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NUS appoints Board of Trustee member and lawyer as chair of review committee on sexual misconduct

In an email to students and staff of The National University of Singapore (NUS), Chairman of the Board of Trustees Hsieh Fu Hua announced that Madam Kay Kuok has been appointed to chair the review committee on sexual misconduct that will be convened by NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye following public outrage over a recent sexual harassment case involving NUS students.

Mr Hsieh said, “the Board of Trustees view sexual misconduct on our campuses with grave concern, and has decided to appoint Mdm Kay Kuok, a member of the Board and Chairman of the Board’s Nominating Committee, to chair this committee”.

Highlighting the objectives of the committee, Mr Hsieh said that it will review the disciplinary and support frameworks relating to sexual misconduct at NUS, including sanctions on offenders.

Mdm Kay Kuok has been a member of the NUS Board of Trustees since April 2008 and is also a barrister-at-law at a firm in London, UK while working full-time for her family business, the Kuok Group of Companies.

Wearing many hats, Mdm Kuok is also the chairman of the Yale-NUS College Governing Board and the board of the National Healthcare Group. She has also served o several community service and statutory boards including the Singapore Tourism Board, National Arts Council, Singapore Environment Council, South West CDC, and the National Environment Agency.

In his email, Mr Hsieh noted the “strong public interest in the matter” and assured students and staff that the committee “will proceed swiftly and decisively”.

Other initial members of the committee will include board member and WongPartnership Managing Partner Mr Ng Wai King, Prof Tan, and a representative from the NUS Students’ Union. Also included is the current President of Singapore Management University and former Vice-Provost of NUS Professor Lily Kong.

People have already begun to object the appointment of Prof Kong as a member of the committee. Most notable is Ms Jeanne-Marie Ten who strongly objected, saying that Prof Kong “is not qualified to be sitting on this committee given her history of protecting wrongdoers in NUS”.

Ms Ten is referring to the case she has been embroiled in with the university over her former thesis supervisor using her research to apply for funding without actually naming her or giving her credit. The incident happened back in 2004 when Prof Kong was Vice-Provost of NUS and had a hand in protecting the supervisor.

Ms Ten eventually filed a lawsuit against the university for breach of contract, negligence, and misfeasance among others. During the hearing, it was discovered that Prof Kong had chosen not reveal to Ms Ten pertinent information regarding the findings of a committee of inquiry (COI), particularly the conclusion which found Dr Wong had failed to comply with his duties and that a censure was recommended. At the same time, Prof Kong provided all the information to Dr Wong, including the conclusions of the COI.

Had Ms Ten not brought legal action against the University, knowledge the COI findings and recommendation to censure Dr Wong would have been contained within the University, creating the possibility that Dr Wong would have been let off the hook eventually and not experience any real repercussions for his misdeeds.

Prof Kong’s actions as revealed during the hearings show that she is someone who is focused on protecting the interest of the staff over student and that she will do what she can to keep things under wraps to avoid negative publicity.