NUS professor fired for inappropriate behaviour towards student

Associate Professor Ethan Putterman was from NUS' political science department. PHOTO: FASS.NUS.EDU.SG

SINGAPORE - The National University of Singapore (NUS) has fired another professor for misconduct.

Associate Professor Ethan Putterman from NUS' political science department had his employment terminated after it was found that he had behaved inappropriately and unprofessionally towards a student.

He is the fourth staff member from NUS known to have been fired for inappropriate behaviour in the past two years.

One previously fired employee was also a professor at the political science department.

In response to queries from The Straits Times about Prof Putterman, a spokesman for NUS' Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences said a police report has also been filed and that police investigations are ongoing.

The response did not name Prof Putterman.

"We have received a complaint regarding allegations of misconduct by a faculty member towards a student," she said.

"Upon receiving the complaint, NUS immediately issued the staff with a no-contact order to prohibit interaction with the student. The staff was also suspended from work while investigations were carried out."

A committee of inquiry formed by the school found that Prof Putterman had breached the code of conduct for NUS staff.

"All staff are expected to adhere to the code of conduct for NUS staff and hold themselves up to high standards of professional and personal conduct," said the spokesman.

"Staff who contravene the code of conduct will face disciplinary sanctions, which may include dismissal for serious breaches."

The spokesman added that the faculty has been providing care and support to the student and will continue to do so.

Online news outlet Today reported that the student filed the complaint on March 3, alleging sexual misconduct and that the act happened on campus that month.

It also reported that the student made a police report of her own accord.

Prof Putterman's profile page on the NUS website was removed earlier this month.

According to the page, he had been a member of the political science department since 2001, and specialises in Western political thought.

He also has several published journal articles relating to political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

The NUS Political Science Society, a student society in the arts and social sciences faculty, had uploaded a guidebook for all political science modules at the university in December last year.

The guidebook listed Prof Putterman as the instructor for the modules on German political thought, which was taught online, and the Seminar in Political Theory.The modules were for the second semester of the academic year that began in January.

NUS staff recently fired for inappropriate behaviour:

• An unidentified researcher was fired in the first half of last year for allegedly making inappropriate sexual remarks at work, sending inappropriate videos to two students and touching one of them without consent.

According to a report by NUS in August 2021, the researcher's behaviour was reported to the school on March 25 last year.

• Professor Theodore G. Hopf, who was from the political science department, was fired in December 2020 following an anonymous complaint made against him.

Prof Hopf was fired in Dec 2020. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM FASS.NUS.EDU.SG

It was alleged that he offered a student alcohol during a meeting in August and made an offensive remark about the student's anatomy.

The student, whose gender was not revealed, had also allegedly received a sex text message on the phone from Prof Hopf in October 2018.

• Dr Jeremy Fernando, who was a lecturer at Tembusu College in NUS, was fired in October 2020 following two complaints of inappropriate behaviour.

Dr Fernando was fired in Oct 2020. PHOTO: VIDEOCAFESOCIETY/YOUTUBE

Two female students had made complaints against him in August and September that year, prompting NUS to investigate.

The university also made a police report.

After facing criticism that it had made the report against the wishes of the victims, NUS later said it was obligated under the law to do so.

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