Ngee Ann Poly will fire lecturer who made racist remarks

Ngee Ann Polytechnic alumna Nurul Fatimah Iskandar said senior lecturer Tan Boon Lee (left) had made Islamophobic comments in a class in 2017. He was filmed earlier this month making racist comments to an interracial couple in public.
Ngee Ann Polytechnic alumna Nurul Fatimah Iskandar said senior lecturer Tan Boon Lee (left) had made Islamophobic comments in a class in 2017. He was filmed earlier this month making racist comments to an interracial couple in public. PHOTOS: DAVE PARKASH/ FACEBOOK, COURTESY OF NURUL FATIMAH ISKANDAR

Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) will sack senior lecturer Tan Boon Lee for serious misconduct.

This comes after a video posted on June 6 of Mr Tan making racist remarks to an interracial couple in Orchard Road was widely shared online.

This was followed by an Instagram post on June 9 by NP alumna Nurul Fatimah Iskandar, who alleged that Mr Tan made Islamophobic comments in a class in 2017.

NP said it made the decision after completing its internal investigations into both incidents.

It has charged Mr Tan - a lecturer at the School of Engineering - with a serious breach of its staff code of conduct, and "is proceeding to terminate his service".

"Our staff members are expected to respect cultural, ethnic and religious differences in our society. They must uphold secularity and impartiality at all times," said NP in a statement yesterday.

"The disciplinary action meted out against the staff (member) in question reflects our commitment to provide a safe, inclusive and respectful environment for our campus community."

Police investigations into both incidents are ongoing.

In her Instagram post, Ms Nurul, now 22 and a student at the National University of Singapore, said she had reported Mr Tan's insensitive comments to NP at the time.

NP said it has been unable to locate any records of her feedback after searching its various feedback channels and checking with Ms Nurul on her NP mailbox archives.

"In our conversation with her, she indicated that she could not recall whether she had e-mailed her feedback on the incident or raised it during a post-course focus group discussion in 2017," it said.

"Nonetheless, we are committed to preventing a similar incident from occurring again, and will ensure that students are made aware of the appropriate channels for them to provide feedback in a safe manner.

"We will also advise our staff on how to manage and report feedback that they may receive outside of these channels, as appropriate."

NP also apologised for the distress that Mr Tan's comments caused Ms Nurul, and said it has offered her counselling support.

On June 10, Ms Nurul told The Straits Times that Mr Tan had used class time to initiate an offensive discussion about Islam.

NP said that it will make all feedback channels for students more accessible and visible on its website, and publicise them on its campus digital screens.

These channels include a whistle-blowing e-mail address for students - tellnp@np.edu.sg - as well as a general-inquiry askNP e-mail address, course experience dialogues and student surveys.

"We would like to assure students that all feedback will be taken seriously and handled in confidence," the polytechnic said.

It also said that it would be reviewing its internal feedback monitoring processes to identify and resolve gaps.

Responding to NP's statement, Ms Nurul said: "It reads like a typical signal that all necessary actions have been taken and that the case has been closed.

"My intention was never to fight against one lecturer or one institution. There are so many more changes that need to be made to our education system in order to safeguard and protect our students."

Singaporeans have to keep conversations about racism going and continue to speak out and speak up for minorities, she said.

"I sincerely hope that the energy we created over the past week does not die down. This is not a trend or a hot topic... this is a social issue that is fundamental to who we are as Singaporeans," she said.

Mr Dave Parkash, 26, who filmed Mr Tan making racist remarks to him and his girlfriend, Ms Jacqueline Ho, 27, declined to comment on Mr Tan's dismissal when contacted by ST.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2021, with the headline 'Ngee Ann Poly will fire lecturer who made racist remarks'. Subscribe