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Tommy Koh backs out in less than 2 hours of offer to resign over Fernando scandal

Professor says he was "joking" when he said that he would offer to resign from the NUS

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Singapore — It took Tembusu College Rector, Professor Tommy Koh, less than two hours to back out of an offer to resign from the National University of Singapore (NUS) over sexual misconduct allegations against former Tembusu College don Jeremy Fernando.

Dr Fernando was sacked on Oct 7 after two students alleged that the former Tembusu College fellow made non-consensual sexual advances towards them. The NUS said on Wednesday (Oct 21) that it had lodged a police report “given the seriousness of the allegations”.

In a town hall meeting on Friday (Oct 23), Prof Koh said that the NUS had fallen short in how it handled the dismissal of Dr Fernando. The latter was sacked on Oct 7 after it was discovered that he had “an intimate association” with an undergraduate but students and staff were only informed of his dismissal through a college-wide email on Oct 18.

Noting the “considerable gap” between the time Dr Fernando was sacked and the time the students and staff were informed, Prof Koh said the college should have been open and transparent rather than withholding information from its stakeholders.

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He made similar statements in a Facebook post published on Saturday morning (Oct 24). Noting that the past few weeks had been “a very difficult time” for Tembusu College, Prof Koh said: “The delay in informing the students and faculty of the college was wrong because the students has a right to be informed about the dismissal of one of their teachers before learning about it from the mainstream and social media.”

Asserting that the school would prioritise the safety and wellbeing of its students, he added: “At yesterday’s town hall meeting with the students and the press conference, we agreed that in future NUS would be open, transparent and share information with its stakeholders in a timely manner.”

In response to his post, one person online asked Prof Koh to take responsibility as Rector and resign from the NUS. Prof Koh replied at about 1 pm and said that he would offer his resignation to the NUS:

Less than two hours later, however, Prof Koh had changed his mind and said in a comment: “I am afraid that most of the people do not agree with you. I will abide by their sentiment that I should not resign. Thank you for your suggestion anyway.”

He later told Today that he was “joking” when he made the offer to resign.

The response to this comment was divided. There were those who felt that this was no time to joke, while others stood up for Prof Koh:

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