NUS peeping tom case: More than 30,000 sign petitions, Ong Ye Kung calls punishment 'manifestly inadequate'
'Two strikes and you are out' cannot be the standard practice, says Education Minister Ong Ye Kung
The penalties imposed by the National University of Singapore (NUS) in its recent peeping Tom case were "manifestly inadequate", Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung said yesterday.
He said in a Facebook post last night he had spoken to the NUS president and board chairman to convey his concerns on sexual misconduct cases.
He added: "From here on, for offences that affect the safety of students on campus, we have to take a tough stand, and send a strong signal to everyone.
"Two strikes and you are out cannot be the standard application. NUS has to make its campus safe for all students, especially female students.
"NUS will review its discipline and sentencing framework swiftly and decisively."
He has also asked other universities to review their frameworks for similar offences.
This issue was sparked by NUS student Monica Baey, 23, who voiced her grievance on Instagram over how a fellow student had been dealt with after he was caught filming her in the shower last November.
The third-year communications and new media student said she knew the perpetrator, whom she named as Nicholas Lim, a chemical engineering student and boyfriend of one of her friends, a Eusoff Hall resident.
He was given a 12-month conditional warning by the police.
He was also suspended by NUS for a semester, counselled, banned from entering all campus accommodation, asked to do 30 hours of community service and attend rehabilitation sessions, issued an official letter of reprimand, and told to write a letter of apology to Miss Baey.
She later told The New Paper: "I do not feel that I am in a place to say what punishments need to be given as I am not an expert on the justice system, but I know this punishment given to my perpetrator is not sufficient.
"I want visible actions, and he should be punished seriously with real consequences so people will be deterred.
"I want NUS to be transparent and list down what penalties will be given for different sexual offences."
Since her story became public, many women have reached out to her and shared their stories, Miss Baey added.
"I initially started this because I wanted to seek justice for my case. But after that, many people have reached out to me about their own stories.
"This is now not only about me and Nicholas, but also about everyone and how we are pushing for change in how universities treat sexual misconduct."
At least two petitions have since emerged online.
The first, which calls for stiffer punishment for her perpetrator, has garnered more than 30,000 signatures.
Mr Wayne Wee, a second-year computer science student, said he started it initially to convince NUS to expel the perpetrator as a precedent for similar offences in the future.
While he recognises it would be difficult for NUS to relook the punishment on a case that has been judged, Mr Wee hopes the petition will show that "people are deeply impassioned by this incident and the need for change is real and urgent".
The second, which calls for the police to reopen her case, has more than 12,000 signatures.
A letter signed by 683 people, mostly current NUS students and alumni, was sent to NUS professors to call for a stronger stance against sexual harassment.
NUS announced last Saturday that a committee would be convened to review the current disciplinary and support frameworks in place.
Yesterday, it also said a town hall will be held on Thursday to gather feedback and concerns about sexual misconduct on campus, during which NUS will also share investigation and disciplinary procedures, and the sanctions framework for sexual misconduct.
NUS vice-provost (student life) Florence Ling told The Straits Times earlier yesterday that it has a "second strike and you are out" policy for sexual misconduct cases.
"For first time offenders, because we are an educational institution, we want to give the students a chance. Student offenders who appear before the Board of Discipline for the first time are given a range of punishments, but not immediate expulsion," she said.
In a statement last night, NUS president Professor Tan Eng Chye said the "second strike and you are out" policy for sexual misconduct offences will be part of its review.
"NUS will take a hard stand on offences that impact the safety of our students," he said.
"We must make our campus safe and supportive for all members of our community."