Following the completion of its internal investigations into the racist and Islamophobic conduct of lecturer Tan Boon Lee, Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) on Thursday (17 June) said that it is in the process of terminating his employment.
In a statement today, the polytechnic said that it has “officially charged the staff in question for serious breach of our Staff Code of Conduct”.
“Our staff members are expected to respect cultural, ethnic and religious differences in our society. They must uphold secularity and impartiality at all times,” NP said.
Mr Tan came under the public spotlight after he was identified as the man making racist remarks to an interracial couple in a video uploaded by Dave Parkash, the Indian-Filipino man who was accused by Mr Tan of “preying” on Chinese girls while on a night out with his girlfriend.
After it was reported that Mr Tan was suspended from his teaching duties following the case, a former student of his took to social media to share her own experience of being subjected to Islamophobic remarks from him in front of a class.
Ms Nurul Fatimah binti Iskandar, who was a student of Mr Tan for an Object-Oriented Programming Module in 2017, said in an Instagram post on 9 June that the lecturer had “used our class period to have a full-on discourse about Islam”.
“I was the only Muslim in class. He opened websites on the projector, pointing out things he didn’t agree with about the Quran and Prophet Muhammad s.a.w to the class,” she said.
Based on Ms Nurul’s record of an Instagram Story posted on 28 July 2017, the date of the incident, among the comments Mr Tan had reportedly made were “Only animals will treat their children like how Allah does to His people” and “What type of Father tells you to worship him five times a day and threatens to send you to hell if you don’t?”.
Such remarks, she said, were merely “the tip of the iceberg”.
To worsen matters, Mr Tan had singled out Ms Nurul — who was sitting in the front of the class — and asked her if she agreed with him.
“I could barely open my mouth amidst his continuous sweeping statements. I was barely 17, fresh out of 10 years of madrasah trying to assimilate into the new secular environment,” she lamented.
The situation had “escalated so badly” that Ms Nurul ended up sitting outside on the floor of the corridor with her classmate, Merick while waiting for his “unsettling speech” to end. Merick had initiated the walk-out, according to Ms Nurul.
NP said in its statement on Thursday that it has “reached out to our alumna immediately to express our regret for her experience in 2017”.
“We immediately offered counselling support to her. We have since met her to get more details of her experience and would like to apologise for the distress that she suffered, and thank her for her assistance in our internal investigations,” it added.
NP noted that the police is currently investigating the matter and that it will fully cooperate with the authorities in the process.
Ms Nurul noted in her post on 9 June that she made a complaint regarding the incident with Mr Tan, but no action was taken.
Addressing the matter, NP stated today that it sought to “understand why our alumna’s feedback had not been acted upon, to tighten our feedback processes and ensure that gaps and areas of improvement are duly addressed”.
“In our conversation with her, she indicated that she could not recall whether she had emailed her feedback on the incident or raised it during a post-course focus group discussion (FGD) in 2017. FGDs are typically held at the end of every semester to seek students’ feedback on courses and lecturers,” it said.
NP claimed that it was not able to “locate any records of the feedback” from its search through its “various feedback channels” and her NP mailbox archives.
“Nonetheless, we are committed to preventing a similar incident from occurring again, and will ensure that students are made aware of the appropriate channels for them to provide feedback in a safe manner. We will also advise our staff on how to manage and report feedback that they may receive outside of these channels, as appropriate,” it said.
NP went on to say that on top of its existing course feedback channels which are anonymous, various channels are available for students to provide anonymous feedback, the most recent being a whistleblowing email channel for students at [email protected].
“Other channels for student feedback include a general enquiry AskNP email, course experience dialogues as well as various student surveys conducted periodically. In addition, students can share their feedback with their staff advisors at any time,” said the polytechnic, adding that it will make all feedback channels more accessible and visible on its website and publicise them on its campus digital screens.
NP also said that it will review its internal feedback monitoring processes “to identify and resolve any gaps in teaching and learning practices and to ensure that matters of concern can be flagged in a timely manner”.
“We also remind all staff to strictly adhere to the Staff Code of Conduct and create a safe learning environment for all in NP,” said the polytechnic.