Coming to the tail-end of her 13 year legal battle with the National University of Singapore (NUS), formed NUS postgraduate student Jeanne-Marie Ten is facing yet another challenge. Ms Ten has spent over a decade and more than S$100,000 in legal costs to fight the injustice that she says was done to her when her postgrad supervisor at NUS used her research work and submitted it under his own name to secure grant funding for use in his own research back in 2005. Subsequently, Ms Ten was unsatisfied at how the institution handled the case and how they eventually terminated her candidature a year later.
After years of legal proceedings, the court found against Ms Ten in October 2018. She is now due in Court on 13 May for a hearing to decide on the amount she will have to pay to NUS. The university is apparently asking for about S$700,000.
However, Ms Ten says she feels forced or pressured to carry on with the proceedings despite being in a poor state of mental health.
In a video she posted on Facebook, Ms Ten explains that the Court requires her presence at the hearing on Monday to be prepared to argue against the amount that NUS is asking for. She said, “because I have been very ill, I cannot dig out and review all of their claims and the work done to defend them.”
“But the judge wants me to show up and be able to defend [myself] if I don’t agree with the 700,000 [claim],” she added.
Ms Ten said that she had requested the Court grant her a leave of absence for six months to give her some time to rest and recover for stress that the legal ordeal has put her through. She mentions that she is suffering from depression as a result of this case and that even her psychiatrist has written a letter to the Court explaining her situation.
Ms Ten says, “All I’m asking the court is to give me a sort of leave of absence … let me rest.”
Unfortunately, the court refused to accept the letter, requiring instead for the psychiatrist to show up in court to testify to Ms Ten’s condition. This is problematic, says Ms Ten as it involves extra costs. On top of that, the psychiatrist told her that he had already said what he needed to in the letter.
She reiterated, “he says that whatever he’ll say is already in the letter … he actually also asked the court what questions he would be asked.”
Ms Ten says if the psychiatrist doesn’t show up in court to support Ms Ten and testify that she is indeed suffering from depression and needs to rest, then the Court would go ahead with deciding how much to award NUS in costs on Monday.
In the video, Ms Ten says she feels “so tired, so confused, so overwhelmed, so mentally fatigued.”
“Very often I wish that I go to sleep, right, and then I don’t wake up. That is the best. Often this is a very tempting thought,” she added.
- In 2005, Ms Ten complained to NUS that her supervisor, Dr Wong Yunn Chii, had committed plagiarism and stolen her work to apply for his own funding
- A COI was convened to investigate the matter. The COI didn’t find Dr Wong guilty of plagiarism but said he failed to systematically clarify how he would acknowledge Ms Ten’s work. The COI suggest he be censured for failing to fully comply with his duties as supervisor and that appropriate steps be taken to ensure that Dr Wong is fully aware of the role and duties of a supervisor to his student.
- In 2006, Ms Ten’s candidature was terminated by NUS.
- Ms Ten said she was never provided with a copy of the COI report and that the summary provided by Vice-Provost Lily Kong omitted the COI’s findings. In the judgement by Justice Woo Bih Li, the judge said that the VP’s omissions had “saved some face for Dr Wong”.
- In 2012, Ms Ten filed a civil lawsuit against NUS on the grounds of breach of contract, the tort of misfeasance in public office, the tort of intimidation, and the tort of negligence.