NUS sacks professor for sexually harassing student; 2nd high-profile dismissal in 2 months

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
·4-min read
Professor Theodore G. Hopf. (PHOTO: Facebook / Ted Hopf)
Professor Theodore G. Hopf. (PHOTO: Facebook / Ted Hopf)

SINGAPORE — A top professor of National University of Singapore (NUS) was dismissed on Tuesday (1 December) for sexually harassing a student.

The university said in a media release that, following investigations, Professor Theodore G. Hopf from the Department of Political Science in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) had “failed to act with propriety, respect, and decorum expected of a staff of the university”.

“He had sexually harassed the student in physical, verbal and written forms. His conduct was a serious breach of the NUS Staff Code of Conduct,” NUS said in the media release.

NUS has also made a police report last Friday, after informing the student that it would be proceeding to do so in line with its legal obligations. The NUS Victim Care Unit and FASS have been providing care and support to the student since the allegations were first brought to NUS’ attention.

Made offensive remark, sent sex text messages

NUS said it received an anonymous complaint in August, alleging that Hopf had sexually harassed a student.

It commenced investigations immediately and, after interviews with the student and Hopf, issued a No-Contact Order to the professor on 14 September, prohibiting him from contacting any NUS student. Hopf was later suspended and told to stay off-campus amid the investigation.

A Committee of Inquiry (COI) was appointed on 7 October. It interviewed the student on 21 October, and Hopf on 13 November after he had sought treatment for a serious medical condition.

The COI submitted its report the NUS on 18 November. Its findings were:

  • Hopf admitted that, during a meeting between the student and him on campus in August, he offered and drank alcohol with the student, and also made an offensive remark about certain parts of the student’s anatomy.

  • At the same meeting, Hopf pulled the student forcefully towards him twice, during which the student resisted, moved back and told him to stop. Hopf admitted to placing his hands on the shoulders of the student while facing the student, but denied pulling the student towards him. The COI found the student’s account to be credible.

  • In October 2018, Hopf had sent a sex text message to the student. While Hopf admitted to sending the sex-text message to the student, he explained to the COI that the sex-text message was meant for someone else. The COI found that as Hopf did not clearly inform the student that the message was meant for someone else, and did not apologise for sending the message by mistake, it was a serious professional misconduct.

The COI determined that Hopf had failed to act with propriety, respect, and decorum in relation to the student. It also found that Hopf, who was in a position of authority, had sexually harassed the student in physical, verbal and written forms. It concluded that his conduct was a serious breach of the NUS Staff Code of Conduct, and NUS made the decision to dismiss him.

Second high-profile dismissal of NUS staff in recent months

Hopf, 61, is the provost chair professor of political science at NUS, and previously served on the faculties of the Ohio State University, Ohio University and the University of Michigan. He had joined NUS in July 2017.

He had sat on boards such as NUS' Asia Research Institute management board. His most recent book, “Reconstructing The Cold War: The Early Years, 1945-1958”, won two international awards in 2013.

In a Facebook post on 12 November, he commented about booking tickets for Hong Kong for the new year, and being able to make his first trip out of Singapore in 10 months.

Hopf’s sacking was the second high-profile case of NUS academic staff dismissal in recent months. In October, Tembusu College professor Jeremy Fernando was dismissed for having “an intimate association” with an undergraduate.

NUS said in its media release that all NUS staff must adhere to its Code of Conduct for Staff.

“The university has zero-tolerance for sexual misconduct by staff. Disciplinary sanctions are imposed for every infraction, including dismissal for a staff offender for serious breaches,” it said.

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