photo: nus.edu.sg

Following the story of a National University of Singapore (NUS) student, Monica Baey, calling out the school for not giving out a stronger punishment to the student who has filmed her in the shower, a group of 489 students released a statement of concern regarding sexual harassment at NUS on 21 April.

Addressed to the higher management including the President, Senior Deputy Presiding, Provost, Vice Provost, Dean and Assistant Dean, the letter strongly condemned the school for the light punishment that was meted out on the male student who had filmed Ms Baey in the shower without her consent. They described the punishment of a single semester suspension, 30 hour community service, and mandatory counselling and rehabilitation sessions as ‘problematic’.

The offender was also banned from entering into all on-campus housing premises (which doesn’t affect him much as he doesn’t live on campus) and was asked to write a letter of apology to Ms Baey.

Punishment is too light

The students, however, noted that the relatively light punishment signals to the NUS community that “the university does not credibly enforce its stance against sexual voyeurism as a serious offence” and that “those who commit such offences can expect a relatively light sentence”. They also emphasised that the lightness of the sentence signals to survivors of sexual violence and harassment that they will not receive adequate institutional support if they voice their concerns.

Highlighting a 2017 case when a repeat offender faced criminal charges for assault with the intent of outrage to modesty, the students illustrated that the current disciplinary framework fails to deter these incidents from recurring.

They said, “As one of the world’s top universities, we hope that NUS would take a stronger stance against sexual harassment and set a positive example for other universities around the world”

Including students in policy review

The letter went on to address the announcement by Dean OSA Assoc Prof Peter Pang of the committee that will be convened to review the current disciplinary and support frameworks. According to an internal circular to students, the committee will include two student representatives.

In their letter, the students urged NUS to shed more light on several matters surrounding this committee, namely how the student representatives will be selection, the composition of the committee, what groups the committee hopes to target, and the decision making powers of the committee, if any.

They wrote, “We urge the University to meaningfully consult students on this important issue and not dictate the terms of such consultation or police student involvement; there is no patience for gestural politics on this urgent issue.”

Proposing that the University include representatives from student organisations that have dealt with the issue of sexual harassment, the students calls for NUS President Prof Tan Eng Chye to hold a town hall before the end of the current semester “to listen and dialogue” with the University community about the issue.

The student then demanded that NUS make a stronger statement against sexual harassment on campus and provide greater transparency in their investigations into Ms Baey’s case as well as the grounds for the punishment they chose to deliver.

Proposed measures to address sexual harassment on campus

In their letter, the student also proposed several measures for NUS to take which would go towards restoring and rehabilitating survivors of sexual harassment. This includes establishing a specialised office to real with matters of sexual harassment which would educate students about the issue as well as provide a reporting mechanism for victims and a 24-hour emergency hotline. They also recommended that the staff working in this office also receive mandatory sexual harassment response training.

Additional, they suggested that NUS provide specialised counselling services for survivors of sexual harassment and assault as well as readily available educational resources and avenues of recourse accessible to the NUS community.

As for pre-emptive measures, the students suggested that the University design and implement anti-sexual harassment training for both student and staff.

Finally, the letter outlined several policy amendments and recommendation that NUS could make to better address the issue. This includes publicly committing to a zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment and assault as well as institutionalising and explicating tiers of penalties according to different types of sexual harassment un the University Code of Conduct.

The letter concluded, “Beyond the call for immediate redressal for Ms Baey, there is a broader need to address the various systemic issues relating to sexual offences that occur within NUS.”

The letter was signed by 489 NUS students and 194 students from other universities, junior college and polytechnics.

You can read the full statement here.

NUSSU Exco’s statement on sexual harassment in NUS

On the same day (21 April), the NUSSU Exco released their own statement of condemnation over the incident on their Facebook page. The statement condemned the acts done towards Ms Baey and other victims of sexual harassment in NUS.

Exco stands by NUS’s actions

However, the NUSSU Exco stood by the decision made by the Board of Discipline, saying “…rehabilitation is an extremely strong principle in how student offenders are treated in the Board of Discipline, given that NUS is an educational institution.”

The statement continued, “NUSSU Exco also notes that the Board of Discipline had acted in accordance with existing precedent and due process, and respects that the decision by the Board was arrived at in good faith”

The Exco continued that it recognises how seriously the University takes matters of sexual harassment and “appreciate” their stance and policy on the issue.

