NUS considering tougher enforcement on alcohol to curb sexual offences: Report

A report by NUS found that seven of eight complaints of student sexual misconduct reported in the second half of 2021 involved drinking. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Students at the National University of Singapore (NUS) could face tougher enforcement for drinking alcohol in campus housing as part of efforts to curb sexual offences linked to alcohol consumption.

This comes after seven out of eight complaints of student sexual misconduct reported between July and December 2021 involved drinking, NUS said in its latest report on such complaints involving students and staff.

The report also said three NUS students had been expelled and a research staff member had resigned in the second half of last year after complaints were made against them.

In addition, the report published on Feb 3 said a task force comprising hostel masters and hostel student leaders has been formed to study the issue of sexual offences committed under the influence of alcohol, review the current framework and provide recommendations.

"Tougher enforcement measures are being considered to deter alcohol consumption on campus housing premises," the report said, without elaborating.

"The aim is to educate and change the attitudes and behaviour of hostel residents towards drinking on campus," it added.

According to a code of student conduct uploaded on the NUS website in January, drinking alcohol is banned in the university except at designated campus food and beverage outlets during specified operating hours or at official university events where alcohol is served.

The document said NUS can take disciplinary action against any violation of this code of conduct.

The research staff member who resigned was reported to have verbally harassed another employee and made inappropriate physical contact without consent on campus.

A report about the staff member was made to the school on Aug 3 last year. The individual was suspended from duty on half-pay and was issued a no-contact order by NUS. A police report was also made.

Investigations were completed on Sept 2 and the researcher resigned and left the university at the end of the month.

Police reports were also made on all eight complaints of sexual misconduct involving students.

The first of the three students expelled was alleged to have touched the complainant inappropriately without consent in a sexual assault occurring off campus. The complaint was made on July 19 last year.

The second of the expelled students had allegedly touched multiple individuals inappropriately without consent while at a hostel, in the complaint made on Aug 18.

The last was alleged to have touched the complainant inappropriately without consent on campus. The complaint was filed on Aug 25.

All of these incidents involved the consumption of alcohol, the report said.

The findings in the report take the total complaints last year of sexual misconduct involving students to 18, up from 12 in 2020.

Meanwhile, complaints of sexual misconduct against staff fell from 10 in 2020 to two last year.

Giving an update on previous cases in the first half of 2021, the report said a student who is alleged to have filmed sexual acts with the complainant - a member of the public - without consent while they were in a hostel has been suspended for four semesters, with 120 hours of community-based sanctions and mandated counselling and psychiatric treatment.

The student has also been barred from the NUS campus during the period of suspension and will be barred from on-campus housing premises until he graduates.

Another student was issued a letter of warning after allegedly attempting to film the complainant - a member of the public - while the person was in the shower at home.

In January last year, NUS said reports of sexual misconduct involving its students and staff would be published every six months, with the hope of strengthening and deepening trust within the NUS community.

This came after a former NUS student sparked a discussion in 2019 about sexual misconduct when she voiced her frustration that the university had not done more against a male student who had filmed her in the shower at the Eusoff Hall student residence.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times on the task force, an NUS spokesman said: “As this matter is work in progress, we do not have further information to share beyond what is already found in the report.” 

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