Former director at NUS breached code of conduct by hugging colleague
University's internal review concludes that former director of the East Asian Institute behaved inappropriately by hugging subordinate
A former director of the East Asian Institute (EAI) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) acted inappropriately towards another staff member by hugging her against her will.
She lodged a police report against Professor Zheng Yongnian in May last year, and the police issued him a stern warning in April this year.
He was suspended from May 20 last year and required to work from home, staying off campus while under investigation.
The woman alleged that on May 8, 2018, Prof Zheng put his hands on her shoulder and head during a meeting in his office.
He denied any such contact, and the Committee of Inquiry (COI) convened by NUS was unable to verify this due to a lack of evidence.
On May 30, 2018, he allegedly hugged her and patted her buttocks during another meeting in his office. Prof Zheng, 58, admitted hugging her in his room after the meeting but denied patting or touching her buttocks.
The COI was unable to verify if he touched or patted her buttocks due to a lack of evidence.
In October 2018, Prof Zheng allegedly held onto the staff member's back while taking a group photo. He denied this, and the COI was unable to verify this due to a lack of evidence.
Yesterday, NUS issued a statement saying its own internal investigations following the allegations last year were complete.
The COI concluded it was inappropriate for Prof Zheng, a senior colleague in a supervisory role, to hug a junior colleague without consent at a professional meeting.
It established that he had breached the NUS code of conduct for staff.
Claims that Prof Zheng sexually harassed staff appeared on social media in August this year, prompting him to issue a statement through his lawyers on Sept 4 denying all allegations.
He said at the time that he was also considering his legal options.
In its statement yesterday, NUS said the appropriate sanction for his breach would have been a written warning.
But Prof Zheng left the university in September and is understood to have joined the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen.
"As Prof Zheng is no longer a staff of NUS, the university will instead place on its staff records the outcome of the internal review," said the statement.
"NUS and EAI have been extending assistance to the affected EAI staff member since she had first raised this matter, and we will continue to provide her with the support she needs."