The National University of Singapore (NUS) has apologised for the way it handled the case of sexual misconduct that was brought to light by one of its students, Ms Monica Baey, whose posts on social media caused outrage both within and outside the campus.
In an e-mail to NUS alumni last night seen by The Straits Times, the university's president Tan Eng Chye said: "We are sorry that she had to surface her concerns on social media for the university to take notice.
"We fell short in providing her with support from the start, and we apologise. We hope to set things right. NUS does not condone nor tolerate any form of sexual misconduct on our campuses, and we will take a hard stand on unacceptable behaviour to keep our students safe."
Ms Baey, 23, a third-year NUS communications and new media undergraduate, had shared on Instagram that she was filmed showering at Eusoff Hall in November last year. After a disciplinary process, NUS told the perpetrator to write an apology letter to her and undergo mandatory counselling. He was also banned from entering Eusoff Hall and suspended from school for a semester.
The male undergraduate, identified as Mr Nicholas Lim, 23, was given a 12-month conditional warning by the police. It was after Ms Baey's post gained traction that NUS announced last Saturday that it was convening a committee to review its disciplinary and support frameworks. On Monday, the university also revealed how it handles sexual-misconduct cases, laying out a "second strike and you are out" policy in which a student found guilty of sexual misconduct for a second time will be expelled.
The policy, which will also be part of the review, has met with criticism.
Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng described the offence as serious, warranting stiffer punishment unless there were other mitigating factors. "The action taken by the university will need to be calibrated but it has to have sufficient deterrent effect on other students," he added yesterday.
Mr Zainal Sapari, an MP for Pasir-Ris-Punggol GRC, told ST yesterday that NUS should have zero tolerance for serious sexual offences. "In this case, NUS has failed to send a clear signal and set a precedent that a similar offence would get a person a conditional warning with a one-semester suspension."
He added that the university's disciplinary board should distinguish between minor and major offences, to ensure a balance between helping victims get justice and find closure, and exercising some compassion so that a young offender's future is not destroyed.
Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng also said: "The rules need to be reviewed so that there is a stronger deterrent and people know they can't get away with such offences."
ST also spoke to more than 20 undergraduates from NUS, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore Management University (SMU), most of whom said the punishment meted out in the recent case was too lenient.
Third-year NTU communications student Adrien Chee, 24, said: "A 'second strike' policy to protect the offender does not make sense when it comes to a crime like this where the victim could be harmed for life mentally."
Ms Kimberly Gwee, 24, a Year 4 student at SMU's School of Information Systems, said the onus is on NUS "to provide a safe space for students to learn and partake in university life". "Why does it have to take two incidents before appropriate justice is meted out to a single offender?"