NUS sacks Tembusu College don accused of sexual misconduct

NUS conducted an internal probe into Tembusu College fellow Jeremy Fernando after receiving two complaints.
NUS conducted an internal probe into Tembusu College fellow Jeremy Fernando after receiving two complaints.

A Tembusu College don accused of sexual misconduct has been sacked by the National University of Singapore (NUS).

In a statement yesterday, NUS said it conducted an internal probe after getting two complaints alleging that Tembusu College fellow Jeremy Fernando had "behaved inappropriately" as a teaching staff member.

The findings of the probe led to Dr Fernando getting sacked, the statement added.

An NUS spokesman said: "An internal investigation was carried out and Dr Fernando's conduct was found to have fallen short of the standards of professionalism that the university expects of teaching staff. Based on the findings of the internal investigation, Dr Fernando, a non-residential teaching staff member, was dismissed by the university."

NUS is providing support and assistance to the victims, she added.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the two undergraduate victims, who did not wish to be named, gave details of what Dr Fernando allegedly did to them.

The first victim, a student in the residential college, said the advances from Dr Fernando began in October last year and lasted until the circuit breaker period this year.

She alleged that Dr Fernando made non-consensual sexual advances, such as kissing and groping her, and performed oral sex while she was drunk.

She said: "Throughout these months, he made increasingly informal contact that grew in intensity and frequency.

"He also sent many gifts to my house even after I had requested him to stop. He pressured me into various sexual acts and discouraged me from telling my friends."

The second victim said Dr Fernando first approached her during online classes this year and privately messaged her on Zoom.

A week after that, they met a male student for drinks at a restaurant and went back to her apartment. She alleged that while there, Dr Fernando tried touching her and kissed her when the male student was in the toilet. After she pulled away, he told her not to tell anyone, and that if she did not keep it a secret, he would lose his job, she said.

Both victims, who met through a mutual friend, did not go to the police but reported the matter to the college at the beginning of this semester in the hope that others would not have to go through the same ordeal. They also declined to reveal their ages.

Both women said their report likely led to Dr Fernando's dismissal, but they are disappointed with the lack of communication and a statement of clarification from the university to the student population until the issue surfaced on social media.

Separately, a man who said he is an alumnus of Tembusu College, in a Facebook post on Saturday, said it has been almost two weeks since the lecturer was fired, and criticised the college for its inaction.

Mr Gurprit Singh said: "Tembusu's directors have been disturbingly distant. The victims have been extremely traumatised throughout the process, the directors have remained detached...

"It has been almost two weeks since Jeremy got fired. They have resisted making a clarifying statement, and avoided answering the victims' requests head-on."

In an update later, he said the NUS statement yesterday did not give details on the nature of the cases, the probe's findings or what further action NUS plans to take.

Tembusu College is one of four residential colleges in University Town and an extension of the main NUS campus in Kent Ridge.

The three buildings of the college house about 600 undergraduates, a small number of graduate student advisers, as well as residential fellows, their families, and guests.

In April last year, Ms Monica Baey, a third-year NUS communications and new media undergraduate, said on Instagram that she was filmed showering at Eusoff Hall in November 2018.

She said NUS had asked the perpetrator, whom she said was 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 later confirmed that the case was investigated by the police and the man was given a 12-month conditional warning by the authorities.

In October 2019, a senior lecturer from NUS who molested an undergraduate on board a campus shuttle bus was sentenced to 14 weeks' jail.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2020, with the headline 'NUS sacks Tembusu College don accused of sexual misconduct'. Print Edition | Subscribe