NUS students call for school to be held accountable for sexual misconduct on campus
Students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) on Thursday (Apr 25) called for the school to take responsibility for cases of sexual misconduct that take place on its campus.
They were speaking at a town hall held to gather feedback and listen to concerns about such cases and to discuss how the university can further strengthen its disciplinary and support frameworks.
The session was addressed by Vice-Provost (Student Life) Florence Ling and Dean of Students Peter Pang.
More than 500 students attended the town hall, which was held in one auditorium and live-streamed in another to accommodate the large number of people who turned up.
Some attendees criticised NUS’ ways of dealing with sexual misconduct cases, with some highlighting the school’s “victim-blaming approach”.
The town hall came after NUS student Monica Baey took to social media last week to call for tougher action against a student who had filmed her taking a shower at her hostel.
Following the incident in November last year, the perpetrator was given a 12-month conditional warning by the police, suspended from the university for one semester and banned from entering all on-campus housing premises. He was also ordered to go for mandatory counselling sessions, perform 30 hours of community service and write a letter of apology.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Monday that NUS’ penalties in Ms Baey’s case were “manifestly inadequate”.
On Tuesday, NUS president Tan Eng Chye apologised to the university’s alumni, saying that the school is sorry that Ms Baey had to surface her concerns on social media for the University to take notice and that it “fell short” in providing her with support from the start.
LACK OF TRANSPARENCY
Students who asked about how they can hold NUS accountable were redirected to a review committee that has been set up by NUS.
A third-year University Scholars Programme student, who only wanted to be known as Devni, said that NUS has not been transparent in its dealings with students.
“What we’re expecting of NUS is transparency and accountability, but we’re not getting it, she said.
“They keep resorting to excuses like saying ‘oh, the committee will do this’, ‘the committee will decide this’ when they have a stake in collecting our voices and making sure the committee hears that,” she said.
Other students also came forward to share their stories of sexual harassment on campus. They accused NUS of wanting to hush up such cases. One of them broke down while sharing her story.
Ms Baey, who also attended the town hall and shared her feedback, said that there was a lack of victim support and bad communication by NUS. She said she was left alone to talk to a male officer about her experience.
Prof Ling apologised to Ms Baey and the student body.
“I can feel that we have failed you, and I am seriously sorry,” she said. She added that NUS will set up a unit for victim care, and that they will step up education workshops.
STUDENTS UNHAPPY WITH THE WAY TOWN HALL WAS HANDLED
While some some students thought it was promising that the management organised the sessions, others who spoke to CNA after the town hall said it was a “disaster”.
“Overall, it went to show that ultimately, it was a little bit of tokenism on their part. They failed to adequately address the root of the issue,” said fourth-year law undergraduate Limin Chuan.
She added that she and her fellow students had expected the management to have more to offer, instead of directing questions and feedback to the review committee.
“We were expecting them to tell us how they want to change the culture, and make public the recognition that these things have to be top-down for them to be sustainable,” she said.
She added that they did not seem prepared for the “vitriol”.
Fourth-year political science undergraduate Suraendher Kumarr similarly said that the management should have been better prepared.
“We did our homework, they should have too,” he said.
Mr Wang Kai Richard, deputy secretary of student life from the NUS Students’ Union (NUSSU), said that topic of the review committee was discussed a lot during the town hall.
Some students questioned why the initial members of the committee – announced by NUS on Monday – were not present at the town hall and why there are only two student representatives on the committee.
There were also questions about the timeline for the committee to review the current disciplinary and support frameworks.
Some students also took issue with the amount of time allocated for the town hall, and that requests for a longer session were not met.
Assoc Prof Pang said, however, that another town hall will be organised, this time with the review committee.
In wrapping up the session, he said: “Our victim care is totally inadequate.”
He reiterated that a centralised victim care will be set up and that security will be strengthened at hostels.
Articles and pictures by CNA/ll(mi)
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