NUS panel proposes stiffer penalties for sexual misconduct

The NUS committee was set up to review how the university handles sexual misconduct cases after undergraduate Monica Baey posted on Instagram about how she had been filmed in the shower at the Eusoff Hall student residence last November. ST PHOTO: KU
The NUS committee was set up to review how the university handles sexual misconduct cases after undergraduate Monica Baey posted on Instagram about how she had been filmed in the shower at the Eusoff Hall student residence last November. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Minimum one-year suspension, and expulsion in the case of severe offences, among the options

The National University of Singapore is considering whether to expel undergraduates for severe offences of sexual misconduct.

This is among the range of stricter punishments being proposed by a committee reviewing the university's disciplinary framework for such cases.

Yesterday, in an e-mail circular sent to students, staff and alumni, Madam Kay Kuok, who chairs the committee, highlighted the need for tougher sanctions to serve as a "strong deterrent".

She also proposed a minimum one-year suspension from the university. Offenders would also have their suspension noted on their transcript, which is disclosed for internships and employment, with the record to remain on it for a period of time after graduation.

Another proposal is for the offender to have a certificate of rehabilitation from a counsellor or medical professional before being allowed to return to school.

Over the next three weeks, the committee will seek the views of students, alumni and experts on the proposed sanctions, said Madam Kuok. The final report will be published by mid-June.

Last month, NUS revealed that it has a "second strike and you are out" approach for sexual misconduct cases. The policy had been heavily criticised for being too lenient. Education Minister Ong Ye Kung had also called it "manifestly inadequate".

In the e-mail, seen by The Straits Times, Madam Kuok, a member of the NUS board of trustees, said the committee conducted a comprehensive review of the sanctions framework for sexual misconduct, and consulted student representatives and subject-matter experts.

"There is a clear need to recalibrate the sanctions framework and toughen the penalties for sexual misconduct to serve as a strong deterrent and to reflect the severity of the offences," said Madam Kuok. She works full-time in her family business, the Kuok Group of Companies.

The committee is reviewing the university's proposal to set up a dedicated Victim Care Unit, which will be "staffed by trained and experienced care officers to support victims from the point of incident until special care is no longer required".

 
 

It has also commissioned an independent research consultancy to conduct an online survey to gather the views of the student body. The responses will be kept anonymous and confidential, and the survey results will be shared with students.

The committee was formed after NUS undergraduate Monica Baey, 23, posted on Instagram her frustrations about the actions taken against the fellow student who had filmed her in the shower at the Eusoff Hall student residence last November.

NUS had the culprit, 23-year-old undergraduate Nicholas Lim, write Ms Baey a letter of apology, suspended him for a semester, barred him from entering halls and residences, and made him attend counselling. He was handed a conditional warning by the police.

Since the issue came under the spotlight, NUS has increased the number of guards at hostels, and said it will be adding hundreds of CCTV cameras and enhancing the security and privacy of toilets in halls and sports facilities.

Yesterday, the university approved plans by its students' union to conduct night patrols on campus, just days after another student was arrested for voyeurism.

 
 

In addition to Madam Kuok, the committee members are Singapore Management University president Lily Kong; law firm WongPartnership managing partner Ng Wai King; NUS president Tan Eng Chye; Professor Chan Heng Chee, who is ambassador-at-large with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a member of the Yale-NUS governing board; and NUS Students' Union deputy student life secretary Richard Wang.

Two additional NUS students - Ms Tay Pei Ling, president of King Edward VII Hall in NUS, and graduate fellow Murni Marisa Mahat from Tembusu College - are also on the committee.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2019, with the headline 'NUS panel proposes stiffer penalties for sexual misconduct'. Print Edition | Subscribe