with the News could define the relationship between the two institutions only by their experiences with administrators, as there is no transparent structure. The consensus amongst students was that Yale-NUS was a freer environment.

(Alcan Sng Yale-NUS '22)

Jacob Jarabejo Yale-NUS ’22 believed that the boundary was drawn along financial lines: at Yale-NUS, NUS controlled the budget, while Yale-NUS controlled how it was distributed. He drew his conclusion in part from the fact that students who worked on campus received their pay from NUS, not Yale-NUS.

Angela Hoten Yale-NUS ’23 noted that student organizations at Yale-NUS received funding more easily than their counterparts at NUS.

Jarabejo, too, said that in his first two years at Yale-NUS, students only needed to gain approval from a rector at one of the residential colleges to receive funding for a project — including for activities like beer brewing, which would not have been allowed at NUS, where alcohol consumption is not permitted on campus, except at designated outlets or university events.

NUS is described as an autonomous university and is ostensibly not under the influence of the Singaporean government’s Ministry of Education. But a 2021 survey by an informal group of Singaporean academics reported that 77.5 percent of 198 Singaporean academics surveyed felt that there is indirect, often invisible, political pressure. Although there is a line drawn between NUS and the Ministry of Education, it is not always clear to students how the political environment factors into NUS’ decisions.

“My experience at Yale-NUS has always been like an ‘ask for forgiveness, not permission’ kind of policy,” Daryl Yang Yale-NUS ’19 said. “That was a very different experience from when I tried to organize things at NUS.”

Yang, who served as co-president on the second executive committee of The G Spot, Yale-NUS’ Gender and Sexuality Alliance, from 2014 to 2016, said the process of organizing events and booking venues was more procedural and bureaucratic at NUS than at Yale-NUS.

(Daryl Yang Yale-NUS '19)

In 2015, Yang recalled, he helped the NUS Political Association organize a panel on LGBTQ+ issues for its annual social policy forum. The panel consisted of a speaker from Singapore’s Association of Women for Action and Research, or AWARE, a speaker from the LGBT+ advocacy group Oogachaga and Baey Yam King, a member of parliament who has been outspoken on LGBTQ+ rights in Singapore. In part, this was because conservative speakers had all refused invitations to be part of the panel. Yang says the Office of Student Affairs was very involved with the process of who would be invited and at one point discussed canceling the event due to online backlash towards the panel’s composition.

Yang also founded the Community for Advocacy and Political Education, or CAPE. Yang, who was in the Yale-NUS and NUS Law’s double-degree program, said he had wanted to form the group with his friends at NUS Law, but realized that the Yale-NUS administration would be more supportive of the initiative than NUS.

“In general, the terms of operation for Yale-NUS were laid out by an agreement between Yale and NUS, so the broad parameters (like the existence of the College and the broad budget) were determined by agreement,” Lewis told the News. “Within those parameters, the leadership of Yale-NUS has a fair amount of autonomy, for example in how to allocate the budget, which courses to offer, whom to hire.”

Six students who spoke with the News shared a broad understanding of the parameters that Lewis referenced, but expressed confusion about the exact bounds of that autonomy — specifically on when and where NUS could step in.

“Several batches of Octant editors and reporters, including me, have been trying to seek clarity on [the Yale-NUS] Governing Board’s authority, but to no avail,” Yihui Xie Yale-NUS ’23 said, referencing The Octant, Yale-NUS’ flagship student newspaper. “I can’t speak for all the decision-making on campus, but at least for the governing board, few people know what power they have.”

The Yale-NUS Governing Board is composed of the Yale-NUS president, Yale President Peter Salovey, Lewis and others. The Board is responsible for the strategic direction of the College, as well as establishing policies for Yale-NUS.

(JX Soo Yale-NUS '25)

Several students delineated the roles within the Governing Board based on who they had interacted with. Kouteili told the News that Yale-NUS Dean of Students Dave Stanfield was typically the most involved in day-to-day student life and the main point of administrative contact for students. The provost, he suggested, was more involved with structural decisions, like the direction of the College.

