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Sexual misconduct policies: local vs overseas universities

The method in which sexual misconduct policies are handled by other universities in Hong Kong, South Korea, the US, UK and Australia could serve as a guide for the ongoing review of university policies in Singapore

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Singapore – Since the National University of Singapore (NUS) came under fire for how it addressed the Peeping Tom case of Monica Baey and Nicholas Lim,  five other local universities are now reviewing their own sexual misconduct policies.

According to a report by The Straits Times, all five universities, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore Management University (SMU), Singapore Institute of Technology, Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SIM University), said they are putting more attention on sexual misconduct and are brainstorming on ways to improve their existing policies for disciplinary action and victim support.

The five universities noted that they have existing security measures such as CCTV surveillance and campus patrols, 24/7 hotlines for students who wish to report suspicious activities and persons, as well as counselling call centers.

Missing from their statements was confirmation on whether they also had a two-strike policy, an NUS policy that has come under much criticism.

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NTU said that they strengthened their policies and procedures on harassment during the start of the year. Students and employees alike are provided with proper channels to seek assistance on sexual misconduct incidents.

Furthermore, an NTU spokesman said that an online module on anti-harassment would be introduced in July for all freshmen and student organisers during orientation.

SMU president Lily Kong said that the university had started its review of policies for sexual misconduct and disciplinary mechanism for past cases. Results and findings will be shared.

“SMU does not tolerate sexual misconduct in any form,” she said. All complaints relating to sexual harassment will be dealt with in a “fair and objective manner while ensuring that the privacy and interests of the parties involved are treated with the appropriate level of sensitivity and balanced consideration.”

The Singapore Institute of Technology gave the following statement on the matter, “We will take an active role to develop a university-wide approach to sexual harassment intervention, including increasing students’ awareness through structured programmes.”

Both SIM and Singapore University of Technology and Design are also re-evaluating their disciplinary mechanisms and processes.

The New Paper has recently reported on the way sexual misconduct cases are handled by other universities in Hong Kong, South Korea, the US, UK and Australia which could serve as guidance for the ongoing reviews of Singapore’s local universities.

In the Chinese University of Hong Kong, there is a Committee Against Sexual Harassment spearheaded by professors. When a complaint has been filed, two panelists of different genders will conduct an investigation team which could incorporate a student representative. Both parties are allowed to submit an appeal if deemed necessary or the case could go straight to disciplinary procedures if warranted.

In Yonsei University, South Korea, punishments could range from expulsion, suspension for four to five years for the offender while the victim remains in school, or community service and education courses, depending on the severity of the offence.

The Northwestern University, US, has a 36-page document on sexual misconduct policies covering both students and staff which include interim measures during investigations, a list of sanctions for violations such as warnings, holding of academic or financial records, probation, demotion, suspension, expulsion, and termination.

The UK’s Durham University calls for a meeting when a case is filed, which would lead to either an acquittal or consideration for a major offence which merits expulsion.

Lastly, the University of Sydney, Australia implements interim measures for the protection of the victim such as limiting the access of the offender to certain parts of the institution as well as a clear list of penalties for the severity of the offence.

Read related: WP member blasts Govt inaction in NUS sexual misconduct case as police says jail term would have “ruined” voyeur’s future

Read related: Petitions with over 21,000 signatures for NUS student seeking stronger deterrents against campus perverts

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