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Former East Asian Institute director hugged colleague without consent, NUS inquiry finds following complaint

Former East Asian Institute director hugged colleague without consent, NUS inquiry finds following complaint

The East Asian Institute is located at NUS' Bukit Timah campus. (Photo: Google Street View)

SINGAPORE: The National University of Singapore (NUS) said on Tuesday (Nov 17) it had completed its review of a complaint made against former East Asian Institute (EAI) director Professor Zheng Yongnian and found that he had behaved inappropriately towards a colleague in May 2018. 

NUS said it established a committee of inquiry to begin investigations after becoming aware of the allegations in May last year. 

A member of staff alleged that Prof Zheng behaved inappropriately on a number of occasions in 2018, including putting his hands on her shoulder and head, hugging her and patting her rear, and holding her back while taking a group photo. 

NUS said that "in the absence of evidence", the inquiry was unable to verify all the allegations except that Prof Zheng had hugged the member of staff without her permission during a meeting. 

She lodged a police report in May 2019, accusing Prof Zheng of outrage of modesty. Following investigations and in consultation with the Attorney-General's Chambers, the police issued Prof Zheng a stern warning in April this year. 

NUS said it suspended Prof Zheng on May 20, 2019 and required that he work from home and stay off the NUS campus for the entire duration of the investigations. He was also issued a no-contact order prohibiting him from contacting the EAI staff member. 

"The COI concluded that Prof Zheng had admitted to hugging the EAI staff member without her consent during a work meeting on 30 May 2018, but the allegation that Prof Zheng had at the same meeting patted her buttocks could not be established conclusively," the statement read. 

"The COI further determined that it is inappropriate for a male senior colleague in a supervisory role to hug a female junior colleague without her consent at a professional meeting in his office", said NUS, adding that it thus concluded Prof Zheng had breached its code of conduct for staff. 

"In accordance with the university's guidelines on staff discipline matters, the appropriate sanction for a breach of this nature is a written warning.

"As Prof Zheng is no longer a staff of NUS, the university will instead place on its staff records the outcome of the internal review," said the institution. 

Prof Zheng stepped down as director in June and was replaced by former World Bank country director Bert Hofman. Prof Zheng left EAI in September. 

"NUS and EAI expect all staff to treat each other with dignity, consideration and respect, and we take a strong stand against all forms of inappropriate behaviour," the university said in its statement.

Source: CNA/hw(hs)


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