Certain NUS policies have been adopted by the Yale-NUS Governing Board, Lewis said, but these tend to be on the more administrative side, such as governing personnel policies or IT policy. He stressed that any decision to adopt a shared policy with NUS came from the Yale-NUS administration, not NUS.

Wee told the News that students had enjoyed significant involvement in most of Yale-NUS’ administrative decisions that pertain directly to students, such as the curriculum and residential life. But how Yale-NUS fit into the larger context of education in Singapore was not in the hands of students and, Wee thought, was likely to have been shaped by NUS. She said this made those smaller decisions, which did have student involvement, feel “meaningless.”

“Yale-NUS as an institution was not really decided by us,” Wee said. “The narratives of Yale-NUS were not shaped by us.”

Yale-NUS was framed by both Yale and NUS as an “experiment” within Singapore. For some students there, however, it felt like they had no control over the experiment’s direction, even if they could contribute to how it ran internally.

And now, that experiment has come to an end. The “fair amount of autonomy” that Lewis said Yale-NUS had was overwritten by NUS in the decision to end its partnership with Yale in 2025.

(Jose Estrada, Production and Design Editor)

Valerie Yeo, a Yale-NUS spokesperson, told the News that, since the merger, members of the Yale-NUS community have worked closely with NUS to share policies and practices and reaffirmed that Yale-NUS has the autonomy to “innovate and adopt” policies, curricula, systems and practices.

Student consultation and input

Yale-NUS as a community and as an academic institution was largely shaped by its students, who were often consulted on decisions — or at the very least listened to — when they voiced concerns.

“In Yale-NUS, I think just because of how small the community is, we actually have quite a few […] channels that provide feedback, which has actually resulted in a lot of very formative changes,” Wee said.

(Sophie Henry, Illustrations Editor)

For example, during a regular review of the Yale-NUS Common Curriculum — a sequence of 10 foundational and interdisciplinary courses that all students are required to take — students advocated specifically to decolonize the curriculum. In response, the College added “The Malay Annals,” an Islamic text and seminal work of Malay history and literature, to its literature common core curriculum, which had previously been dominated by Western classics like The Odyssey.

Although the process to attain these goals could be long and bureaucratic, Wee emphasized that the Yale-NUS administration has been transparent and attentive to students.

“Where the Yale-NUS administration is in full control, I think they do listen to the students,” Wee said. “It’s painful, but there is progress.”

Students also had a say in Yale-NUS’ policymaking, which was generally autonomous and separate from NUS. Students had significant control over their residential experience: because of student canvassing, Yale-NUS implemented all-gender suites on the campus. NUS College, however, plans on abolishing these suites following the merger.

Yale-NUS also recently implemented two gender-neutral bathrooms in its library as a result of student advocacy. Administrative staff at Yale-NUS urged their colleagues at NUS to follow suit, Hoten said, and NUS now has one gender-neutral bathroom. NUS did not confirm this number when asked for comment.

Students pointed out that the Yale-NUS StuGov has much more potential for impact than its NUS counterpart, the NUS Student Union, or NUSSU.

“There’s this common joke in NUS that […] NUSSU is only good for packing goodie bags during exam week,” Wee said.

Yale-NUS’ mental health policies are another example of the difference in attention towards student concerns between NUS and Yale-NUS. Yale-NUS has five full-time counselors available for students, whereas NUS only has one part-time counselor for its residential colleges “in the same area that exists with USP,” Hoten said. NUS did not confirm the number of mental health counselors available to students when contacted by the News.

“The process with which they make these decisions often doesn’t involve student feedback,” Hoten said. “I think that’s a big element of Yale-NUS that is missing at NUS in terms of the decision making process.”

Professors at Yale-NUS are aware of the need for learning and accessibility accommodations, Hoten added, and the school also provides paid positions for students to take notes for their peers who are hard of hearing or have other accessibility needs. But at NUS, she added, professors do not have the same training, and they often do not provide the same accommodations for students. NUS did not respond when asked about whether they train professors to provide accommodations.

Hoten said that she has not seen a move towards increasing the number of counselors at NUS or educating professors and training staff to help students struggling with mental health issues.

