Report: Sexual misconduct complaints against National University of Singapore students rose in first half of 2021 y-o-y

The National University of Singapore issued its second report on sexual misconduct allegations, covering the first half of 2021. ― TODAY file pic
The National University of Singapore issued its second report on sexual misconduct allegations, covering the first half of 2021. ― TODAY file pic

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SINGAPORE, Aug 6 — The number of sexual misconduct complaints against National University of Singapore (NUS) students doubled in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year, though there was a drop in complaints against staff members.

These numbers were featured in NUS’ second sexual misconduct report, released on Thursday (Aug 5). The report stated that there were 10 complaints of sexual misconduct against students in the first half of this year, compared to five in the same period last year.

There was one complaint made against a staff member in the first half of the year, compared to four in the same period last year.

Two students and one staff member were dismissed from the university for sexual misconduct during the first half of the year.

In all the 10 cases of alleged sexual misconduct by students, and one case by a staff member, police reports were filed.

NUS said that the rise in sexual misconduct complaints against students shows that the university’s “approach of greater transparency has increased the level of trust in NUS”.

“Each complaint is taken seriously, investigated thoroughly following due process, and appropriate disciplinary sanctions are imposed for every infringement that is proven.” 

Summary of cases

The report briefly summarised the cases of sexual misconduct involving both students and staff members. The descriptions have been redacted and kept brief so as to “protect the identities of victims and avoid re-traumatising them”, it stated.

Of the 10 complaints against students, three alleged sexual assault, three alleged verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature, two accused students of voyeurism, and two alleged indecent exposure.

Of the 10 cases, two of them had disciplinary charges dismissed, while one was dropped due to insufficient evidence. Four cases resulted in disciplinary charges being handed to the respondents, while the rest are either pending investigation or have been referred to faculty for disciplinary action.

Of the two cases where students were dismissed, one of them occurred in February and involved a student who allegedly had non-consensual sex on campus with another student while they were in a hostel.

In that case, NUS issued “no-contact orders”, which, the university said, means that the victim “must not be subjected to any acts of retaliation, harassment, threats, intimidation and coercion”.

In the same case, the Board of Discipline terminated the alleged perpetrator’s candidature with immediate effect. The perpetrator is appealing against this decision.

The other case occurred in March and involved a student who allegedly touched a complainant inappropriately without consent while they were in a hostel. The student also allegedly filmed a second victim naked without consent while they were in a hostel.

No-contact orders were issued, before the Board of Discipline terminated the alleged perpetrator’s candidature with immediate effect. The student is also appealing against this decision.

The sole case of sexual misconduct involving staff members this year related to an incident in March on campus. The perpetrator was a research staff member who was alleged to have made inappropriate sexual remarks at work and sent inappropriate videos to two students.

The staff member also allegedly made inappropriate physical contact with one student without consent. Investigations later revealed that the staff member had allegedly touched the student’s knees and made inappropriate remarks.

The perpetrator was terminated from his position, having breached the code of conduct by behaving unprofessionally and inappropriately, NUS said.

The report also had summaries of nine cases of sexual misconduct, which were reported before 2021. They involved two cases of sexual assault, two cases of voyeurism, three cases of verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature, as well as one case of theft of undergarments, and another of making unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favours.

Policy document on sexual misconduct

NUS on Thursday also published a separate policy document on the protection of staff members and students against sexual misconduct.

The document clarifies what NUS considers to be sexual misconduct by giving definitions and examples of various types of misconduct.

These include sexual discrimination, sexual harrassment, sexual exploitation and sexual contact.

It also provides information on the available avenues to report such cases, and assures complainants of confidentiality when these reports are handled.

For instance, it states that complainants have the right to report any alleged misconduct to the police and that the university will support them in making such a report.

The document also highlights the procedures involved in investigating sexual misconduct cases, and the decision-making process.

The university released its first sexual misconduct report in January this year. NUS had said that it would release a sexual misconduct report once every six months as part of efforts to raise awareness of such cases.

The calls for more transparency from the university came after several sexual misconduct cases involving NUS staff members surfaced.

One such case was of Jeremy Fernando, a former Tembusu College fellow, who was sacked last October after allegations of sexual misconduct made against him by two students.

Another involved Professor Zheng Yongnian, the former director of its East Asian Institute, who had behaved inappropriately with a subordinate by hugging her without her consent during a work meeting.

The issue of sexual misconduct on campus rose to national prominence in 2019 after NUS student Monica Baey complained that a fellow student had filmed her showering. — TODAY

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