Chinese major graduands from Nanyang Technological University have raised a stink over their inability to nominate a valedictorian this year — believed to be a first in seven cohorts.
The reason that the option has been taken away from them: They are collecting their scrolls with those graduating from the School of Art, Design and Media (ADM), from which the valedictorian will be chosen because its cohort size is bigger.
Because a single convocation ceremony cannot accommodate all the graduates from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), who number about 700 each year, one of its divisions joins another school’s ceremony. The Economics division held theirs with ADM last year, but had a valedictorian chosen from among them due to the larger Economics cohort. This year is the Chinese division’s turn to have their ceremony with ADM.
But with the slight by HSS’ 2013 valedictorian’s speech still fresh in their minds, the Chinese graduands are discontented with the university’s decision to deny them a valedictorian nominee.
That year, Sociology major Darren Woo made disparaging remarks about the language abilities of Chinese majors in his valedictorian speech, creating a stir.
One Chinese major graduand, who declined to be named, said: “We feel this is an unfair arrangement and it might send a signal to the public that Chinese division graduates are not as capable and the school stereotypes us.”
In an email to final-year HSS students yesterday, the school’s assistant chair of communications and student life Tan Joo Ean broke the news that due to the extremely large cohort size, the graduation ceremony for Chinese majors — 109 in all — will be held separately from that of the other HSS divisions.
In the email, Dr Tan also announced the valedictorian nominees from the Sociology, Psychology, English, Economics and Linguistics and Multilingual Studies divisions. These graduands were chosen for their academic performance, leadership qualities with participation in activities outside school, and good public-speaking skills, said Dr Tan.
In a separate email that was sent only to final-year Chinese majors, the head of the division I Lo-Fen reassured students that the school does not discriminate against them, noting that HSS’ valedictorian last year came from their division.
She also urged students to speak with university officials instead of contacting the media to seek redress.
Responding to TODAY’s queries, a HSS spokesperson said it is a common practice for schools with a large graduating cohort to hold more than one convocation ceremony for practical, logistical reasons.
“This year, it is the Chinese Division’s turn and the valedictorian will be from ADM, since the majority of graduands at that ceremony are from ADM,” he added.
Unhappy with the reason, the 2015 class are mulling over starting a petition to the university. They also hope that the university can address their concerns over the potentially discriminatory effect on future cohorts.