Review committee recommends heavier sanctions for sexual misconduct and a gender-balanced BOD; NUS accepts

The National University of Singapore (NUS) says that it has accepted all the recommendations by the review committee on sexual conduct. This includes imposing tougher penalties for serious offences such as a minimum one-year suspension and immediate expulsion in severe and aggravated cases. The committee also recommended a more gender-balanced Board of Discipline (BOD) at NUS.

Earlier this year, a student called out the University for being too lenient in their punishment of another student who had filmed her in the shower at a hostel on campus.

Following outcry from students and the media, a review committee was set up to relook at the universities disciplinary and support frameworks.

Straits Times reported that lawyer Member of the NUS Board of Trustees Madam Kay Kuok – who is also Chair of the committee – set out some of the recommendations in an email to students, staff and alumni on Monday (10 June).

The recommendations span three areas: sanctions for offenders, involvement of victims in the disciplinary process, and measures to enhance campus safety and victim support.

Heavier sanctions & keeping victims apprised on the process

On sanctions, the committee recommended that heavier penalties be imposed for sexual misconduct such as a minimum one-year suspension for serious offences. They also recommended that the BOD or Disciplinary Appeals board shouldn’t be empowered to override or remove said suspension. In cases of severe instances or aggravated forms of offences, the committee recommended immediate expulsion.

On victim support, the committee suggested putting in place a protocol to ensure that the victim and offender do not come into contract on campus, ensuring that they won’t be in the same classes or non-academic programmes.

It was also suggested that victims be granted more rights by NUS and allow them to be more involved in the disciplinary process. To do this, the committee recommended that victim be kept up-to-date on disciplinary proceedings. Also, an avenue is to be provided in ‘exceptional circumstances’ to allow victims to request for a review of case outcomes.

Additional, the committee recommended that NUS review the composition of their BOD to ensure a gender balance among members.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung took to his Facebook page to say that these ‘robust set of measures’ will improve victim support, take offenders to task, deter future offenders, and improve campus safety.

“It has been a difficult period for the NUS community, but by taking swift and decisive action, NUS will emerge stronger and better,” he added.

He also noted that other institutes of higher learning are conducting their own reviews that the Ministry of Education will work with them ‘to ensure a safe a supportive environment for our students’.

Beyond the campus

While it is commendable that NUS has taken swift action over the issue and is open to adopting all the recommendations of the review committee, there is still a question of what can be done beyond the campus walls. NUS has pledged to take action against sexual misconduct as much as they are empowered to but what about the police and Attorney-General’s Chamber? Surely the responsibly of addressing matters of sexual misconduct cannot rest squarely on educational institutes?