Monday, 29 April 2019

Monica Baey and NUS case: A generational shift in values

The young are full of courage and zeal - but will older leaders in institutions include their views as Singapore changes?
By Chua Mui Hoong, Opinion Editor, The Sunday Times, 28 Apr 2019

I have been going round to schools and events, talking to young people about Singapore being a nation at the crossroads.

The talk circuit began after I published a volume of essays titled Singapore, Disrupted, last May. The book is a compilation of my writings over the years, on politics, the class divide and disruption.

My main thesis, when I give those talks, is that Singapore is not only in the throes of disruption wrought by digital and technological change, but is also in the midst of socio-political disruption.

I often end my talks by telling my young audience that the future is in their hands, and to urge them to never give up on Singapore, no matter how impatient they may be sometimes with the pace of change.

I enjoy the dynamic question and answer segment that follows my talks. I also enjoy spending time with my friends' adult children, and with newfound young Facebook friends and their friends, talking about what they want out of their lives in Singapore.

I recently spent a Saturday afternoon at Hong Lim Park having char kway teow with a bunch of young folks who were all engaged socially in some way, setting up a social enterprise to help secondary school students access internships and mentorships. The char kway teow frankly lacked wok hei, but the youngsters' zeal added sizzle to our casual chit-chat.

After a series of such engagements, I realise that I simply enjoy being around young people. I enjoy their questions, their energy, their optimism, their desire to push for change. I think I live vicariously through them; I tell some of them they are the social activists few in my generation dared to be; they take the paths less trodden; they question assumptions of past generations.

I am often in good spirits and optimistic about Singapore after spending time with them.

This is the way I felt last week, after following the news about how a young National University of Singapore (NUS) student, Ms Monica Baey, took to Instagram to share her story of how the university and police failed her after she was the victim of a young man's intrusive filming of her taking a shower in a hostel bathroom.

Ms Baey's candid sharing of her encounter, and the courageous way she spoke up for victims of sexual misconduct, is leading to substantive changes in how NUS will deal with such cases in future.

Among other things, NUS has pledged to provide more support for victims, and to review its policy towards such sex offenders, which has been widely criticised for being too lax.

As my colleague Toh Yong Chuan wrote in a recent commentary, it took a young undergrad, social media, collective outrage among netizens, and a decisive Education Minister Ong Ye Kung (who described NUS' penalties for the perpetrator as "manifestly inadequate") to push for change.

Individual advocacy, coupled with online indignation, and responses from those in power, will result in positive change in this episode. I am sure the changes NUS will institute will ripple through to other local universities.

But the flipside of such indignation-fuelled change is how and why NUS could have held on to its "two strikes and you are out" policy on first-time offenders, including those who commit sexual offences. They may get suspended, but not expelled from university.

How could a major educational institution have held on to its lenient stance against offenders for so long?

NUS' explanation that it wants to be a university that gives people a second chance belies the fact that that second chance given to offenders comes at the cost of peace of mind and the safety of others.

My own take on this issue is that it highlights a generational gap in expectations and attitudes towards sexual offences on campus.

I had friends in NUS hostels 30 years ago, and even back then, stories of Peeping Toms or people who stole women's underwear abounded. In the Housing Board flat I grew up in, too, we all knew better than to hang underwear along the common corridor.

My generation (born in the 1960s) grew up more or less accepting a certain degree of implicit sexual harassment, thinking that so long as no one was harmed physically, we could just be vigilant and get on with life.

In that sense, I understand how NUS' "two strikes and you're out" policy could have endured for so long.

But today's young have different expectations.

The recent #MeToo movement has raised awareness of an insidious modern culture that treats women as ostensible equals in the workplace but where men in power continue to either objectify them through sexual lenses, or to denigrate their experiences.

The second-chance policy adopted by NUS, for example, clearly prioritises the future careers of the male perpetrators over the safety, peace of mind or dignity of the victims of voyeurism, harassment or molestation.

Ms Baey and those who support her petition also have different expectations of social justice and accountability. Hence, even the NUS town hall meeting held to address students' concerns was criticised for not being forthcoming, and panellists were slammed for not listening enough to students' concerns.


I believe more instances of such inter-generational gaps in expectations and values will surface.