(Sam Kouteili Yale-NUS ’17)

“Students are very vocal on what Yale-NUS looks like, or at least we have a lot of day to day input […] and that was one of the best parts of the whole program — the fact that we were able to shape our learning experience,” Kouteili said.

Yale-NUS also adjusted its sexual misconduct policies independently of NUS via a rigorous consultative process. Since the inception of Yale-NUS, Hoten said, but especially in the last few years, Yale-NUS has conducted multiple reviews of its sexual misconduct policy, with its most recent review conducted in the 2017-18 academic year by a group of students, staff and faculty. In 2018 and 2019, Yale-NUS conducted two sexual climate surveys with the student body and in 2020, the school rolled out a new model of support for survivors.

Following a sweep of voyeurism and sexual misconduct cases among students at NUS in 2018 and 2019, there was significant public pressure on the school to review its sexual misconduct policies.

In 2019, Monica Baey NUS ’19 took to social media to call for more severe punishments against a student who had filmed her showering in her residential hall. The incident received widespread media coverage and student organizations including NUSSU, The G Spot and Kingfishers for Consent called on the university to reform its sexual misconduct policy.

JX Soo Yale-NUS '25

(JX Soo Yale-NUS '25)

NUS’ disciplinary policy previously followed “Second Strike and You’re Out” guidelines, whereby first-time offenders received a punishment ranging from a warning to a suspension, but were not immediately expelled. Only repeat offenders could be expelled, however ex-NUSSU Vice President Soon Hao Jing NUS ’19 reportedly noted that this policy was “not representative of any formal policy I knew of, since no one was ultimately expelled from NUS for sexual offences.”

Hoten said that NUS then amended its policy using Yale-NUS’ refined policy as a template.

“NUS basically took what we had at the time and almost duplicated it — and has refined it on their own since — but Yale-NUS was able to autonomously create these policies,” Hoten said.

At the time, media and student backlash against NUS focused not only on the university’s perceived leniency towards perpetrators, but also on NUS’ alleged disregard for students’ voices.

Students raised concerns over NUS’ lack of transparency with regard to incidents of sexual misconduct and its inadequate support systems for victims at an April 25, 2019 town hall held by the university. But students said NUS representatives responded to their concerns by saying “we have to wait for the review committee to come to a decision.” No members of the review committee on sexual misconduct were present at the town hall.

“Public pressure and bad publicity are the only things that NUS responds to, unfortunately,” Hoten said.

As part of Yale-NUS’ orientation program, Hoten said, students are required to attend a mandatory consent education workshop.

At NUS, this is conducted through an online interactive module, an NUS student told the News.

“We also have struggled with creating safe spaces for survivors on [Yale-NUS’] campus as well, so I will not negate the limitations of our own policies and our own institutional support,” Hoten said. “But I would say in comparison to NUS, the fact that [NUS doesn’t] have people hired to think about these things, makes it really difficult for them to think about these things.”

No More Top Down

Following the announcement of the merger, students at NUS, USP and Yale-NUS organized to form No More Top Down, a group that called for the reversal of the Yale-NUS and USP merger. The group is also calling for the planned merger between the NUS faculty of engineering and the School of Design and Environment — which are set to merge into the College of Design and Engineering — to be reversed.

According to a statement by the group, these merger decisions were made unilaterally by NUS without the consultation of the Yale-NUS governing board, the president of Yale-NUS, NUS’ academic and nonacademic staff and both schools’ student associations.

Conflicting ideas about the hierarchy of decision-making at Yale NUS. (Jose Estrada, Production and Design Editor)

Yale-NUS President Tan Tai Yong previously told The Octant that he was “gobsmacked and flabbergasted” by the news of the merger. While the Yale-NUS governing board had endorsed the decision on Aug. 23, 2021, he said they had “procedural obligations” to do so.

Hoten, a member of No More Top Down, told the News that NUS leaders had claimed they consulted with students prior to the announcement of the College of Design and Engineering merger. When No More Top Down spoke to NUS students, however, it turned out that this consultation was done through closed-door discussions with particular individuals in the student body.

