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Ex-NUS student rewrites Dean’s statement on sexual harassment case, giving it more humanity and compassion

Following the story of a National University of Singapore (NUS) student, Monica Baey, who was filmed while in the shower by another fellow student, the NUS Dean of Students released a statement addressing the issue.

His response comes a day after Ms Baey’s story – which was first shared on her Instagram – was reported on by the media. Ms Baey had revealed that after reporting the traumatic incident to the authorities and NUS, the perpetrator was given a rather light punishment which Ms Baey felt was not proportional to the crime he has committed.

In response, Assoc Prof Peter Pang said in his statement, “We are sorry for Miss Monica Baey’s distressing experience, which is of extreme concern to the University. We are in the process of reaching out to her to offer our support and assistance.”

The statement continued by describing the in general terms how the NUS Board of Discipline conducts its disciplinary proceedings and the factors it takes into consideration when considering punishment. These include “the severity of the offence, the rehabilitative needs of the student offender and justice for the victim”, among others.

The statement, in which the Dean was careful to not direct blame at any one person nor acknowledge any of the flaws in the system that Ms Baey had pointed out, also noted that that a committee will be convened by the NUS President to review current disciplinary and support frameworks. The findings from said committee as well as follow up actions will be shared in the new academic year, said the Dean.

The statement was shared on NUS’ official Facebook page.

One former NUS student, Grace Yeoh, commented that the statement left a lot to be desired. She said, “As an NUS CNM grad, I hope that in your crisis management classes, you use this statement as an example of how to destroy your brand.”

Ms Yeoh who is currently a writer at RICE Media, suggested that NUS fire their entire corporate communications department for being “spineless, tone-deaf, out of touch, unempathetic, clueless about social media, AND terrible at crisis management.”

In Ms Yeoh’s rewritten statement, she had NUS not only acknowledge the flaws in the system but also accept responsibility what happened, offer actual help to the victim and her family, and apologise for the way the case was handled as well as emphasising the university’s strict policies on the matter.

She wrote:

“We take full responsibility for Miss Monica Baey getting filmed while showering in NUS’ Eusoff Hall’s female toilet by Mr Nicholas Lim. We have reached out to Miss Baey and her family to offer them professional victim support, in the form of unlimited and fully-subsidised sessions with trained counsellors who specialise in sexual harassment and/or assault cases.

The offence is sexual harassment, which we consider a serious crime. The NUS Board of Discipline operates under a strict ‘No Tolerance’ policy, so we understand the anger expressed by members of our community and the public regarding the punishment meted out.

Moving forward, we will reconsider more severe punishment for the offender, improve security in all toilets, and set up a special body dedicated to victim support.

In our handling of the case thus far, we’ve failed Miss Baey, members of our community, and the public. We seek your forgiveness as we strengthen our sexual misconduct policies, reflect on our own blindspots, and work to change the uncompassionate culture that has manifest.”

All in all, Ms Yeoh’s alternative statement comes off as more empathetic, humane, considerate, and compassionate towards the victim while still being strict towards the offender. I don’t know about you, but I think I’d have more faith in NUS – or any company – if they were more open to acknowledging their mistakes and show sincerity in the actions they’re taking towards bettering their policies. It’s definitely better than taking a weak, and ‘safe’ stand on such an important issue.

Another user then replied to Ms Yeoh, saying that she was putting too much weight on the role of the corporate communications department when it’s the management who is clearly responsible for the way they have responded. He also said that she would know this if she had any ‘real world’ experience.

Ms Yeoh replied by saying that she has been in the industry for 3 years and takes offence that he is belitting the role of the department. She noted that while the crux of the issue lies with the management and the culture they’ve cultivated, it’s the role of the corporate comms department to shape public perception and manage crisis.