Ong Ye Kung concerned over ‘manifestly inadequate’ penalties in NUS sexual misconduct case

The National University of Singapore (NUS). (Yahoo Singapore file photo)
The National University of Singapore (NUS). (Yahoo Singapore file photo)

SINGAPORE — Education Minister Ong Ye Kung has expressed his concerns to the National University of Singapore (NUS) over the “manifestly inadequate” penalties that it has imposed in the recent sexual misconduct case.

Ong said in a post on his Facebook page on Monday (22 April) that he spoke to the NUS President and Board Chairman about the case on Saturday night.

“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,” Ong said.

Ong did not specify the details of the case in his post. His comments come amid the furore over the conduct of a male NUS student who was caught filming female undergraduate Monica Baey showering in a hostel toilet. Many NUS students and others have slammed the light punishments meted out to the offender.

The NUS Board of Discipline had ordered the male student to be suspended for one semester, banned from entering into 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. If the student were to commit an offence over the following 12 months after the warning, he would be prosecuted for both offences.

Ong said NUS will review its discipline and sentencing framework “swiftly and decisively”.

He added, “I am confident NUS’ 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.”

The minister said he has also asked other universities to review their frameworks for similar offences.

Raging controversy over NUS incident

The incident has sparked many debates and widespread concerns over sexual harassment in university campuses in Singapore.

Earlier Monday, NUS said it will hold a town hall meeting this week to address concerns over the controversy.

“The University has heard your concerns. We are holding a town hall this week for NUS students, faculty and staff to gather feedback and concerns about sexual misconduct on campus and to discuss how the University can further strengthen its disciplinary and support frameworks,” NUS said in a post on its Facebook page.

On Sunday, almost 500 NUS students – with support from 194 students from other local universities and educational institutions – wrote a letter to the top management of NUS, urging them to take immediate steps to tackle sexual harassment on campus.

In their statement, the students wrote that the punishments given to the offender signalled that NUS “does not credibly enforce its stance against sexual voyeurism as a serious offence” and that “those who commit such an offence can arguably expect to receive a relatively light sentence”.

The controversy went viral online after Baey expressed anger over what she perceived to be light punishments imposed on the male student in several Instagram posts.

On Monday, Great Eastern said an NUS student has resigned from the company after it has suspended him for misconduct.

“We are aware of the recent incident involving Nicholas Lim, a Great Eastern financial representative. He has been placed on immediate suspension and has since submitted his resignation,” Great Eastern said in a post on its Facebook page.

“Great Eastern strongly disapproves of any inappropriate misconduct by our financial representatives and will not hesitate to take the necessary action,” it added.

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