“This is not a consultative process,” Hoten said. “This is basically just the administration getting you behind closed doors, and convincing you [that] the decision that they made was right, and because you don’t have the collective ability to demand from your administration, they’re just going to claim that they consulted you.”

According to Hoten, NUS had also reached out to Yale-NUS students for closed-door discussions more than two weeks after the merger was announced, but students unanimously refused to participate, insisting that the student body be consulted collectively and transparently through town hall discussions.

For two weeks, she said, members of No More Top Down wrote emails and letters to the NUS administration but were met with no response. NUS also did not respond to No More Top Down’s petition, which had almost 15,000 signatures from students and members of the public at the time. NUS President Tan Eng Chye’s op-ed about higher education in Singapore, which painted the merger as a financial decision, was his first response to both the public and the students, Hoten said.

“It’s not feasible for you to just adopt something statically as you see it without understanding the process behind it,” Hoten said. “It’s still top down, it still doesn’t consider what students need, because what students will need will change over time, you know, as the culture changes, as the types of students change, you need to be able to adapt to that.”

Academic freedom on campus

In fall 2019, the issue of academic freedom came to a head when a workshop, “Dialogue and Dissent,” run by Singaporean playwright Alfian Sa’at, was canceled around two weeks before it was scheduled to take place. The workshop formed a part of the school’s Learning Across Boundaries Week Seven program, a week-long learning program for Yale-NUS students held either in Singapore or overseas.

(JX Soo Yale-NUS '25)

Alfian is known for tackling taboo topics like race, sexuality and politics through his works. The class — and its cancellation — drew media attention because of its allusions to protesting, which is illegal in Singapore. Jarabejo told the News that Alfian seemed conscious of the implications of what he wanted to teach and took steps to tone down his content. The course proposal originally included two workshops, one on sign-making and one on theater techniques, as well as a walking tour of Hong Lim Park — a designated place for approved public speech and rallies, and the only place in Singapore where it is legal to do so. The Yale-NUS administration raised concerns about the sign-making activity and the tour of Hong Lim Park, because they “posed possible legal risks,” especially for international students.

Alfian consulted students, Jarabejo said, including those in CAPE, to provide a more scholarly and balanced understanding of the subject and how he could adjust the course.

Although the administration claimed that the course was canceled due to a lack of academic rigor, students pointed out that it was impossible to ignore the larger political context in Singapore. Jarabejo stressed that it did seem to be an internal decision, but he doubted that it came from the Yale-NUS administration alone.

Yale University’s investigation into the incident, headed by Lewis, found that there was no evidence of government coercion.

“As a university administrator, one of my key roles is defending the academic freedom of faculty and the broad freedom of expression of students,” Lewis said. “Since academic freedom always involves controversy and is never automatic, it is a key job of the college or university leader to ensure it every day in every interaction with faculty and students.”

JX Soo Yale-NUS '25

(JX Soo Yale-NUS '25)

Before its cancellation, the program had been modified to remove the sign-making activity, which had the potential of being controversial given Singapore’s laws banning unapproved protesting. Yale-NUS told students it would not have been able to protect them from potential legal repercussions of participating in such an activity. Several students cited this modification as evidence that the Yale-NUS administration still wanted to go ahead with the program and that they suspected there were internal discussions with NUS that resulted in the cancellation.

Regardless of who pulled the strings, the news of the program’s cancellation was given suddenly to both students and to Alfian. Alfian responded to Yale’s report saying that he had agreed to all revisions to the program and that Yale-NUS had failed to communicate its concerns regarding academic rigor. Hoten, who was originally meant to participate in the program, was transferred to a different Week 7 group just two weeks before it was set to run.

“That was a really prominent example in the last few years of the way that NUS and even the government more broadly encroached upon the decision making processes of Yale-NUS and the kinds of activities we could do,” Hoten said.

But Yale-NUS maintains there was no coercion. The decision to cancel the workshop was made independently by Yale-NUS based on “pedagogical grounds,” Yale-NUS spokesperson Yeo, told the News.

Nevertheless, all eight students interviewed said they felt their academic freedom was never a question within the Yale-NUS campus.

