Minister of State for Education, Sun Xueling, has spoken out on how the National University of Singapore (NUS) has handled the recent sexual misconduct allegations made against former Tembusu College fellow Jeremy Fernando.
On Oct. 7, NUS fired Fernando, a non-residential teaching staff of the college, amid sexual misconduct allegations and after NUS' investigations.
Sun Xueling: MOE to work closely with IHL leaderships to ensure campus safety
In a Facebook post on Oct. 24 evening, Sun said that the Ministry of Education (MOE) will be following up with NUS on how the university can better ensure the safety of students on the campus.
More broadly, Sun said that the ministry will work together with all Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) to tighten processes so as to ensure campus safety at all times.
Sun questioned whether university leaders can do more to prevent such incidents from happening again.
Sun also said, "there must be zero-tolerance in our campuses for any form of sexual misconduct, harassment or violence."
NUS Dean of Students: NUS's approach to victims and perpetrator indicates zero-tolerance for sexual misconduct
In response, NUS Dean of Students Leong Ching said that NUS' approach - immediate suspension and dismissal of staff - indicated a zero tolerance for sexual misconduct.
Fernando was suspended from duty and prohibited from contacting any student or staff from the university on Aug 31, three days after NUS first received a complaint about him.
In a comment made on Sun's post in the same evening, Leong clarified that the university could have handled the issue better, especially in the timeliness in which they communicated to the students on this case involving Fernando.
Leong reiterated that the university should have informed the students earlier and the communication was "less than timely".
Although Fernando was sacked on Oct 7., news about his dismissal became public more than ten days later.
The point about NUS' "less than timely" communication was also what Leong had said during a press conference held on Oct. 23, citing the need for a culture shift from one that is "conservative" and erring on the side of caution, to one that "commits itself to timely, accurate, respectful communication"
Leong said in the comment that what has fallen short was not the aproach that NUS has taken which is to provide immediate support to the affected students first, followed by an immediate suspension for Fernando and a dismissal after investigations, all in just over a month.
"With respect Minister, this is what zero tolerance looks like," Leong said.
Here's her full reply:
Top image via Sun Xueling's Facebook and via NUS