SINGAPORE - The National University of Singapore (NUS) on Monday (April 22) said it has a "second strike and you are out" policy for sexual misconduct cases.
Setting out how the university handles such cases, NUS vice-provost (student life) Florence Ling told The Straits Times that a student found guilty of sexual misconduct for a second time will be expelled.
"For first-time offenders, because we are an educational institution, we want to give the students a chance. Student offenders who appear before the Board of Discipline for the first time are given a range of punishments, but not immediate expulsion," she said.
However, students involved in multiple sexual misconduct incidents outside NUS who are caught by the university, even for the first time, will be expelled.
Professor Ling's response - the first time NUS has clearly outlined its existing policy on such cases - comes after members of the public and students called for harsher punishment against a man who filmed undergraduate Monica Baey in a shower at student residence Eusoff Hall last November.
NUS president Tan Eng Chye, however, said in a statement on Monday night that the "second strike and you are out" policy will be reviewed by a committee convened to look into the university's disciplinary and support frameworks. "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," he said.
His comments came after Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on the same day that the penalties meted out NUS on the sexual misconduct case were "manifestly inadequate". "Two strikes and you are out cannot be the standard application," Mr Ong said in a Facebook post, adding that NUS will review its discipline and sentencing framework "swiftly and decisively".
Ms Baey, 23, a third-year NUS communications and new media undergraduate, took to her Instagram account last week to share that she had noticed an iPhone being held underneath the door after she finished showering at the hall on Nov 25 last year.
According to her, NUS had asked the perpetrator, whom she revealed to be a chemical engineering student, 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.
NUS has confirmed that the case was investigated by the police and the man was given a 12-month conditional warning by the authorities.
Prof Ling added that the university is taking measures to "build a safe and supportive campus environment".
These include coming up with proper victim-care protocol and introducing courses for students on how they can protect themselves from sexual misconduct incidents.
"I will discuss with the student body and the committee how we can support the victim from the point that we know about the incident, through the investigation, the disciplinary procedure, and also have 12 months more as follow-up for the student concerned," said Prof Ling.
Workshops, seminars and town hall meetings will be held to facilitate conversations about sexual misconduct, and to increase awareness.
"We will also discuss what is consent (and what it looks like) and discuss sexual respect and by-stander intervention."
The university will also publicise hotlines that are available, such as to its Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Campus Security, for students to report instances of sexual misconduct, she added.
"We want to assure the community that all cases will be investigated in a timely manner, and there will be confidentiality for everybody."
NUS has also said that it will convene a committee to review its disciplinary and support frameworks. The committee will study the approaches taken by other international institutions, solicit views from various stakeholders, and share its findings and follow-up actions in the new academic year, which begins in August.
Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, chairman of the NUS Board of Trustees, said in a statement on Monday that the committee will be chaired by Madam Kay Kuok, a member of the board and chairman of its nominating committee.
The committee's initial members are: Singapore Management University president Lily Kong; law firm WongPartnership managing partner Ng Wai King; NUS president Tan Eng Chye; and a representative from the NUS Students' Union.
"We note the strong public interest in this matter. The committee will proceed swiftly and decisively," Mr Hsieh said.