Additionally, the Exco noted that “it is not the sole responsibility of the administration” to play a role in creating a safe space for students. It also encouraged victims to report to NUS and urged students to provide social support to victims and help them seek professional support if necessary.

Recognising the need for a policy review

Even so, the Exco admitted that the incident has highlighted how NUS policy on sexual harassment could be reviewed, adding that they were in the process reconsidering their punishment policies for future sexual harassment cases.

It went on to say that it is currently conceiving an action plan to better address the issue of sexual harassment, including drafting a report on whether existing sentencing guidelines should be revised.

It said, “NUSSU Exco will continue to work closely with NUS in making the campus a safe and secure environment for all our students. NUSSU Exco also notes that NUS President is to convene a Committee to review disciplinary and support frameworks in NUS. NUSSU Exco is confident that the Committee and the administration will continuously engage with students, to create a safer environment that everyone has confidence in.”

You can read the full NUSSU Exco statement here.

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You May Also Like

COVID-19: Struggling to survive, many Indonesians face the fear of hunger

Around 2.8 million people have lost their jobs since the deadly COVID-19…

Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin invited WP’s Jamus Lim and other newly-elected MPs to lunch at Parliament House

Newly-elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Sengkang GRC Jamus Lim shared on…

如政府传假消息怎么办? 唐振辉称一样被新法对付

如果政府或领导传播假消息,该怎么办? 对此律政部兼卫生部高级政务部长唐振辉打包票指出,政府并不会凌驾于法律体系之外,完全不受到监督。他们也受到同样的监管,适用同样的标准。 他认为,政府若作出错误判断或决定,法院便得裁决,若这类事件一再发生,人民对政府的信任也会被削弱。 唐振辉在昨日出席由新加坡管理大学主办的对话会,针对与会者提问,法案是否有制衡机制,确保政府本身不制造假消息。 约150名师生,出席这场讨论假消息草案的对话会。会上唐振辉也解释,法案没有设定人数标准,消息传到多少人手中才构成违法。这意味着,不会因为接到假消息的受众少,就不会被法律对付。 他声称,新法必须具备这种伸缩性,因为一些假消息即便没有广泛散播,但它可能涉及危害国家利益。例如,若意图在短信或私人群组散播假消息以制造恐慌,也得面对法律责任。 民间忧遭诉讼缠身,产生寒蝉效应 另一方面,反假消息法也被指透过法律刑责,来制造寒蝉效应,造成民众因担忧招惹官司而被高昂诉讼费缠身,而不敢再批评政府政策。 对此,唐振辉指出,法庭是比较合适和独立于政府的监督机构,来裁定部长的判断。 对于官司费的担忧,唐振辉认为,目前国内已有充足的经济和法律援助供有需要者申请,对部长的更正指示作出上诉。 “作为消息发布者,在法院也只需要直截了当,提出证明自己所说所写皆属实,这应该不难,如果我写了什么,理应有所根据。” 尚穆根:政府不是假消息真伪最后仲裁者…

【选举】乔立盟准备就绪 “选民的声音不应被当权者淹没”

人民党主席乔立盟(Jose Raymond)表示自己已准备好面对此次大选。 乔立盟也表示,自己与团队持续在波东巴西(Potong Pasir)深耕三年,因此带着无比期待的心情,在波东巴西竞选。 “就我们在波东巴西的服务而言,服务工作始于三年前,我们带着无比期待的心,在这与我们心连心的地方竞选。” 总统哈莉玛在上周二(23日)也正式宣布解散国会,并订下月10日将进行投票。而乔立盟紧随其后,连续发文表示对选举摒息期待,会在此次的竞选之战全力以赴。 他也指出此次选举的重要性,可以摆脱陈腐政策和思想的时候,呼吁人民思考未来的生活方式,并确保自己的声音能够被听见,不被权力所淹没。 “选举是为了确保你的声音能够被听到,并永远不会被掌权者的权力而淹没”。他也指,“选举就是关乎你的生活大事,你想生活在什么样的环境,想要在什么样的社会长大,想要为下一代留下什么样的新加坡。” 人民党日前宣布将由乔立盟出战波东巴西与碧山-大巴窑集选区的准候选人。另外,该党秘书长谢镜丰领导的四人团队,将出征碧山-大巴窑集选区。其他三名成员包括邱永豪、欧斯曼(Osman Sulaiman)和41岁的副主席Williamson Lee。