Asean And Nus Scholar Philosophy Essay

Q1. Identify the main issues raised in this case.

I have identified four main issues raised in this case.

Firstly, whether Alvin Tan’s actions are morally acceptable, especially in the Asian context? Secondly, as an ASEAN and NUS scholar, should Alvin Tan be held to a higher moral standard? Thirdly, whether the disciplinary action taken against Alvin Tan by NUS should be made public? Lastly, whether pornographic videos and pictures are considered art?

Q2. The Straits Times quoted Alvin Tan as telling the NUS disciplinary hearing over his blog that while he was sorry for bringing disrepute to the institution, what he did is done in his "own personal time as a private individual and not as an NUS student," Alvin Tan went on to state that "what I did was a victimless crime, nobody was really harmed or hurt in the process." In your opinion, do you consider the actions of the law student Alvin to be acceptable? Support your answer

The Straits Times Razor TV interviewed Singaporeans on the streets and many felt that his actions were "ridiculous". (The Straits Times Razor TV, "Singaporeans slam Alvin Tan", 2012) I agree with them and think that his actions are unacceptable.

Firstly, Asians are conservative; such behaviour is not acceptable and is considered outrageous in our society. Although we have become more open-minded in recent decades, the Asian society is still not prepared to condone such actions. In the Straits Times Razor TV interview, most people think that this is something to be kept private and should not be published on the internet. In my opinion, he should not have posted those videos and should have kept his private life away from public view.

Secondly, as an ASEAN and NUS scholar, Alvin Tan is expected to excel not only in his studies but is also expected to be of good character and be a good role model. His actions certainly did not convey the right image that a scholarship holder should have conveyed. A scholarship holder would have been more careful with his own actions and should take responsibility for his own actions. He should know when to draw the limit between his private life and his online persona. Alvin Tan even told the media that he was curious how far he could push his boundaries and even commented "what can NUS do to him". (Pearl Lee, 2012 October 16) Such words told to the media would portray an image that is very unlike what we would expect from a scholar.

Q.3 Define morality and ethics. How do you see it may apply in this instance?


Morality refers to the distinction of right from wrong when individuals are faced with matters of importance. (David Copp., 2005, p. 453) An individual’s principles are usually defined by his or her society, culture, family and religion.

Applying the definition of morality to the current situation, we are referring to whether Alvin Tan’s actions are right or wrong in accordance with his own moral codes. According to his own principles, he certainly does not appear to have thought that what he had done was wrong. This is so even though the public clearly thinks otherwise. In a video that he posted online, when asked whether he thought that there was a need to do a public apology, his reply was, "What do we have to apologise for? For hurting your soft sensitive feelings? For what? For I don't know, breaching some moral code that you hold dearly to yourself but I don't necessarily hold them myself? So we will not make a public apology." (Monica Kotwani , 18 October 2012) Clearly, Alvin Tan is aware that his set of moral values differs from the general society’s moral values. What most people think is wrong might not be what he thinks is wrong. Therefore, an individual’s morality might differ from what the public views as right or wrong.


The definition of ethics is the making of moral judgments about one’s actions and decisions. (Carol, L and Stuart, G (2005)., p. 130) It is usually recognised with respect to a class of people or a society, as opposed to an individual’s beliefs.

Applying the definition of ethics to the current situation, the public is making moral judgments of Alvin Tan’s actions. By saying that what he did was wrong, the public has decided and judged that his actions are not acceptable in the Asian society. According to Pearl Lee (2012, October 16), ever since Alvin Tan’s blog started circulating on the internet, he and Vivian Lee have received numerous nasty comments from the public. Clearly, by making these criticisms, the public has made a moral judgment according to their ethical codes, and their decision is that Alvin Tan’s action should not be condoned in the Singaporean society.

Q.4Assuming you are part of the disciplinary board, what guidelines would you consider in this case?

