NUS' penalties for sexual misconduct case were 'manifestly inadequate': Ong Ye Kung

NUS' penalties for sexual misconduct case were 'manifestly inadequate': Ong Ye Kung

ong ye kung
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung. (File photo: TODAY/Nuria Ling)

SINGAPORE: Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Monday (Apr 22) the penalties applied by the National University of Singapore (NUS) in a sexual misconduct case were "manifestly inadequate".

In a Facebook post on Monday, Mr Ong wrote that he has asked other universities to review their frameworks for similar offences.

This comes after NUS undergraduate Ms Monica Baey revealed in a series of public Instagram Stories on Friday that she had caught a student filming her with a mobile phone while she was in a hostel shower.

She said the man had been given a 12-month conditional warning by the police.

READ: NUS to hold town hall on sexual misconduct

READ: NUS Students’ Union to consider if ‘heavier punishments’ are needed for sex harassment cases

According to a statement by the NUS Students' Union executive committee, the university's board of discipline had ordered a one-semester suspension for the man involved.

He was also banned from entering all on-campus housing premises and has to go for mandatory counselling sessions, the statement said. The board also ordered him to do 30 hours of community service and undergo "mandatory rehabilitation and reconciliation sessions" with a social worker. 

He was ordered to write a letter of apology and was given an official letter of reprimand, the committee wrote in its statement.

Ms Baey and other students called for tougher action against the man, with Ms Baey explaining she was "seriously distressed" by the incident and that her mental health had suffered badly.

"WE HAVE TO TAKE A TOUGH STAND"

The university said in an interview with the Straits Times on Monday they "want to give students a chance" and that offenders who came before the board of discipline for the first time were not always immediately expelled. It added that students involved in other sexual misconduct incidents outside NUS could face expulsion, even if it was their first time before the board.

Mr Ong said the "two strikes and you are out" policy cannot be the "standard application".

READ: University campuses must be safe places for all, a commentary

In his post, the Education Minister wrote: "From here on, for offences that affect the safety of students on campus, we have to take a tough stand, and send a strong signal to everyone.

"Two strikes and you are out cannot be the standard application. NUS has to make its campus safe for all students, especially female students."

He said he spoke to the NUS president and board chairman to convey his concerns about the penalties imposed by NUS and added that he was confident the university's review will "result in a more robust process and stricter framework".

"The NUS board and president are seized with this matter, and are determined to put a stop to such unacceptable behaviour on campus," Mr Ong added.

COMMITTEE TO REVIEW FRAMEWORKS

NUS said that it will convene a committee to review its current disciplinary and support frameworks.

"The Board of Trustees views sexual misconduct on our campuses with grave concern, and has decided to appoint Madam Kay Kuok, a member of the board and chairman of the board’s Nominating Committee, to chair this committee," said Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, chairman of the NUS Board of Trustees.

READ: NUS to convene review committee after undergrad calls for 'justice' against man who filmed her in shower

"The committee will review the disciplinary process (including sanctions) and support frameworks relating to sexual misconduct at NUS, in the light of concerns raised by Ms Monica Baey."

Initial members of the committee will include Singapore Management University president Lily Kong, board member and WongPartnership managing partner Ng Wai King, NUS president Professor Tan Eng Chye and a representative from the NUS Students’ Union, the statement added.

Following Mr Ong's statement the university clarified its current policy for sexual misconduct offences.

NUS president Mr Tan said he welcomed the board's announcement on the formation of the review committee.

"The 'second strike and you are out' policy for sexual misconduct offences will be part of this review," he added in a statement. 

"NUS will take a hard stand on offences that impact the safety of our students. We must make our campus safe and supportive for all members of our community. 

"I look forward to working closely with the review committee members to strengthen the disciplinary process and support network for our students."

Source: CNA/jt(mi)

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