Minister of Education, Ong Ye Kung has just posted on his Facebook page on Monday evening to announce that he has spoken to the President of National University of Singapore and the Board Chairman to convey his concerns that the penalties NUS applied were manifestly inadequate in the recent sexual misconduct case.
Mr Ong went on to state, “From here on, for offences that affect the safety of students on campus, we have to take a tough stand, and send a strong signal to everyone.”
“Two strikes and you are out cannot be the standard application. NUS has to make its campus safe for all students, especially female students” wrote Mr Ong.
He wrote that NUS will review its discipline and sentencing framework swiftly and decisively and he is confident NUS’ review will result in a more robust process and stricter framework.
NUS in its earlier statement on Saturday, said that it will convene a committee to review the current disciplinary and support frameworks.
Mr Ong also noted that the NUS Board and President are seized with this matter, and are determined to put a stop to such unacceptable behaviour on campus and he has also asked other universities to review their frameworks for similar offences.
Last week, Ms Monica Baey, a NUS undergraduate, took to her Instagram account to call out the school for trying to protect the man who had filmed her in the shower.
According to her posts, Ms Baey had been filmed in the shower by a male student identified as Nicholas Lim. She made a police report immediately following the incident and the perpetrator was identified, along with CCTV and video evidence of him committing the act.
Unfortunately, following an investigation, the man in question was said to be only slapped with a 12-month conditional warning. She added that he will only be punished if he re-offends in the next 12 months.
Ms Baey furiously pointed out that this isn’t the first incident of its kind to happen at NUS, noting that many other women have fallen victim to being filmed in the shower.
When Ms Baey tried to appeal for a heavier sentence with the police, she was told by the investigation officer that that we should have to ‘just accept the outcome’. She added that the officer then said, “If you want real consequences or more action to be taken, go to NUS and push for action”.
Ms Baey said she did approached NUS to push for a stronger punishment from the school but the only thing they did was to forward her a letter of apology from the perpetrator.
Her sharing of her experience was widely reported on social-political platforms on Friday this week and stirred up the public, asking for the university to explain its actions.
A petition calling for the expulsion of Nicholas Lim from NUS has received more than 30,000 signatures as of Mon (22 Apr).
The petition, started by Wayne Wee and whose sister and girlfriend are NUS students, observed that Ms Baey’s case “is just one of many that have been swept under the rug over the past decades by NUS administration unwilling to admit that they are unable to tackle the scourge of men in their halls seeking sexual gratification and using their female schoolmates as a means to that end”.
Separately, a statement signed by 489 former and current NUS students was sent to NUS staff members, in which they had voiced their concerns regarding the university’s approach towards sexual harassment, “particularly in reference to the case where a female NUS undergraduate student, Ms Monica Baey, was filmed while showering without her consent”.
While members of public were elated to see a Minister finally making his appearance, some voiced their concerns about his choice of words, in particular, “from here on”
Minister Ong is the first Minister publicly making a comment about the scandal, while Minister of Home Affairs, Mr K Shanmugam has not made any statements about the decision of the police to simply issue a 12-month conditional warning to the perpetrator.