Michael Sagna Yale-NUS ’23 told the News that during his time as a managing editor at The Octant, no students had reported their academic freedom being constrained. Xie concurred and added that there has never been a topic she has been barred from exploring.

In his time at Yale-NUS, Kouteili said, they had screenings of banned films on campus, the libraries offered banned books and several professors were openly critical of the Singapore government and fervently championed academic freedom. He emphasized that the school tried to protect its students as much as it could.

Students’ freedom of expression, Kouteili said, was bound by the borders of the Yale-NUS campus. Students were conscious of the fact that what they posted on social media or did outside of campus could no longer be protected by the school beyond its grounds.

Still, there was a conflict between how some students felt they were promised freedom of expression because of the school’s collaboration with Yale University and the limitations of Singapore’s laws, Yang said.

“We need to draw a line between what is academic freedom and what is freedom of expression and the two are not synonymous with each other,” Yang said. “In trying to demand that we define it by equating the academic freedom that we were promised in Yale-NUS with some kind of complete freedom of expression, you’re just forcing the [Singaporean] government to push back.”

(Sophie Henry, Illustrations editor)

“Yale will not save us”

When Yale announced the establishment of Yale-NUS, skeptics amongst Yale faculty criticized the University’s decision to get involved with what Christopher Miller, a professor at Yale, described as an “illiberal, authoritarian regime.” When NUS announced the dissolution of their partnership with Yale, the same criticisms reemerged.

These faculty members placed an impetus upon Yale as an institution to champion liberal values in its overseas ventures. Miller cited the Singapore government’s reaffirmation of anti-LGBTQ+ laws, including its retention of penal code 377A which criminalizes sex between men, as an example of Yale’s failure to influence the country.

In an op-ed soon after the merger was announced, Miller criticized the Yale Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate for refusing to open an inquiry into Yale-NUS — “its history, its unfolding and its closing.”

“Faced with the administration’s assurances that this was all Singapore’s doing, and that Yale can do nothing about it, the Senate goes limp,” Miller wrote in his op-ed.

Sagna told the News that Yale’s 2019 investigation into Yale-NUS’ academic freedom shocked him, because it demonstrated the lack of trust that Yale had in the Yale-NUS administration. Additionally, the suggestions by Yale faculty that Yale’s own investigation was biased also angered him and made it clear to him that “Yale will not save us from anything.”

“Your first thing is to investigate and challenge and question, rather than actually listening to what the professors or the president had to say,” Sagna said. “I think that eroded a lot of the trust between [Yale and Yale-NUS …] That was a huge shift in the way that I thought about [Yale and Yale-NUS’] relationship.”

Those most affected and least talked about

The dissolution of the Yale-NUS partnership affected students in very different ways.

International students that receive a financial aid scholarship to Yale-NUS receive up to $55,000 from Yale-NUS and the rest from the Singaporean government, which requires them to work in Singapore for two to three years after graduating. While some Yale-NUS students’ initial response to the partnership dissolution was to consider transferring to another university, many international students did not have that option. If they wanted to break the bond and transfer, they would have to repay the money, including interest.

(Sophie Henry, Illustrations editor)

A second response that students had, Sagna said, was to pursue a master’s degree after graduating in order to leverage the reputation that Yale-NUS has now.

“Even if no one knows what [Yale-NUS] means on their resume in 10 years, they will know the one above,” Sagna said. “But then for us students who are on a tuition grant, we can’t do that because we don’t have that privilege — we can’t do anything to mitigate the effect that will have on our employment.”

Sagna said that if he were to leave Singapore to try to work back home in the United Kingdom, it would be difficult to explain his education to employers. While Yale-NUS is reputedly academically competitive, that reputation may wane in the next decade and a Google search by an employer would reveal that it is now a defunct college.

(Michael Sagna Yale-NUS '23)

The school claims that the closure is due to the college’s success, Sagna said, because they want to replicate the model on a bigger scale — and one that is more accessible to Singaporeans — but that is something that he cannot communicate to employers.

“It’s just so frustrating because I had to work so hard to get here, Yale-NUS was my dream school,” Sagna said. “I had to do all these things and I ended up making it and now it just doesn’t exist.”