Institutions like NUS, as well as the Government, ministries, statutory boards, unions and the media, have to start relooking their policies and practices with fresh eyes, through the lenses of the demands and expectations of a young generation. Unless we do so, more such instances of social media activism will certainly erupt, leading to hurried change.

As a common saying goes, change can come about through evolution, or through a revolution. In the digital era, change can be evolutionary - if collaborative with stakeholders - and adaptive; or it can be foisted onto an organisation by a social media crisis or other similar strong public outcry, for example as expressed in election results.

For NUS, the issue of sexual harassment on campus is by no means a new one. Beyond Peeping Toms at hostels, the university has faced public censure for orientation activities taking on an overly sexualised tone. However, it does not appear to have had the conversations or introduced the mechanisms that can let it change organically in response to changing expectations.

As a journalist who enjoys talking to people and tries to connect dots of what she sees and hears, I believe that inter-generational gaps exist in expectations and assumptions on many other important values, including those my generation would consider "foundational" to Singapore's success.

Questions about Singapore's approach to racial harmony is an example. In at least two dialogues, young people have stood up to ask me why discussions on inequality and the class divide were taking place in a racial vacuum: Were there not overlaps with racial divides?

Some younger colleagues have spoken and written about their dissatisfaction with the "racial harmony" model of ties: over emphasising harmony and neglecting to talk openly and honestly about gaps, differences and conflict. More candid discussions, they feel, would promote genuine understanding across race and religion.

Many younger Singaporeans are more prepared to call out instances of casual racism or insensitivity to minority sentiments. They are not afraid of disagreement. Some provide platforms for precisely such difficult exchanges.

Another gap in values I detect, based on conversations with 20-somethings around me, lies in the expectations of upward mobility.

Many in my generation grew up in absolute or relative poverty; in one generation, we were catapulted from attap huts or rental flats to landed housing or private condominiums. Upward mobility is a creed we believe in, because we lived it.

I got a different perspective recently, speaking to a young man on this issue. He grew up in a semi-detached house. Even if he and his fiancee got lucky and upgraded from their forthcoming Housing Board flat, they would at most be able to afford a condo - nothing like the comfortable big house his parents managed to secure.

The middle-class members among his generation have resigned themselves to the fact that their lives will probably not be as good as their parents' in a material sense.

This is partly why, he argued, many millennials do not want children. It is also in part why so many step away from the corporate career ladder to pursue dreams in other social, soul-satisfying fields.

This is perfectly consistent with Maslow's theory on the hierarchy of needs - saturated with their parents' material achievements and growing up with plenty, members of this generation seek higher-order needs such as belonging, esteem and self-actualisation.

There are many other instances of young Singaporeans questioning foundational assumptions about Singapore. The debate around meritocracy and the class divide is just one example. Sexual mores, norms of racial harmony and notions of the good life are others.

If I were to sit down and mine my insights from those conversations with young people, I could probably list another half dozen issues on which the young think differently from older Singaporeans.

I believe understanding the aspirations of young Singaporeans and adapting to their rather different value systems will be critical to how the country is able to remain strong, dynamic and cohesive.

The challenge for Singapore society is whether those in positions to make decisions, whether in the public or private sector, are open to taking on board the differences in views from our young people.

Can leaders across Singapore harness the passion of people like Monica Baey and many others and, importantly, adapt their policies and practices to accommodate the expectations of a new generation?

The future, after all, belongs to the young. The Pioneer Generation built the nation. The Merdeka Generation (born in the 1950s) improved it. Those of us born in the 1960s - call us the Majulah Generation - are just the custodians. We have to hand over a Singapore that the Millennial Generation will be proud of.

To build a Singapore that wins their hearts requires the custodians to heed their voice, bring them on board and, indeed, to share decision-making and power with the young.


Handling of NUS offender's case was fair, say legal experts
By Charmaine Ng, The Sunday Times, 28 Apr 2019

While some have taken issue with the police's explanation for why undergraduate Nicholas Lim, 23, was let off with a conditional warning, legal experts that The Sunday Times spoke to said they believe the matter was handled fairly.

Considerations such as the age of the offender and the prospects of re-offending - which were cited by police - are applied to all cases in deciding whether to prosecute suspects, said law professor Eugene Tan. He added that, while deterrence is crucial to fight such crimes, "it is not a one-size-fits-all legal concept".

