NUS had 71 complaints of sexual misconduct involving students in past five years

The number was highest in 2019, when 25 such reports were made.
The number was highest in 2019, when 25 such reports were made.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - A total of 71 complaints of sexual misconduct involving students were made to the National University of Singapore (NUS) in the past five years.

The number was highest in 2019, when 25 such reports were made.

This was the year former NUS student Monica Baey sparked a discussion about sexual misconduct by voicing 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.

In its first report on sexual misconduct, sent to students and staff on Wednesday (Jan 6), NUS laid out a summary of past and present cases, including the type of complaints it received, and a breakdown of last year's cases.

The university said the report will be provided every six months, with the hope of strengthening and deepening trust within the NUS community.

NUS had 12 complaints of sexual misconduct in 2020. During the year, its board of discipline or disciplinary appeals board also dealt with another three cases involving students, acting on complaints made before 2020.

In one case, a male student trespassed into multiple hostel rooms on the campus to steal female underwear. He also masturbated on some of the undergarments, NUS said.

The case was reported last February to the NUS Office of Campus Security, and was dealt with by the board of discipline.

The student was suspended for six semesters, and referred to the University Health Centre for assessment and treatment of his psychiatric condition.

He was also barred from campus during the period of suspension and received an official letter of reprimand.

Nine of the 12 complaints of sexual misconduct NUS received last year were reported to the police. Seven of the cases took place on campus, while the rest happened off campus or online.

Among last year’s cases was one that came to light in November – a female student complained that a male student had, without her consent, recorded a video of them having sex.

Investigations revealed there was a second female student who was also filmed when she was having sex with the accused, NUS said. The case is pending investigation, and no-contact orders were issued to all three students.

Summary action was taken as an interim measure, NUS said. This refers to withdrawing and/or suspending any academic or non-academic university privileges of the accused.

In another case that surfaced in February last year, a male accused and a female complainant – who were friends at the time of the incident – slept together in a student hostel room belonging to a mutual friend after they had both consumed alcohol.

The accused squeezed the complainant’s breast and he stopped after she told him not to touch her, NUS said. After they woke up, he touched her buttocks as she was preparing to leave the room.

She made a police report and the mutual friend sent a photo of a knife to her, which she perceived as a threat to make her drop her complaint against the accused.

No-contact orders were issued to all three students, and the case is pending with the board of discipline. 

"It is important that every incident of sexual misconduct be managed in a just and sensitive manner, guided by the principles of fairness and neutrality. Each complaint is taken seriously and investigated thoroughly following due processes," NUS stated in the report.

It added that more individuals are coming forward to file reports against alleged perpetrators of sexual misconduct.

NUS said the majority of the complaints in 2019 were made after a townhall meeting it held on sexual misconduct in April that year to address students' concerns.

One-third of the complaints - 24 out of 71 - made between 2016 and 2020 involved verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature. This was followed by 18 reports of voyeurism.

The remaining complaints were of other types, such as undergarment theft, upskirt photographs or videos, and indecent exposure.

There were also two reports of rape made to the university during these years. NUS said the complainants alleged non-consensual sex, but no further action was taken after investigations by both the police and the university.

Of the 71 cases, 42 were seen by the NUS Board of Discipline, while 11 were referred to their respective faculties for disciplinary action. No further action was taken for 13 cases owing to insufficient evidence and investigations are pending in the remaining five complaints.

In addition to the reports involving students, NUS also received 19 complaints of sexual misconduct involving staff between 2016 and 2020.

Most of these were classified under verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature, and making unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favours.

In its report, NUS also gave an update on its initiatives to build a culture of respect and consent. All students and staff undergo mandatory training on respect and consent.

About 97 per cent of 30,000 students have completed an online module on the topic, with 7,274 of them who stay on campus also attending a face-to-face workshop.

Most staff - 84 per cent of about 13,200 - have also completed an online module on respect and consent.

Apart from refresher courses, NUS will introduce bystander training to reinforce the importance of bystanders in tackling sexual misconduct.

In addition, it is holding first-responder training workshops for staff such as department heads, who are likely to be the first responders in incidents of sexual misconduct.

To date, 284 staff have been identified and trained.