12 NUS students would have been expelled under stiffer penalties for sexual offences

In a report for students and staff that was seen by ST, the committee also said four offenders would have received two-year suspensions and eight would have got one-year suspensions. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - A total of 12 students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) who had committed sexual offences in the last three years would have been expelled under new and tougher sanctions being proposed by a review committee.

This makes about half of the 25 cases brought before the university's Board of Discipline in the last three academic years, for which no one was expelled.

In a report for students and staff that was seen by The Straits Times, the committee also said four offenders would have received two-year suspensions and eight would have gotten one-year suspensions. One case did not have sufficient evidence.

On Monday (June 11), Madam Kay Kuok, a member of the NUS board of trustees and who chaired the committee, sent an e-mail listing the recommendations to NUS students, staff and alumni.

For serious offences, offenders will get a minimum one-year suspension, which the university's Board of Discipline or Disciplinary Appeals Board cannot override or remove. In severe or aggravated cases, or multiple incidents without any mitigating factors, the offender will be immediately expelled.

These were among the 10 recommendations from the committee, which was set up after a voyeurism incident at a hostel sparked a public debate over the university's disciplinary policies. All 10 recommendations have been accepted by NUS.

Last November, undergraduate Monica Baey, 23, was filmed in a hostel shower by fellow student Nicholas Lim, also 23. In April, she took to social media to express her frustration over the punishment meted out to him by NUS. Mr Lim was, among other things, suspended for a semester and banned from going to the hostel.

Separately, he was handed a conditional warning by the police.

In its full report, titled Recommendations for a Safer Campus, which was released on Monday, the review committee laid out the sanctions framework meant to guide the Board of Discipline (BOD) and the Disciplinary Appeals Board (DAB) "in meting out sanctions that are consistent with and proportionate to the sexual misconduct offences committed".

The provost will decide whether the complaint or allegation should be handled by the disciplinary boards or the heads of the relevant academic or non-academic unit. All cases that are dealt with by the BOD and DAB will be considered serious offences.

Examples of cases that the heads of the academic or non-academic units could handle are:

- Attempting an unwelcome kiss on a date

- Planting an unwanted kiss on the cheeks of a person

- Stroking a person's face without the person's consent

- Giving an unwanted massage on the arms of a person

- Briefly holding the waist or shoulder of a person without the person's consent

- Persistence e.g. continuing to communicate, send flowers, or to wait for another person even though the person has made clear that he/she is not interested in such advances.

- Staring inappropriately at the breasts of a person

- Making a joke about a person's private parts, sexual organs or sex life

- Using expletives such as "slut" or "whore" on a person

- Stealing undergarments

- Gesticulating body (fully clothed) in a sexually offensive way to another person.

The review committee also spelt out the types of sexual misconduct which it considers "severe" or "aggravated", and should lead to mandatory expulsion, even if it is a single incident or there are compelling mitigating factors such as being truthful during investigations.

This includes touching a victim's private parts or sexual organs, perpetrating a significant number of sexual misconduct incidents or if there is an extensive duration of the misconduct.

Other acts in this category are abusing authority, deliberately incapacitating a person in order to commit the sexual misconduct, possessing child pornography, affecting a significant number of people, and causing substantial harm, damage or trauma to the victim.

For serious cases which are single incidents, a suspension of at least one year will be meted out. The committee recommended that a two-year suspension or expulsion should be given if these offences happen more than once.

Offences in this category include:

- Taking photographs or videos of an individual in a bathroom, toilet or any space where he or she can reasonably expect privacy

- Taking upskirt photographs or videos, voyeurism, indecent exposure

- Unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favours, sexually explicit remarks, offensive body language or gestures and other forms of sexual harassment

- Inappropriate physical contact with a person in a sexual manner without the person's consent

In its report, the review committee noted that NUS has seen increased concerns about sexual misconduct, including growing voyeuristic behaviour involving the use of electronic devices.

"While it is an important part of the university's disciplinary process to reform and rehabilitate errant students, the seriousness of sexual misconduct offences and how they impact the university community must not be overlooked," it said.

"This framework sets new benchmarks for disciplinary sanctions for sexual misconduct offences. The higher benchmarks send a strong message that the University will not tolerate such sexual misconduct offences. They will also serve as a strong deterrent against sexual misconduct."

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