"The law is an ass if it dishes out a prescriptive set of punishments. If that's the case, we might as well let a computer determine the punishment tariffs," said Associate Professor Tan of the Singapore Management University School of Law.

"But I doubt that that is what we want or expect of our administration of criminal justice."

This was echoed by criminal lawyer Gloria James-Civetta, who said that the 12-month conditional warning given to Mr Lim was sufficient, given the police's explanations. "A conditional warning is like a 'curfew' imposed on him for good behaviour and not to re-offend," she said.

Prof Tan added that the police would have consulted the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) in meting out the conditional warning, and the prosecutorial discretion on the AGC's part is not something that would be taken lightly.

Some netizens have criticised the police's decision, and have called for stiffer punishments ranging from a lifetime conditional warning to jail time.

However, observers caution against this.

"As there was no discriminatory treatment in favour of Nicholas Lim, we should not be dictating what the state's sanction ought to be. The law should be allowed to take its course even if we disagree with it and/or its application," Prof Tan said.

Noting that Ms Monica Baey's experience appears to have resulted in some trauma, Ms James-Civetta suggested that the police could provide more emotional support to victims of all forms of sex crimes.

"Perhaps what can be done further is to open up the One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination Centre at Police Cantonment Complex, to all victims of sexual assault be it serious or not," added the lawyer, who has 23 years of experience in criminal law.

"Clearly the victim felt stress and is suffering from trauma. A sensitive approach needs to be taken."

Sexual misconduct on campus: How can NUS make things right?
Observers call for tougher policy against offenders, more sensitivity for victims and greater transparency in actions
By Amelia Teng, Education Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 28 Apr 2019

Does the National University of Singapore (NUS) know how to handle sexual offences? Going by the way it had treated a recent case involving two of its students, many members of the public and students do not think so.

A female undergraduate's frustrated Instagram posts after she was filmed in a hall shower has, in the last week, sparked a public outcry over how NUS deals with sexual misconduct, leading the university to apologise several times, and set up a committee to review its disciplinary framework.

Observers and students said that this episode, sparked by third-year student Monica Baey, has uncovered several shortcomings, leaving not just NUS but also other local universities with much work to do.


As public consternation grew over how the culprit, chemical engineering student Nicholas Lim, 23, was let off with a one-semester suspension, NUS vice-provost (student life) Florence Ling explained that the university had a "two strikes and you're out" policy.

"For first-time offenders, because we are an educational institution, we want to give the students a chance," she said. "Student offenders who appear before the Board of Discipline for the first time are given a range of punishments, but not immediate expulsion."

Many have since questioned if this policy is too lenient for someone who has committed a sexual offence. Mr Lim's act of voyeurism falls under the Penal Code's Section 509, and carries a jail term of up to one year, or a fine, or both.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung criticised the punishment meted out by NUS as "manifestly inadequate", and said the two-strikes stance "cannot be the standard application".

The policy, which NUS staff and students were not aware of, is not found in the university's code of student conduct. NUS has also not answered queries on who suggested that there be such a policy and when it was put in place. But from a look at NUS' Board of Discipline cases over the last three years, the policy applied each time, regardless of whether it involved sexual misconduct or serious cases of plagiarism and cheating.

Observers told The Sunday Times that such a policy cannot be applied in the same way across offences of different severity.

Said Mr Zainal Sapari, an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC: "I believe the disciplinary board should distinguish between minor and major offences in adopting the 'second strike and you're out' policy to ensure a balance in helping victims get justice and find closure, and at the same time exercising some compassion so as not to destroy the future of the young offender."

Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, said: "(The two-strikes approach) works for offences like petty theft, and yes, everybody deserves a second chance, but in cases when a victim is scarred for life or a long time, the punishment must be a deterrent."

Many NUS undergraduates also felt that a suspension for a single semester, a ban from entering Eusoff Hall where the offence took place and mandatory counselling were a "slap on the wrist" for Mr Lim, who also had to write a letter of apology to Ms Baey.

Business student Liyana Hashim, 22, said: "Weighing all the emotional and psychological consequences on the victim, I feel the current punishment is not enough."

