Former NUS student who fought 12-year legal battle against University questions former Vice-Provost’s presence on the NUS Review Committee on Sexual Misconduct

Source: Today Up Feed

Former National University of Singapore (NUS) student Jeanne-Marie Ten Leu Jiun, whose candidature for the degree of Master of Arts in Architecture by research at the School of Design and Environment was terminated by the University in Sep 2006, has questioned former National University of Singapore (NUS) Vice-Provost Lily Kong’s presence in the NUS Review Committee on Sexual Misconduct, which was convened in light of current NUS undergraduate Monica Baey’s case.

Writing to the NUS Board of Trustees on Wed (24 Apr) in response to the communiqué regarding the Committee, which was issued by Chairman Mr Hseih Fu Hua and reported in the media on 22 Apr, Ms Ten questioned the appropriateness of the former Vice-Provost’s presence on the review committee, as she had allegedly “lied about a Committee of Inquiry (COI) convened by NUS” during her tenure at the University.

Ms Ten began her postgraduate studies as a candidate at NUS in January 2002, and was due to complete her course by mid-2005.

In a High Court judgement by Justice Woo Bih Li on 9 July last year, it was stated that Ms Kong’s summary had omitted the COI’s conclusion “Dr Wong had failed to comply fully with his duties” as Ms Ten’s supervisor.

In February 2005, Ms Ten alleged, in an email to Vice-Provost of Education at NUS, Ms Lily Kong, that Dr Wong had “evaded her question as to how he was going to acknowledge her thesis in the project”.

He responded instead, to Ms Ten’s claim, that he “had the right to use the primary sources from her work in the project because such sources did not belong to her”, according to court documents.

Consequently, Ms Ten filed a civil lawsuit against NUS in 2012 on the grounds of breach of contract, the tort of misfeasance in public office, the tort of intimidation, and the tort of negligence.

Subsequently, the COI suggested that Dr Wong ought to “be censured for the manner in which he had supervised” Ms Ten, which included “his failure to systematically clarify how he would acknowledge Miss Ten’s work”, opening the room for questioning the validity of the COI’s conclusion that Dr Wong did not actually plagiarise Ms Ten’s work.

The COI also recommended “that appropriate steps be taken to ensure that Dr Wong is fully aware of the role and duties of a supervisor to his student”.

However, it was stated in the court judgement that Ms Ten was not even given “a copy of the COI report”, and that she was not informed of the other members of the COI who had decided the outcome of her situation.

Ms Ten highlighted the absurdity of not providing the COI report to her, when her complaint against Dr Wong was the very basis upon the formation of the COI in the first place, and thus could not avoid questioning the lack of transparency and accountability from a purportedly “world-class administration” as a result.

“The lack of transparency (the university’s refusal to give me a copy of the COI Report) enabled Vice-Provost Kong to essentially lie to me that Dr Wong had been exonerated by the COI,” wrote Ms Ten in a blog post.

Quoting the court judgment in Ten Leu Jiun Jeanne-Marie v National University of Singapore [2018] SGHC 158 at paragraph [230], Ms Ten highlighted that [emphasis hers]:  

“…VP [Vice-Provost Lily] Kong admitted in cross-examination that it would not be correct for her to impose such a condition but she did not accept that she had in fact imposed such a condition on the Plaintiff.  As I have mentioned above, she did impose that condition. I also conclude that it was wrong of her to do so.”

She also cited Vice-Provost Kong’s letter on 11 Aug 2006, in which the Vice-Provost wrote:

“This will be a final opportunity for you to confirm whether you accept the University’s decisions and will therefore … cease your correspondence regarding the contents of your email of 27 November 2005.

If you do accept the University’s decisions, then please confirm this in writing via registered post … If you do not accept the University’s decisions by this date, your candidature will be deemed to have ceased. …”

Consequently, Ms Ten stressed that her email of 27 Nov 2005, which Vice-Provost Kong had referred to in her letter as quoted above, was an email in which she had repeated her complaints about the Vice-Provost’s purported mishandling of Ms Ten’s complaints. 

“In particular, I complained to Lily Kong that she had withheld the COI’s report from me,” she wrote.

“Thus, when Vice-Provost Kong demanded that I “cease your correspondence regarding the contents of your email of 27 November 2005“, she was actually demanding that I agree to stop complaining about her mishandling of my complaints and her cover-up of Dr Wong Yunn Chii,” charged Ms Ten.

She ended her letter to the Board of Trustees with a question: “Respectable Board of Trustees, in view of the above facts – should SMU President Lily Kong be appointed as a member of “NUS Review Committee on Sexual Misconduct?”

President Kong “does not appear to have to be accountable for her wrongful actions”: Jeanne-Marie Ten

Ms Ten also highlighted the fact that after her candidature was terminated by NUS, “Vice-Provost Kong was appointed to positions such as Vice-President of NUS and Executive Vice-President of the Yale-NUS College in NUS”.

Earlier this year in Jan, Ms Ten had criticised the subsequent appointment of Prof Kong as the President of Singapore Management University (SMU) “is very wrong”, given that she “does not appear to have to be accountable for her wrongful actions”.

Ms Ten noted that as her legal battle against NUS was still ongoing, “Vice-Provost Kong left NUS in 2015” to “join another public university”.

“She was appointed Provost of Singapore Management University (SMU) in 2015,” she wrote.

“In 2017,” Ms Ten recalled, “as my NUS legal case was going on, Provost Lily Kong was identified as the most suitable candidate to lead the Singapore Management University as its University President” following “a publicised global search for a suitable candidate”.

President Lily Kong begins her appointment at SMU this year.

“SMU President Lily Kong’s unreasonable conduct in terminating my MA candidature and protecting a wrong-doer (my then supervisor Dr Wong) reveal her poor exercise of judgment, to say the very least,” said Ms Ten.

However, she lamented, “the powers that appointed her as University President don’t seem to have a problem with that”.

“I strongly feel that this is very wrong”, said Ms Ten, adding: “Singapore can do better”.

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