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Disciplinary measures against voyeur Nicholas Lim no different from 20 other NUS cases

The recent National University of Singapore (NUS) scandal in which a chemical engineering student, Nicholas Lim was caught filming Monica Baey, a third-year new media undergrad, while she was in the shower is not the first time such incidents have happened on campus.

Consequently, this issue has brought to light other insult and outrage of modesty cases at NUS over the years which have been dealt with rather leniently.

NUS charged Mr Lim with the offence by making him write a compulsory apology letter to Ms Baey, attend mandatory counselling, banning him from entering the dormitories, and suspending him for one semester.

When Ms Baey went on social media to disclose the “punishment” that was meted out, members of the public reacted with outrage and started online petitions to urge NUS for a tougher stance and heavier sentence against Mr Lim.

Although NUS has stated on their website and Facebook page that they will set up a committee to review the current disciplinary and support frameworks, Ms Baey and her supporters deemed this course of action insufficient and demanded real consequences towards perpetrators in order to deter future cases.

In order to determine whether the actions taken in such cases are adequate enough, it is crucial to review a list of NUS Board of Discipline cases from 2016 to 2018 that was shared by NUSSU – NUS Students United Facebook page on 20 April (Saturday).

During the academic years between 2015 and 2016, there were eight of outrage of modesty. These included trespassing into female student’s room, peeping at or filming female students showering, filming children in the toilet, filming male students in showers and uploading to pornographic sites as well as filming upskirt videos. Aside from that, there was also a single case of assault filed under sexual harassment and three cases of stolen female undergarments.

The general punishments doled out for the perpetrators were suspension for two semesters, barred from campus and housing, mandated counselling sessions or psychological treatments, fines, community service, police investigations, conditional warnings, official reprimands and letters of apology to victims. Only one of the offences was charged with imprisonment.

From 2016-2017, there were another eight cases of insult/outrage of modesty during that academic year. A student who had stalked and outraged the modesty of a female student was placed under supervised probation, 150 hours of community service and one-semester suspension. Yet, one student who had filmed upskirt videos was charged with 10-day imprisonment while another with the same offence was given 18 months of supervised probation.

 

Under harassment, two cases were filed; sexual text messages sent repeatedly to a female student and sharing photographs of male students showering with other students. A single case of stealing undergarments was also reported.

Besides the usual punishments being doled out, a student who had committed a past offence of peeping at female students in the toilet the previous year and then committed his second offence of outraging a female student’s modesty was expelled but revoked later on by the board.

As for the academic year 2017/2018, four cases of insult or outrage of modesty were recorded. A student was accused of touching the buttocks of a female student in a taxi but the charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence. Meanwhile, another student touched a female student’s thighs while she was asleep in a hostel lounge, resulting in suspension. The other two cases involved shower recordings and upskirt videos.

In that year itself, three cases were filed under harassment in which male students were filmed while showering in the male toilet. The standard punishments of semester suspensions, barred from on-campus housing and non-compulsory global programmes, community service, apology letters and official reprimands were issued. Some of the perpetrators were also required to attend rehabilitation and reconciliation sessions as well.

From this review of NUS cases and methods of discipline, it is quite clear that consistent measures were taken against similar crimes. It can also be inferred that these methods have not succeeded in preventing perpetrators from committing these offences or reducing the chances of these happenings. In fact, it has been alleged that there are possibly even more incidents that go unreported.

One of the cases from the 2015-2016 academic year of a student who filmed another student showering bore a striking resemblance to Mr Lim’s case in terms of punishment imposed. This goes to show that NUS has not taken any alternative ways to handle these transgressions which may be the reason why the incidents have become a norm these past few years.

On a separate but interesting note, a Facebook post by NUS Students United prior to the summaries indicated that they were not wholly to be blamed as much as Singapore Police Force and the Attorney-General’s Chambers is. “We don’t need universities to be mini-police forces or public prosecutors,” they wrote, implying that more severe punishments should be handed out by the law.