She lives on campus and tries to shower earlier in the day rather than at night for fear of her safety, as she has heard of several incidents involving Peeping Toms.

Still, taking a tougher stand does not equate to expulsion.

Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan said: "Zero tolerance can and should co-exist with rehabilitation. We should not trade one off against the other."

Ms Anisha Joseph, head of the Sexual Assault Care Centre at the Association of Women for Action and Research, said other options could include probation, listing the offence in the culprit's permanent university record, and no-contact conditions to protect the victim from having to meet her assailant.

Each sexual misconduct case needs to be dealt with thoughtfully. "Justice looks different to different survivors, just as the same punishment can have a different effect on different perpetrators," she said.

The make-up of the universities' disciplinary boards also ought to be relooked, said Nominated MP Walter Theseira. He said it is not clear that the faculty members and student representatives who sit on these boards have undergone training to make decisions that impact both the victim's and perpetrator's lives.

"The board acts like a judge, but unlike the police and the court system, this is not their job on a day-to-day basis," he said. "If you want these board members to play a role in delivering justice, this whole process must be thought about more seriously."


Helping victims of sexual offences to recover from trauma means recognising their emotions and not leaving them in the dark. This is another area where NUS has failed, said counsellors and psychologists.

Like Ms Baey, several current and former undergraduates who have been victims of sexual harassment said they were given little to no support from their universities.

At Thursday's town hall held by NUS to address students' concerns, Ms Baey shared how NUS left her to deal with the police alone.

Follow-ups with university staff were done over the phone instead of face to face, and the communications and new media student said she was provided with "incomplete information".

"I was kept in the dark during most of the time of the investigation, and I had no clue how many stages there were during this process, what the stages were or how long it would take for the Board of Discipline to get back to me about my case," she said. She also revealed that the board decided on Mr Lim's punishment before she sent a letter on the impact the incident had left on her.

A student who had previously sat on a Board of Discipline at NUS admitted that the victim is "barely heard" in the disciplinary process.

"The board does not usually summon victims to speak, and members would at most read the statement of the victim as recorded by the Office of Campus Security (OCS)," he said. "But the board would read the defendant's statement recorded by OCS as well as letters of remorse, of recommendation from employers and internship companies, good testimonials from counsellors and so on - all on behalf of the defendant."


Ms Jessie Koh, head of Reach's Counselling Services, said that the needs of the victims must be addressed first.

"Every victim wants her emotions to be attended to," she said. "It's not about asking the victim how the offender should be punished, but it's basic courtesy to give updates on why certain decisions are made. She may disagree, but having a conversation allows her to understand the actions of the board and address her frustrations."

Ms Anisha said: "The experience of sexual assault often renders a survivor feeling powerless and out of control, so it can help in her recovery to be granted at least some level of involvement in the investigation and resolution."

Dr Sudha Nair, founder of the Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Violence, added that university staff also need to be trained to deal with sexual offence cases. "Not anyone can handle this - you need to send the right people to deal with people who are highly emotional and traumatised. It's not just about being a listening ear; it's how you make a person feel supported and how you can provide the right resources."

NUS said last week that immediate action will be taken to set up a victim support unit.


Another issue that was brought up in the recent town hall was the lack of transparency in the disciplinary process, and how cases are not publicised and so fail to serve as a deterrent. Even the "two strikes and you're out" policy came as a shock to many.

Jalan Besar GRC MP Denise Phua, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said: "There should be a more consistent and transparent framework by which punishments are meted; and explicit communications to let all students know what behaviours are unacceptable and how offenders are punished."

And what is the Education Ministry's role when it comes to campus discipline? A ministry spokesman told The Sunday Times that MOE provides universities with policy guidance and advice.

At the same time, universities are "autonomous entities which develop and implement their own campus and student policies, including disciplinary frameworks".

All the autonomous universities (AUs) are currently reviewing their disciplinary processes for offences that affect campus safety to ensure that they are "sufficiently robust and the disciplinary actions serve as effective deterrents", she said.

"The AUs and their boards are taking this very seriously."

Prof Tan said that while there should be minimum and mandatory requirements across universities' disciplinary frameworks, MOE should not be prescriptive.