Foreigners are also restricted in their ability to get involved in politics in Singapore.

Sagna recalled attending a talk by CAPE, where they explained to international students their rights.

“You know how people say, not caring about politics is a privilege,” Sagna said. “As a foreigner, you feel disenfranchised, but simultaneously […] a lot of the decisions that are being made about Singapore, a lot of which really directly affects you, you have no direct political say over, you don’t have a way of expressing your opinion.”

Sagna said there were smaller top-down decisions he experienced that were overlooked by a majority of students.

Previously, the school offered financial aid for students who requested to live on campus over the summer — a number that increased when the pandemic hit. In 2020, Sagna’s first summer in Singapore, he managed to obtain financial aid since he was unable to return home. But over that winter break, Yale-NUS reduced its financial aid available to students for accommodations so that a smaller number of students could qualify.

Financial aid was not offered at all over summer 2021. Instead, students who had to stay over the summer paid $800 a month, a figure that Sagna felt is too high, especially as students already pay for air conditioning through “top up credits.” No financial aid is being offered for the upcoming summer.

Yale-NUS spokesperson Yeo told the News that the financial aid offered in the summer and winter of 2020 was COVID-specific funding intended to help international students who could not travel home at the time. As international travel restrictions have lifted, Yale-NUS adjusted its financial aid policy accordingly.

“It affects a certain type of student disproportionately,” Sagna said. “It’s only affecting poor international students — they structure their decisions, such that it only affects a very specific part of the school population and that means that the majority of people don’t care.”

About 45 percent of Yale-NUS is made up of international students. In May 2020, Joanne Roberts, the executive vice president of academic affairs at Yale-NUS, said that the percentage of financial aid offers for international students stood at 80 percent, although they estimated it would drop to 50 percent in future years as Yale-NUS became need-aware in its international admissions. However, Sagna explained that that percentage represents students on any type of financial aid, so the number of students that are most affected by these decisions tends to be much smaller, and therefore they have much less of a voice.

A lost space in Singapore

In spite of its limitations, many felt that Yale-NUS represented a beacon of progressivism and student activism in Singapore. Students mourned what they said felt like the death of a space that prioritized their voices and made them feel heard.

To many, the consultative and transparent approach that Yale-NUS previously took was already being eroded by the merger.

Sagna said he felt like the Yale-NUS administration had “no backbone” and had not fought for students in any tangible way.

(JX Soo Yale-NUS '25)

Students told the News that the promises that Yale-NUS and NUS had made about a transparent and consultative process had not been fulfilled. Less than five percent of students at Yale-NUS and USP expressed satisfaction with the NUS College planning process in a survey conducted by The Octant.

Students’ frustrations also come from NUS’ disregard for the recommendations given by the working committees. In particular, there are plans for gender-neutral housing to be abolished and the entire batch of NUS College first years to be housed separately from Yale-NUS students, contrary to the working committees’ recommendations.

“When I look at the process with which NUS gathers student feedback or alters their policies, it’s still the same,” Hoten said. “I would say administratively at NUS nothing has changed.”

Some were concerned about what place different identities and communities would have at NUS College.

“I think that’s a big chunk of the worry here as well — when we think about minority voices and diverse voices, I would say NUS demographically is a lot more homogenous, but Yale-NUS has really quite an incredible diversity of identities that are well celebrated on campus,” Hoten said.

Within a country that so often suppresses activism, Yale-NUS was an achievement, students said. As the partnership dissolves, with the last Yale-NUS students set to graduate in 2025, students expressed hope that that outspokenness and inclusive community would continue at NUS College, and even at NUS.

“I think that spirit and that energy of believing in your agency as a student, I think some of that really did kind of rub off on NUS students, or the students who were privy to what was happening,” Hoten said. “And I think that that makes me cautiously hopeful about the future of NUS, the future of New College and what NUS will be.”

Yale-NUS was the first liberal arts institution in Singapore and the first institution outside New Haven that Yale University developed.

Correction, April 17: A previous version of this article said there are four residential colleges — there are actually three. It also included an incorrect class year for Xie and described Yang as the founder of The G Spot, instead of as its co-president. The article has been updated.


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