Singapore—In the wake of public discontent over how the National University of Singapore (NUS) handled a recent case of sexual misconduct, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung has spoken out, calling the penalties “manifestly inadequate.”
In a Facebook post dated April 22, Monday, Mr Ong said that he had spoken to both the President and the Board Chairman of NUS to express his concerns over how the university handled the case, which involved a student named Monica Baey having caught engineering student Lim Jun Kai taking a video of her while taking a shower.
Ms Baey wrote on her Instagram account that Mr Lim had only been given a 12-month conditional warning by the police, and the university itself said that the culprit has been given a one-semester suspension. Additional penalties such as a ban from on-campus housing, counseling, community service, as well as “mandatory rehabilitation and reconciliation sessions” with a social worker were also meted out. He also had to write an apology letter to Ms Baey and was given a letter of reprimand.
However, she, along with other students, are demanding heavier sanctions against Ms Lim, citing the toll it has taken on Ms Baey’s mental health and the amount of stress his actions have caused her.
The Education Minister has stepped in, also saying that a stronger stand must be taken in such cases. In his post he wrote,
“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.”
He also said that the policy of ‘two strikes and you’re out’ is unacceptable.
“Two strikes and you are out cannot be the standard application. NUS has to make its campus safe for all students, especially female students,” the Education Minister wrote.
Moreover, he announced that the university will be re-examining its disciplinary policies and that he trusts that the result will be for everyone’s benefit.
“NUS will review its discipline and sentencing framework swiftly and decisively. 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.”
Finally, he said that aside from the NUS, he is also asking other higher institutions of learning to revisit their policies.
“I have asked other universities to also review their frameworks for similar offences.”
According to the chairman of the NUS Board of Trustees, Hsieh Fu Hua, a committee will be convened to look into its policies concerning disciplinary and support measures.
He said, “The Board of Trustees views sexual misconduct on our campuses with grave concern, and has decided to appoint Madam Kay Kuok, a member of the board and chairman of the board’s Nominating Committee, to chair this committee.”
It will specifically look into Ms Baey’s case. “The committee will review the disciplinary process (including sanctions) and support frameworks relating to sexual misconduct at NUS, in the light of concerns raised by Ms Monica Baey.”
After the Education Minister published his post, NUS issued a clarification concerning its existing policies.
Professor Tan Eng Chye, NUS president, said in a statement,
“The ‘second strike and you are out’ policy for sexual misconduct offences will be part of this review.
NUS will take a hard stand on offences that impact the safety of our students. We must make our campus safe and supportive for all members of our community.
I look forward to working closely with the review committee members to strengthen the disciplinary process and support network for our students.”
The review committee will include Mr Tan, Singapore Management University president Lily Kong, board member and WongPartnership managing partner Ng Wai King, as well as a representative from the NUS Students’ Union./ TISG
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