"AUs should have the liberty to evolve their own systems to cater to their specific needs, contexts and requirements," he said. And while there is room for improvement, "we should not get ahead of ourselves and jump to the conclusion that the problem of sexual misconduct is deep-seated and rampant".

Still, what is worrying is the seemingly callous attitude towards sexual harassment, whether it is on the part of university authorities, faculty or the student community.

"Many reputable universities abroad have tripped very badly in dealing with sexual misconduct despite having processes in place. It boils down to how they are used," said Prof Tan. "Too often, it's the fear of bad publicity, backlash from alumni and donors, and a chauvinistic attitude to the point of trivialising the misconduct that have led to one too many hush-ups."

Moving forward, observers said that universities need to go back to the drawing board and take time to understand why and how the problem of sexual misconduct exists.

Said Dr Nair: "The system has not addressed the issue adequately, but it's pointless blaming anyone. Monica has broken the silence and this is the start of recovery... Students and faculty need to be level-headed and think of solutions so that there won't be more victims.

"The university is home for many students, who spend three to four years there. There must be conversations about how they want their home to be safer."

Sexual offences in an age of technology
By Jolene Ang, The Sunday Times, 28 Apr 2019

When Mr Nicholas Lim recorded a video of a girl showering, he too was captured on video by a surveillance camera.

As a result, a warning message was sent out on WhatsApp to residents of Eusoff Hall.

When the victim, Ms Monica Baey, felt there was nothing else she could do, she turned to social media to share her trauma.

It was also a way she could tell the people in her life - her family and her friends in the National University of Singapore - what he did, "so they can be wary and be on the lookout for people like him, so this will never happen to them", she said in an exclusive interview with The Straits Times last week.

Technology has abetted such crimes, though it has also helped as a recourse for victims.

Ms Anisha Joseph, head of the Sexual Assault Care Centre at the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), said technology has "dramatically changed" voyeurism.

"The Internet, smartphones and social media allow voyeurs not just to spy on their victims but also to record footage and, more importantly, disseminate it practically instantaneously," she added.

"Because of this, voyeurism has become more dangerous and potentially damaging to victims."

Police figures show that from January to June last year, there were 832 reported cases of outrage of modesty. There were 1,561 cases the year before and 1,282 in 2016. There are no further breakdowns of these figures.

Mr Josephus Tan, founder of Invictus Law Corporation, said: "In the last decade, with the proliferation of technology and prevalence of social media platforms, you see Section 509 taking a different slant." Section 509 of the Penal Code criminalises words or gestures intended to "insult the modesty" of women.

But Mr Joe Chan, head of Reach Youth Services, said: "The phone is just a tool. At the end of the day, it goes back to addressing character and values. Besides instilling regulations and discipline, educational institutions need to start with teaching values.

"They need to focus on raising awareness of how to treat one another as human beings with respect."

5 NUS students jailed for sexual offences in past 3 academic years
Police reveal figures, reiterate prosecution of 1st-time offenders is based on several factors
The Straits Times, 29 Apr 2019

Five students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) were jailed for sexual offences during the academic years from 2015/16 to 2017/18, and given jail terms of between 10 days and eight months.

The police revealed this yesterday in a statement to clarify figures reported in The Straits Times.

Last Friday, ST executive sub-editor Toh Yong Chuan and senior correspondent Tan Ee Lyn wrote columns on the case of NUS student Monica Baey, who recently made public her experiences after being filmed by a male student while she was taking a shower at a hall of residence last year.

Ms Baey, 23, felt that the perpetrator, fellow student Nicholas Lim, 23, had been let off too lightly and that NUS did not do enough to help her overcome the trauma of what happened.

Mr Lim was given a 12-month conditional warning after the case was reported to the police, and other penalties imposed by NUS, including suspension for a semester.

Mr Toh’s commentary was titled How an undergrad challenged NUS’ policy on sexual misconduct, and Ms Tan’s was Monica Baey was my student and I’m proud of her”.

Based on information available on NUS’ students’ portal, the two commentaries reported that 26 cases of sexual offences were brought before the NUS Board of Discipline, which determines violations under NUS’ policies and code of conduct, during the academic years from 2015/16 to 2017/18.

Ms Tan also wrote that 16 of these cases were reported to the police.

