SINGAPORE — A group of 489 students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) on Sunday (21 April) issued a statement to the top management of NUS to express their deep concerns about the university’s approach towards sexual harassment, particularly in relation to the incident involving NUS undergraduate student Monica Baey.
Baey had expressed anger over what she perceived to be lenient punishment meted out to a male NUS student after the latter had filmed her showering without her consent. The offender’s action was caught on CCTV footage.
The NUS Board of Discipline ordered the offender to be suspended for one semester, banned into entering housing premises on campus, undergo counselling, write a letter of apology, among other punishments. The first-time offender was also given a 12-month conditional warning by the police.
The NUS students, however, said in their statement that they “find the punishment meted out (by NUS) in this case problematic because it signals to the NUS community at large that
i) our University does not credibly enforce its stance against sexual voyeurism as a serious offence;
ii) those who commit such an offence can arguably expect to receive a relatively light sentence; and
iii) survivors of sexual violence and harassment will not receive adequate institutional and social support even if they voice their concerns to the relevant authorities.”
The NUS students want the university to take a stronger stance against sexual harassment and set a positive example for other universities around the world in the statement, which was also supported by 194 students from other universities and educational institutions.
They proposed four sets of recommendations for NUS to implement in order to address their concerns on the matter.
For a start, NUS should provide “stronger immediate redressal” for Baey by making a stronger statement against sexual harassment on campus and providing greater transparency on its investigations into the case, they said.
Another recommendation is the setting up of an Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention, Reporting, and Response with a 24/7 emergency hotline service for survivors, and improving rehabilitative support for survivors of sexual harassment such as providing counselling services for survivors of sexual harassment and assault.
NUS should also implement preventive measures such as providing anti-sexual harassment training programmes and campaigns in the university, particularly in residences, the students proposed.
In addition, NUS should also follow the footsteps of leading institutions such as The University of Oxford and The University of Cambridge in publicly and explicitly committing to a zero-tolerance campaign against sexual harassment, they said.
The students want NUS to institutionalise tiers of penalties applicable to the different types of sexual harassment offences under the University Code of Student Conduct.
They also called for the organisation of a town hall meeting and meaningful student representation in a committee set up to review disciplinary procedures against sexual harassment.
“Beyond the call for immediate redressal for Ms Baey, there is a broader need to address the various systemic issues relating to sexual offences that occur within NUS. Through the detailing of various remedial, preventive and developmental measures above, this statement hopes to provide a good ground for conversation and review to take root and grow,” they added.