Sexual misconduct

Published Date: 02 November 2020 09:00 PM

News Parliamentary Replies

NAME AND CONSTITUENCY OF MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

Ms He Ting Ru, Sengkang GRC

QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Education (a) how is the Ministry supervising the institutes of higher learning on their progress on fighting sexual misconduct or violence on campus; (b) whether the Ministry will consider regular reports on sexual misconduct or violence on campus; and (c) whether there is currently training being carried out for educators in Singapore on proper conduct with students.

RESPONSE

1. The questions raised by Ms He Ting Ru follows the recent media coverage of the case involving a former teaching staff at the National University of Singapore (NUS) who was dismissed for being in an intimate relationship with an undergraduate, which is a clear contravention of NUS's Code of Conduct for staff. Given the undergraduate's allegations of sexual misconduct against the individual, a Police report was made and the investigation is underway.

2. The Autonomous Universities (AUs) and other Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), including our Polytechnics and ITEs, have a duty of care to their students and staff, which includes providing a safe environment for teaching and learning. MOE has been working closely with the IHLs to review and step up their efforts to tackle the issue of sexual misconduct holistically. The IHLs have enhanced efforts in four key areas:

  1. First, they have enhanced their education efforts for students and staff to educate them on respect and appropriate behaviour. These include student briefings during orientation, online modules, face-to-face workshops, and regular outreach to build awareness.
  2. Second, they have enhanced campus infrastructure, including expanding CCTV camera coverage and increasing the frequency of security patrols.
  3. Third, they have strengthened support for victims, including enhancing training for first responders and enhancing counselling services.
  4. Fourth, they have significantly strengthened their student disciplinary frameworks to impose tougher penalties for sexual misconduct.

3. The IHLs are committed to ensuring campus safety, and will continue to regularly review and enhance their processes and measures, in consultation with their students and staff.

TRAINING FOR EDUCATORS ON PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT

4. Ms He has asked about training for educators on proper conduct with students.

5. At the IHLs, all faculty and staff are expected to uphold their institutions' respective Codes of Conduct and regulations at all times. These Codes cover expected behaviours on- and off-campus, including respect for the rule of law and for others, and personal, professional and academic integrity.

6. As outlined in these Codes, staff must keep their relationship with students strictly professional. This is necessary to safeguard the integrity of the relationship between educators and students in support of the education mission, and ensures that staff do not place themselves in a position of conflict of interest. Staff are briefed, and reminded of these periodically.

TRANSPARENCY IN COMMUNICATIONS

7. Where allegations of serious misconduct are made, the IHLs will immediately require the accused individual to stay away from campus temporarily, if they assess that the alleged offender may pose a danger to any member of their community. If the case involves a student or staff from the same institution, the IHLs may also impose a No-Contact Order to ensure that the alleged offender is prohibited from contacting or being in the vicinity of the party making the allegations.

8. Ms He asked about regular reports of sexual misconduct on campus. A Police report is typically made for allegations of serious misconduct, and where the alleged offender is proven and charged in court, this will be a matter of public record.

9. Separately, the IHLs also conduct their own internal investigations to determine if the alleged offender has breached their Code of Conduct. Those who do so are subject to disciplinary sanctions, including possible suspension or expulsion of students, or dismissal of staff. MOE also monitors the trend of sexual misconduct cases involving IHL staff and students, and the IHLs are required to provide the necessary information.

10. In the course of addressing allegations, MOE expects institutions to be open and timely in their communications, while taking into consideration the facts of the case, the need to ensure the safety of their communities and safeguard the well-being and privacy of victims and other members of the community who are directly affected, and the need to ensure that Police investigations are not impacted.

11. MOE will continue to work closely with the IHLs to ensure that the well-being and safety of students and staff on campus are protected.

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