Both writers further reported that only two of these perpetrators were jailed, and many were given conditional warnings or supervised probation of between 12 and 24 months.

Clarifying the figures yesterday, the police said there were in fact 25 cases – not 26 – of sexual offences brought before the NUS board during the years in question.

“One of the cases was double-counted,” they said.

Of these 25 cases, the victims in 17 – not 16 – cases reported the incidents to the police.

The police, in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers, prosecuted the accused in nine of these 17 cases in court. The accused in the seven other cases were given conditional warnings, and one case is under investigation.

Out of the nine cases prosecuted in court, five – and not two – resulted in jail terms of between 10 days and eight months, the police said.

Three accused were given supervised probation, and one given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal. “The sentences, including supervised probation, were decided by the courts,” the police said.

The police also noted that Ms Tan’s article had said there were 13 “repeat offenders” out of the 26 – which should be 25 – cases. She had used the term to refer to students who had committed multiple acts of sexual misconduct.

The police said: “In fact, based on police records, there was only one repeat offender, and he was prosecuted in court. A repeat offender is someone who had previously committed a similar offence in police’s records, or re-offended during the course of investigations or prosecution.”

The police also pointed out that Mr Toh had noted there were 53 convictions for first-time offenders who pleaded guilty to the charge of insulting the modesty of women in the past four years, and 38 of them were jailed, with an average sentence of five weeks.

“He compared the punishment of Mr Nicholas Lim with the 38 who were jailed, and implied that Mr Lim was let off lightly,” said the police.

They said that “as would be obvious from the NUS cases, in three years, nine were charged, seven were not”.

“Mr Toh, while referring to the 53 convictions, will obviously not have the details of the cases where the accused was not charged. It will not be accurate to take the cases where the accused was charged (as a matter of statistics) and compare it with a person who was not charged,” the police said.

“Mr Lim’s case will have to be compared with cases where the accused was not charged.”

The police also referred to a statement they made last Tuesday, where they said that whether a first-time offender is prosecuted for the offence of insulting modesty depends on various factors, as does the decision to charge an individual with most other offences.

Factors taken into consideration by the police include the age of the accused, the number of victims, the likelihood of re-offending/rehabilitation, and the extent of remorse shown.

“Where other relevant factors are involved, for example, a prior criminal record, premeditation to evade detection, and circulation of recorded videos/images, there will usually be a prosecution.”

They added: “Our criminal justice system seeks to temper punishment and deterrence with giving offenders a chance to reform, based on assessment of all relevant factors.”

*  Parliament: 56 sexual misconduct cases handled by unis in past 3 academic years
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung calls for varsities' disciplinary processes to be stringent but fair; two-thirds of cases related to voyeurism
By Amelia Teng, Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 7 May 2019

In the past three academic years, the six local universities handled 56 cases of sexual misconduct involving students, 14 of which were off campus.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung disclosed this yesterday in Parliament, as he made a call for universities' disciplinary processes to be "stringent but fair" and highlighted the need to tackle the growing concern of voyeurism in Singapore.

"We need to better balance the objectives of deterrence and redress for the victims against the rehabilitation of the offender. (This) is important for an education institution, but it should not end up with penalties that are too soft and too lenient," he said.

Giving a breakdown of the 56 cases, Mr Ong said 17 took place in academic year 2015, 18 in academic year 2016 and 21 in academic year 2017. Two-thirds of the cases were related to voyeurism, referring to Peeping Tom incidents and filming of people in vulnerable positions.

Mr Ong said there is "no discernible trend" of late relating to sexual misconduct by undergraduates. The rate has hovered around 0.2 student perpetrator per 1,000 students in the last three academic years, he added.

His comments come in the wake of a public outcry over how the National University of Singapore (NUS) handled a case of sexual voyeurism. Ms Monica Baey, 23, took to social media recently to express her frustration over the punishment given to fellow student Nicholas Lim, also 23, for filming her showering in Eusoff Hall.

The NUS disciplinary board had suspended him for a semester, banned him from entering all hostels, and made him write an apology letter to Ms Baey and undergo mandatory counselling.

Yesterday, Mr Ong said 25 of the 56 cases were from NUS and two from Yale-NUS College, which has its own disciplinary board.

