MOE to work with universities to further enhance student safety

Dr Jeremy Fernando was sacked from NUS on Oct 7 after internal investigations found that he "had an intimate association" with an undergraduate.
Dr Jeremy Fernando was sacked from NUS on Oct 7 after internal investigations found that he "had an intimate association" with an undergraduate.PHOTOS: JASON QUAH, TEMBUSU.NUS.EDU.SG

The Education Ministry is following up with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and other universities to ensure student safety, after the dismissal of former Tembusu College fellow Jeremy Fernando over allegations of sexual misconduct.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling said the university leadership has been asked what more can be done to prevent such instances from happening in future.

Noting that the schools have a duty of care to their students, she wrote: "There must be zero tolerance in our campuses for any form of sexual misconduct, harassment or violence."

Dr Fernando was sacked from NUS on Oct 7 after internal investigations found that he "had an intimate association" with an undergraduate, NUS said last Wednesday.

Two students alleged that he made non-consensual advances towards them, and the university has also filed a police report.

Ms Sun said: "The issues around this case lead us to question: How can we better guard against educators and other individuals who cross the line, and how can we collectively strengthen campus safety?"

She added that the Ministry of Education will continue working closely with all institutes of higher learning to tighten processes where needed and ensure the safety of the student community at all times.

Responding to the Facebook post in a comment, NUS dean of students Leong Ching clarified that when she admitted the university could have handled the issue better during a media conference last Friday, she referred to the "less-than-timely communication" of the university's decision.

Associate Professor Leong wrote: "I do not refer to our response to the complaint, which was first, to provide immediate support and care to the students involved; second to immediately suspend and then summarily dismiss the staff, all in just over a month. I believe that this was the most expeditious possible, while keeping to due process."

She added: "With respect, minister, this is what zero tolerance looks like."

Professor Tommy Koh, Tembusu College's rector, acknowledged at a media briefing last Friday that NUS had not given timely updates on the case. He added that going forward, it will be more open in the way it provides information about sexual misconduct cases.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2020, with the headline 'MOE to work with universities to further enhance student safety'. Print Edition | Subscribe