Other local unis also reviewing how they handle sexual misconduct

The five other local universities are also reviewing their disciplinary processes for sexual misconduct, even as the National University of Singapore (NUS) came under fire for how it handled a Peeping Tom case on its grounds.

In response to queries, all of them said they are paying more attention to sexual misconduct and are looking at how to improve their policies and support victims better.

They also said they have existing security measures such as surveillance and campus patrols, as well as 24/7 hotlines for students to report suspicious persons and call counselling centres.

In their statements, however, the universities did not say whether they shared NUS' two-strike policy, which has come under heavy criticism.

At least two universities - the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) - sent internal circulars to their students yesterday, reassuring them that any complaints of sexual harassment will be taken seriously.

A spokesman for NTU said it strengthened its policy and procedures on harassment in January to provide students with proper channels to seek help and to investigate reports of harassment. A similar policy for NTU employees also took effect in January.

At least two universities - the Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University - sent internal circulars to their students yesterday, reassuring them that any complaints of sexual harassment will be taken seriously.

The spokesman added that it is now relooking certain policies and their effectiveness. It is also reexamining whether there is sufficient support and care for victims, and rehabilitation and sanctions for offenders. He said this review will also consider "evolving social norms and expectations".

In addition, NTU said, it will introduce an online module on anti-harassment in July to all freshmen and student organisers of its orientation programme.

The module, designed in consultation with student leaders, will complement the mandatory briefings on related topics for student organisers and freshmen participating in orientation programmes, and will eventually be rolled out to all NTU students.

SMU president Lily Kong said it has already started a review of its disciplinary mechanisms for sexual misconduct cases. She said the outcome and follow-up actions will be shared later.

"SMU does not tolerate sexual misconduct in any form," she said, adding that every related complaint will be investigated 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".

 
 

Professor Kong said affected students can also seek help from counsellors at Mrs Wong Kwok Leong Student Wellness Centre at SMU or from external psychologists or psychiatrists.

They will also get support in rescheduling classes or other arrangements to ensure they can continue with their studies in a conducive environment, she said.

She added that security measures are in place around the SMU campus, including closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at building access points and in common areas, as well as regular campus patrols.

A spokesman for the Singapore Institute of Technology said: "We will take an active role to develop a university-wide approach to sexual harassment intervention, including increasing students' awareness through structured programmes."

She said that on top of security measures such as CCTV cameras and campus patrol, it has a Student Grievance Resolution Policy, where students can come forward to report incidents confidentially.

It also has counselling support and trained students who serve as a bridge between the counselling team and the student body.

Similarly, a Singapore University of Social Sciences spokesman said it is re-evaluating its disciplinary mechanisms. It currently has surveillance and enforcement measures, as well as a counselling centre for students to go to for help.

The Singapore University of Technology and Design said it conducts a review of its student disciplinary processes every two years, and it is in the midst of a review.

Apart from regular patrols, surveillance and restricted card access to toilets, its spokesman said student leaders in hostels are trained every year to warn their peers against circumstances that can lead to sexual harassment acts.

"They have also been taught to identify and surface red flags if they suspect a hostel resident is a victim of sexual harassment," she said, adding that female residents, in particular, are cautioned to keep their room and toilet doors locked at all times and to look out for one another's safety.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2019, with the headline 'Other local unis also reviewing how they handle sexual misconduct'. Print Edition | Subscribe