Twenty cases were from Nanyang Technological University, and six from Singapore Management University. The Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore Institute of Technology and Singapore University of Social Sciences each had one case.

He also disclosed that of the 56 cases, the victims in 37 cases made police reports. Four of these cases are under investigation, and there was insufficient evidence to make out offences in two of them.

Of the remaining 31 cases, 10 resulted in jail terms of between 10 days and eight months. Mr Ong said these were serious offences, involving outrage of modesty or multiple instances of voyeurism.

Separately, the universities also carry out their own disciplinary hearings and mete out a mix of penalties, ranging from an official reprimand, which is reflected in a student's educational record, to suspension and expulsion.

Of the 56 cases, five await hearings while four students quit the university before sanctions were imposed, he added.

Of the remaining 47 cases, 34 received an official reprimand, 26 were suspended for up to two school terms and 20 were banned from entering students' dormitories. Cases typically receive a combination of penalties, said Mr Ong.

He noted that of the 10 police cases that led to jail sentences, there was only one expulsion. This was later reduced to an 18-month suspension after the offender filed an appeal and the board took into account his psychiatric condition.

The universities will strengthen their penalties, Mr Ong said. "Two strikes and you're out" cannot be applied across the board, he added, but neither should expulsion be the default for all forms of misconduct.

"We must ensure that potential offenders know the severe consequences of their actions, including the impact on their future," he said. But offenders who are truly remorseful and have served their punishment deserve a chance to make good.

Yesterday, MPs like Ms Cheryl Chan (Fengshan) and Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) asked if the Ministry of Education (MOE) would have taken action if the NUS debacle had not come to light.

Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC), Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC), Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera and Nominated MP Anthea Ong asked about common discipline standards, hostel arrangements and security across universities.

In response, Mr Ong said the autonomous universities (AUs) have their own boards and "govern themselves in a fairly independent way separate from MOE".

But he said MOE will work with the universities - not by issuing rules or regulations - but through discussions on adequate penalties.

"Of course we wish that there was a realisation that this is a serious offence. Voyeurism is a rising concern. But... today, after this incident, I believe the AUs are all very aware and I'm confident they will do something swift and decisive."

Unis to beef up security, offer better support for sexual offence victims
By Amelia Teng, Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 7 May 2019

Local universities will step up security on their campuses to address new threats and improve support for victims of sexual misconduct, said Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah yesterday.

The Singapore University of Social Sciences, for example, is working with the police to tackle voyeurism, by training its security staff to inspect toilet cubicles or ceilings for miniature cameras that can be illegally installed.

In her reply to MPs, who had asked how universities and schools are combating sexual harassment, Ms Indranee outlined the broad areas the institutes of higher learning (IHLs) are reviewing, such as victim support and educating students on respect.

She said educational institutions have full-time counsellors to support victims, and a larger group of staff trained as para-counsellors.

She added: "Our IHLs will look to strengthen these provisions, taking the victim's entire journey in mind.

"The support must extend beyond counselling, and begin at the point that the victim first reaches out for help."

Acknowledging that the recent National University of Singapore "showering" case has exposed shortcomings, Ms Indranee said the university has set up a victim care unit.

A good support system must create psychological safety for victims, guide them through the processes involved in the management of their case, and update them on investigations, she added.

For more severe cases like sexual assault, IHLs need to call for external professional help where needed, she said.

Society must take a "collective stand against sexual misconduct in a modern age", she said, urging the universities to educate students on respect and what constitutes harm and violation.

"At its core, this issue is about respect for others," Ms Indranee said, noting that some mistakenly think voyeurism and verbal harassment are not serious as there is no physical contact with the victim.

"Technology has also amplified the potential for harm arising from sexual misconduct," she said.

Just as the Penal Code is being updated to deal with sex crimes enabled by technology, the same has to be done for processes at educational institutions, she added.

Parliament: No 'free passes' for sexual misconduct offenders, says Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam
By Jolene Ang, The Straits Times, 7 May 2019

There are no "free passes" for perpetrators of sexual misconduct, even if they are university students, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

In Parliament yesterday, he said the police take a balanced approach towards cases, noting: "Some have been prosecuted depending on the facts, others have been given a second chance, and there are no 'free passes' to university students, or anyone else."

