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Tougher sanctions for students guilty of sexual misconduct, including one-year suspension and even expulsion: NUS review committee on sexual misconduct

A minimum suspension of one year and even expulsion for “severe offences” are among stiffer sanctions recommended by the National University of Singapore (NUS)’s review committee on sexual misconduct.

Local media reported that the committee’s chairperson Kay Kuok announced the proposals via an e-mail circular to students and staff on Wed (15 May).

The recommendations were made in the wake of criticisms levied against the University for its purportedly inadequate punishment against perpetrators in the past, whereby many of the offenders were merely given semester-long suspensions, conditional warnings and counselling.

“There is a clear need to recalibrate the sanction framework and toughen the penalties for sexual misconduct to serve as a strong deterrent, and to reflect the severity of the offences,” said Madam Kuok.

Thus, Madam Kuok said that all recorded offenders will be required to “obtain a certification of rehabilitation from a counsellor, medical professional or both” before being permitted to return to NUS after a period of suspension.

The period of suspension will also be marked in the offender’s transcripts, and will remain on said transcripts for an undefined period after graduation. However, TODAY reported that it is still unclear as to whether the offences committed by the students in question will be stated as a reason for their suspension, and that the matter is still being discussed.

“Student representatives from student groups and hostels and subject-matter experts have been consulted to ensure that the proposed changes reflect best practice, and the needs and expectations of our whole community,” Madam Kuok highlighted.

The committee is also currently reviewing NUS’ proposal to establish a Victim Care Unit, which Madam Kuok said will be “staffed by trained and experienced care officers to support victims from the point of incident until special care is no longer required”.

An anonymous and confidential online survey, which will be commissioned by the committee and carried out by an independent research consultancy, will also be conducted to study the NUS student body’s views on the proposed sanctions. Results will be shared with the students upon completion of the findings of the survey.

“All undergraduate and graduate students will shortly be receiving an SMS (short-message-service message) and an email with a link to the survey,” said Madam Kuok.

The committee’s final report will be published by the middle of June.

Another student reportedly involved in on-campus voyeurism arrested, charged this week

The review committee was set up following undergraduate Monica Baey’s exposé on Instagram last month regarding fellow student Nicholas Lim Jun Kai’s voyeuristic act.

In a string of Instagram Stories, Ms Baey lamented what she had perceived as the University’s lenient treatment of Lim, given the gravity of trauma she had experienced as a result of him filming her in the shower in her hall of residence, Eusoff Hall, in Nov last year.

Her revelation sparked criticism and petitions against NUS, urging the University to take greater measures to punish perpetrators accordingly and to provide greater protection for victims of sexual misconduct on-campus.

However, the high-profile case did not put a halt on such cases of sexual misconduct in NUS, with the arrest of a student last Sat (11 Mar).

26-year-old Joel Rasis Ismail was subsequently charged with one count each of criminal trespass and insulting the modesty of a 23-year-old woman on Mon (13 Mar) for having reportedly recorded her whilst she was showering in a Raffles Hall bathroom using his mobile phone.

Police told The Straits Times: “Through follow-up investigations and with the aid of CCTV footage, officers from Clementi Police Division established the identity of the man and subsequently arrested him on the same day.

“His laptops, mobile phones and other storage devices were seized for further investigations.

“He is believed to have tried to avoid being identified by changing his attire immediately after he had allegedly committed the offences, and is also believed to be involved in other similar cases,” added the Police.

Joel is currently being remanded at the Institute of Mental Health for psychiatric observation and is due to show up in court at the end of this month on 27 May.

NUSSU to carry out night patrols, room checks during freshmen orientation period

Separately, the NUS Students’ Union (NUSSU) plans to carry out night patrols on campus starting next month in a bid to mitigate the problem of sexual misconduct on university grounds.

NUSSU president Benjamin Loo told ST on Tue (14 May) that the night patrols will be conducted throughout the freshmen orientation period, which will end some time in the first week of Aug.

The plan entails one male and one female member of NUSSU’s executive committee (exco) working together with a campus security guard to check the corridors and toilets periodically at night, in addition to overseeing multi-purpose rooms, residential colleges and residence halls where freshmen and orientation leaders will stay.

The exco members will also conduct checks in the students’ rooms before bedtime to ensure that none of them are engaging in smoking or drinking, and having two or more persons in one room at a time.

Students found breaking the rules will be reported to the NUS Office of Campus Security.

“We are not saying the university’s stepped-up security measures are inadequate. We are hoping to do this as an additional measure to ensure safety of students,” stressed Mr Loo.