172 sexual misconduct cases involving IHL students, staff from 2015-19: Sun Xueling

Nicholas Yong
·Assistant News Editor
·3-min read
PHOTO: Screengrab from Gov.sg YouTube channel
PHOTO: Screengrab from Gov.sg YouTube channel

SINGAPORE — The 11 Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) in Singapore handled a total of 172 disciplinary cases involving sexual misconduct committed by students and staff from 2015 to 2019, said Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling on Tuesday (3 November).

Sun told Parliament that this translates to an incidence rate of 0.12 sexual misconduct cases involving staff and student perpetrators, per 1,000 staff and students, at the six autonomous universities (AU) and five polytechnics.

The 41-year-old also revealed that the AUs handled a total of 56 disciplinary cases involving sexual misconduct committed by students from 2015 to 2017 (0.21 cases per 1,000 students). In 2018, the AUs handled 17 such cases (0.16 cases per 1,000 students), and the following year, the number of such cases fell to 14 (0.13 cases per 1,000 students).

Sun was responding to a supplementary question from Mountbatten Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan on the number of such cases. Lim also asked if the AUs could provide clear communications with their students whenever there are allegations of misconduct involving teaching staff and students.

On 23 October, the National University of Singapore (NUS) acknowledged in a media briefing that it could have handled the Jeremy Fernando saga better and promised to be more open and transparent in sharing information about such cases with staff and students. It had sacked Dr Fernando, a non-residential academic at Tembusu College, on 7 October, following an internal investigation.

It also said that it took into account the mental health of the two alleged victims at the centre of the sexual misconduct saga before making its police report. Separately, Dr Fernando has also filed a police report on a “related aspect of the situation”, according to reports.

Lim noted the public unhappiness over the lack of a timely disclosure by NUS, and asked what was the time frame for the AUs to communicate such incidents to students. “Given the unequal relationship between a student and a lecturer, I think it is justifiable that a student would ask for timely disclosure, so that they would be able to know and assess how to deal with the lecturer,” he said.

In response, Sun, who is also an MP for Punggol West, said the Ministry of Education would ask the IHLs to do more on this front. She noted that NUS had required Fernando to stay away from campus, and a no-contact order was swiftly made out.

“Let me be very clear: we do not condone instances of sexual misconduct, as well as sexual offences that happen on campus, and the MOE will work closely with the IHLs to protect our students.”

She added, “When there is a breach of those codes of conduct the punishments are swift. Students can be suspended. They can be dismissed from school, and the same goes for staff.”

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