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A Master's student of Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) was accused of harassment by students in his university class following an incident where he "made a joke" directed at a female classmate.
In response, he has filed a police report against them.
The 34-year-old man is currently studying at NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, pursuing a Master of Media and Communication (MMC) degree.
Accused of following female students to bus stop, claims to be on the same route home
James* (not his real name) wrote to Mothership and recounted the incident, which took place on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14).
He said that students in a Media and Leadership class had just carried out a presentation, and were giving out Hershey's Kisses chocolate.
According to James, he had joked about wanting a "kiss" from Tricia* (not her real name), one of the female students presenting.
Although he said he was referring to the chocolate itself, James claimed that Tricia "did not like the joke as it puts her [under the] spotlight in class".
In his email to Mothership, he wrote:
"So, I made a joke in class about wanting a Kiss (The chocolate) from one of the girls presenting ... Because she did not like the joke as it puts her on the spotlight in class, she decided to complain about me to Professor Ang Peng Hwa, our class Professor, that the joke was 'out of context' and a harassment (when it was actually just a joke)."
James added that Tricia, along with other female students, also accused him of following them to the bus stop "all the time".
He said in his email to Mothership that these are "false allegations" about him.
In his defence, James stated that he has to take the same bus (Bus 179) from the same bus stop as the female students, followed by MRT from Pioneer MRT station every night to get to his hostel which is located in Queenstown.
He added that he had simply talked to his male friends who were with the female students at the time.
"Just so you know, I have to take the same bus (Bus 179 in NTU) at the same bus stop with them all the time at the NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication building and have to take the same MRT Station (Pioneer MRT) every night because I am an international student from Malaysia and I live in [XXX] in Queenstown and there is completely NOTHING WRONG to strike up a conversation with ANY of my classmates on the way with me."
"Unless freedom of speech and freedom of movement is a crime in Singapore, I don't see how striking up conversations with friends on the same route home (especially your classmates) at the Bus Stop and MRT platform and in the MRT is considered a crime or harassment."
Student body emails school about incident
A day after receiving James' email, Mothership received another tipoff from another MMC student in relation to this incident.
The student attached a screenshot of an email from the MMC student body sent to the school.
The email stated that the incident on Feb. 14 "caught a lot of us by surprise", and the students had collectively decided to "raise [their] concerns" to the school's management after witnessing the incident.
Additionally, several female students found James' behaviour "unsettling", the email wrote.
The email claimed that James had allegedly asked another student for their address and whereabouts "on a regular basis".
Another female student was allegedly approached by James and asked whether she wanted to hang out alone with him at his hostel.
The students hoped that the school would "have a conversation" with James and give the matter its "due consideration".
Professor tells student to stop behaviour
Ang Peng Hwa, the Director of NTU MMC, was informed about the incident.
This prompted Ang to email James, where he said the joke about the "kiss" was "out of line", especially with the context that James had allegedly followed Tricia and other girls to the bus stop.
Ang ordered James to stop his behaviour by:
- Not following female students "in a manner that creates discomfort".
- Not communicating with/talking to female students "in a manner that makes them uncomfortable".
"If they tell you to back off, back off. Singapore has an anti-stalking law...When in doubt, be more conservative in your approach." he advised in an email dated on Feb. 15, 3:50pm.
The professor added that should there be further complaints against James, the university would be forced to "escalate the matter", which could lead to the convening of a disciplinary inquiry committee, expulsion, and the filing of a police report.
Here's a screenshot of the email from Ang, as shared by James:
Filed police report
In his email to Mothership, James described the behaviour of Ang and the female students as "totally delusional".
He claimed that the group was out to pick on him and that he was bullied.
He has since filed a police report against his classmates and Ang.
He wrote in his email to Mothership:
"These girls and my professor are totally delusional and think that they are better than everyone else so they pick and bully Malaysians like me by making False Allegations about me. I am pressing charges on them and I want to see all of them EXPELLED from NTU and be sent to JAIL! I believe I have the right to be on that bus stop just like everybody else."
The police confirmed with Mothership that a report was lodged and they are looking into the matter
In response to Mothership's queries, a spokesperson from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information said it has set up an inquiry committee to look into the allegations.
Here is its full statement:
"The School takes allegations of harassment and misconduct very seriously, and will not hesitate to take action in response to students' complaints. The School has set up an inquiry committee to look into the allegations from all sides, and is offering pastoral support to the affected students."
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