We would have to consider two main guidelines:

In deciding whether to allow Alvin Tan to keep his scholarship, we look at whether Alvin Tan is a good reflection of an NUS scholar?

In deciding whether to expel Alvin Tan from NUS, we look at whether Alvin Tan is mindful of his actions and knows the seriousness of its consequences?

Firstly, we should look at whether Alvin Tan is a good reflection of an NUS scholar and whether he still deserves to keep his scholarship. The university would look out for certain characteristics in their selection of scholarship holders. While Alvin Tan might have displayed these characteristics during the scholarship interview, the disciplinary board should consider his current behaviour and public image in deciding whether he still fits in as an ideal scholarship holder after the entire saga. It is unlikely that the school would allow him to keep his scholarship since he was nonchalant about it when speaking to the media and did not seem concerned that he was spoiling the school’s reputation. This is certainly not a good reflection of an NUS scholar.

Secondly, we would have to decide whether Alvin Tan should be expelled from the school. Alvin Tan has constantly emphasized that what he has done is in his ‘own private life’ and not as a student of NUS. However, the disciplinary board would not think the same. If he is willing to change, we might be able to give him a second chance. He would have to make a public apology to show that he understands the consequences of his action. As part of the disciplinary board, I would want to send the message to the public that the university does not tolerate such actions. At the same time, this helps to convey the right message to the students in the university, that the school has a strict policy on the conduct of our students and we expect them to take responsibility over their own actions.

Q.5 Enumerate the possible decisions and consequences of this case.

Firstly, we need to consider whether this case has changed the relatively conservative mindsets of Singaporeans. On the overall, after this entire saga, I do not think that it will make Singaporeans more accepting of such actions. Singaporeans are still conservative and posting something that is meant to be private is still not socially acceptable.

Secondly, this case helps to educate the people in Singapore to think twice before posting something on the internet. It helps to create awareness of the consequences of posting something online and the power of social media in today’s times. Therefore, another consequence of this case is that it can possibly educate people to be more careful and responsible over what they say online.

Q.6 In your opinion, is there a need for bloggers to follow a code of conduct in the posting of sexually explicit content? Support your answer

There have been several calls for a bloggers’ Code of Conduct. I agree that there is a need for bloggers to follow a code of conduct to a certain extent.

It is advantageous to have a code of conduct for bloggers so that they would take responsibility for what they post on their webpages. They should know that what he or she posts on the internet can be seen by anyone accessing the internet. In this generation, most families have a computer and young children are able to access the internet from a young age. If they happen to stumble upon these videos and pictures, they would be exposed to such sexual contents without first being educated about sex. Young children or teenagers might imitate such actions without knowing and learning the dangers of it.

However, the internet is one place where people could express their feelings more freely. If there is a code of conduct to everything they post on the internet, then there would be a lack of freedom of speech and expression in our society. People will feel restrained from posting their thoughts and feelings on their blogs. They will not be able to express how they truly feel on the internet.

The ideal situation would be that of a balance – it is good that bloggers have a code of conduct but I think it should not be an official or written one. An unofficial, or unwritten code of conduct would mean that bloggers know what are the things they should or should not post. They should be allowed to post anything, except for things that are too extreme and should only be kept to their private lives. This would allow bloggers to practise freedom of speech and expression, yet at the same time, hold some self-respect for themselves and their readers, knowing that their blog contents would be viewed by anyone accessing the internet.

Q.7Based on what you have learned about critical thinking, explain and discuss the process by which you completed this assignment?

I have done a lot of research for this assignment. I went to the library to find books that are related to morality and ethics, I watched videos to understand the views of Singaporeans on this issue, and I also read many other newspaper articles to get a deeper understanding of the case. These various modes have helped me in my brainstorming, which is important for critical thinking. In doing each question, I first analyse the question and think of how best to answer the question. I then think of the possible outcomes and various ways to answer the question. I make sure that the things that I write relates to the question I am answering.