He also explained how the police and Attorney-General's Chambers approach cases, pointing out situations where there is no leniency and where there may be.

Mr Shanmugam was responding to Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) and Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera, who asked, among other things, about the outcomes of the reports made to the police on campus sexual misconduct and the factors considered in the decisions.

The issue came under the spotlight following criticism of the way the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the police handled a case in which undergraduate Monica Baey, 23, was filmed in the shower at Eusoff Hall by fellow student Nicholas Lim, also 23.

Mr Shanmugam said that in the past three academic years, starting from 2015/16, the six autonomous universities received 56 reports of sexual misconduct by students.

Police reports were made by the victims in 37 cases; of these, there was insufficient evidence to make out offences in two, and investigations are ongoing in another four.

Of the remaining 31 police cases, 16 were prosecuted in court; conditional warnings were given in another 13 cases, meaning that if the offender commits another crime during a stipulated period, he will be charged with both the later and earlier offences; and stern warnings given in the last two.

One man had been given a conditional warning for voyeurism committed in 2015, but reoffended in 2017. He was taken to court for both offences, sentenced to eight months in jail and fined $2,000, Mr Shanmugam said.

The minister said protection of the victim was a vital component of the process, noting: "The criminal legal framework must deal with the offender in a way that ensures the specific victim's safety, deal with the specific offender, and deter other would-be offenders."

He said that when a woman's privacy is violated, follow-up actions must ensure she is treated with dignity and respect, with her concerns addressed and support given to her.

He also said no leniency would be shown in certain cases, such as if the offender masked his face, covered closed-circuit TV cameras or used other means to evade detection.

Mr Shanmugam emphasised that a conditional warning does bear weight. On the NUS case involving Mr Lim, he said: "I should point out that Mr Lim is on thin ice, with his conditional warning... A conditional warning has been an effective deterrent for perpetrators who have had good propensity to reform."

**  NUS students who are victims of sexual misconduct can approach newly set-up unit on campus
Victim Care Unit has 5 care officers who will interact with any student seeking assistance
By Amelia Teng, Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 30 Aug 2019

A new unit dedicated to supporting National University of Singapore (NUS) students who are victims of sexual misconduct is now up and running.

NUS provost Ho Teck Hua announced the opening of the Victim Care Unit in a circular to students yesterday.

The unit - the first of its kind in a local university here - is headed by Associate Professor Sandy Lim of NUS Business School. She has done research in the area of disrespectful or uncivil behaviour, including sexual misconduct.

Prior to her academic career, Prof Lim was a field psychologist at the Ministry of Defence and has experience providing psychological support to agencies during crises and national emergencies.

The unit was set up after a female undergraduate in April made public on Instagram her unhappiness with how NUS dealt with an incident of her being filmed by a fellow student in a shower at Eusoff Hall.

The posting sparked discussion on how sexual misconduct should be handled in institutions of higher learning.

Various organisations, including the Association of Women for Action and Research and several universities overseas, were consulted in the process of setting up the unit.

In his e-mail to students, Professor Ho said: "(The Victim Care Unit) offers a safe space for victims to seek support from a team of trained professionals who are experienced in working with victims of sexual misconduct."

The unit has five staff, or care officers, who will interact with any student who seeks help, as well as administrative and research staff.

For a start, the team will be working on a survey of the university's student population to better understand how prevalent sexual misconduct is at NUS, and to find out how often cases go unreported.

Prof Lim, in an article posted on the university's website yesterday, said: "Relying on just statistics from campus security or the police is usually not very accurate, as these are just the reported cases.

"We are here to give (victims) a helping hand, so that they have someone to talk to in a safe environment, and to help them along in the recovery process.

"As long as they are students of NUS, they can come to us for support, regardless of who the perpetrators are or where the incidents happened."

The incidents can have happened off campus, in another country or in the past. Students will continue to receive help after they graduate, if necessary.

The care officers were chosen for their experience in helping victims from multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, identities and orientations.

They also have experience as counsellors and working with the police.

Victims can contact the unit via a 24-hour hotline, a confidential online contact form or e-mail.

They will then be connected to the care officers, who will work with them to identify pressing needs and resources.

If needed, the care officers will liaise with other units or agencies on their behalf, including referring them to counsellors.

The Victim Care Unit's website is at

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