Monday, 19 August 2019

‘Cuckoo bird’ cheer at NTU freshman camp: ‘We didn’t know it would become so big’



Maybe they’re really into ornithology.

That’s why they kept repeating the words “cuckoo bird” over and over again.

But the way the young men and women were pointing at their crotch while chanting the words in last week’s viral video suggests that they’re probably more interested in anatomy.

I was their age once, though not so publicly demonstrative of where my prurient interests lay.



When I first heard there was a video going around of inappropriate behaviour at a freshman orientation camp at a local university, I assumed it was the National University of Singapore (NUS) again.

Three years ago, reports of sexualised games at NUS camps led to then Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung declaring that “pretending to ejaculate into the face of a fellow student plays no part” in university education.

Which is always a helpful reminder.

I believe it was the first time an acting minister had ever used the word “ejaculate” in public. (God knows how many times he said it in private.)



NUS was also in the news in April because of the Monica Baey episode, which highlighted the prevalence of sexual misconduct on campus, mostly by shower voyeurs.

I also remember the sordid sex-for-grades trial in 2013 involving an NUS law professor and his student.

He took her virginity on his NUS office sofa! She got pregnant! He made her pay for her abortion! She bought him a Montblanc pen and an iPod Touch when the iPod Touch was a thing!



So is it any wonder that by now, whenever I hear there’s inappropriate sexual behaviour at a local university, I’m conditioned to think it must be NUS?

But to my surprise, the video was not taken in NUS – but in Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

What a twist!



An NTU spokesman said last Thursday:
“Looking at the video, the cheer is not in line with the standards set at NTU, as it runs contrary to the values of safety, respect and inclusiveness which are emphasised in the university’s transition and orientation programme.”
So how did it happen?

I asked a person who was actually there when the video was taken.

She said the cheer took place in a lecture theatre on Aug 8, the last day of the camp organised by the business school.

The NTU student added: “It was during a cheer fight when they were running out of cheers.”

A “cheer fight” is a game where groups of students try to top each other by coming up with louder, more entertaining and frequently more outrageous cheers to get a bigger reaction for their performance.

Someone happened to take a video of this one and posted it online where it went viral.

“We didn’t know it would become so big,” the student said.

I asked if anyone there was offended by the cheer.

She said: “Everyone kind of laughed it off because it was part of the cheer fight and nobody really said anything.”

I spoke to another NTU student who recently attended a different faculty camp as a freshman, and she said she heard cheers using the Hokkien term for vagina, you know, the one with the initials C and B. (Coincidentally, also the initials for “cuckoo bird”.)

So the lewd cheer in the video was not an isolated case.

She said the obscenities in the cheers were a “culture shock” for her, but she didn’t complain.

Well, at least no one pretended to ejaculate into anyone’s face. Right? (Please don't let a video of someone ejaculating into someone’s face show up.)

I’m not sure which is worse, but Education Minister Ong Ye Kung has yet to comment on whether shouting the local slang for male genitalia while thrusting and gyrating your hips in unison is part of university education.

After all, the cheer could just be an over-enthusiastic homage to Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel-turned-1975 Oscar-winning movie starring Jack Nicholson.



Three geese in a flock, one flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo bird’s nest.

Or something like that.

I guess it would be easier just to say “cuckoo bird” two dozen times.

- Published in The New Paper, 19 August 2019


EARLIER:

After Monica Baey: My daughter is in NUS, should I be worried?

Minister says 'ejaculate', thanks to rapey NUS freshman orientation games

Sequelitis: Darinne Ko is no Cecilia Sue (and farewell, Yam Ah Mee)




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