SINGAPORE: Singapore Management University (SMU) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) are taking steps to better protect students from sexual misconduct and harassment on campus.
Both universities have ongoing reviews of their disciplinary framework, with SMU president Lily Kong saying on Wednesday (Apr 24) that the review will consider international best practices.
“The review process, which has already begun, will consider international best practices, as well as seek input from our stakeholders,” said Professor Kong.
NTU said that its review, which started late last year, looks at the effectiveness of its procedures and whether support resources like care for victims, as well as rehabilitation and sanctions for offenders are enough.
"The review also takes into account evolving social norms and expectations," an NTU spokesperson told CNA.
The issue of sexual harassment on campus came into the spotlight after National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate Monica Baey took to social media last week to call for tougher action against a student who had filmed her having a shower at her hostel.
Following the incident in November last year, the perpetrator was given a 12-month conditional warning by the police, suspended from the university for one semester and banned from entering all on-campus housing premises. He was also ordered to go for mandatory counselling sessions, perform 30 hours of community service and write a letter of apology.
READ: NUS to convene review committee after undergrad calls for 'justice' against man who filmed her in shower
There have been at least two online petitions demanding "stiffer punishment" for the perpetrator.
NUS president Tan Eng Chye acknowledged on Tuesday that the university had fallen short in providing Ms Baey support from the start.
"We are sorry that she had to surface her concerns on social media for the university to take notice," Professor Tan said in a letter to the school's alumni.
Apart from reviewing its disciplinary framework, NTU said it is starting a new online module on anti-harassment in July for all freshmen and student organisers of transition and orientation programmes.
The module, which was designed in consultation with student leaders, includes a video and information on what constitutes harassment, how to respond in such cases and where to seek help.
NTU said it had already strengthened its policy and procedures governing harassment in January.
"The anti-harassment policy provides students with a mechanism and support framework through which reports of harassment can be investigated and dealt with," said the spokesperson, adding that a similar policy for employees was also implemented.
COMPLAINTS TAKEN SERIOUSLY, INVESTIGATED FAIRLY: SMU
Complaints of sexual misconduct will be investigated in a fair and objective manner, while ensuring that the privacy and interests of the parties involved are treated with sensitivity, Prof Kong said.
She pointed out that SMU has in place counselling support for affected students, either by counsellors within the university, or by external psychologists or psychiatrists.
“In addition, administrative support will also be rendered, for example, in re-scheduling of classes or making other arrangements to ensure that they are able to continue with their studies in a conducive environment,” she added.
The NTU spokesperson also gave the assurance that all disciplinary cases are taken seriously, and that disciplinary action will be taken against offenders after considering the circumstances of the case and mitigating factors if any.
“Disciplinary actions in the past have included expulsion from the hostel or university, suspension, mandatory counselling and further rehabilitation,” he said, adding that an offender may also be barred from leadership positions in student committees and credit-bearing internships.
The case may also be referred to the police, and victims will also have support from counsellors, he added.
Both universities stressed that safety is a priority for them.
“We will do everything we can to nurture a culture of safety, support and respect in SMU,” Prof Kong said.