MOE to follow up with NUS, other varsities on students' safety after dismissal of Tembusu fellow over sexual misconduct allegations

SINGAPORE – The Education Ministry is following up with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and other universities to ensure the safety of students, after the dismissal of former Tembusu College fellow Dr Jeremy Fernando amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

In a Facebook post on Saturday night (Oct 24), Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling said that the university leadership has been asked what more can be done to prevent such instances from happening in the future.

“At the end of the day, our institutes of higher learning (IHL) have a duty of care to their students. There must be zero-tolerance in our campuses for any form of sexual misconduct, harassment or violence,” she wrote.

Dr Fernando was sacked from NUS on Oct 7 after internal investigations found that he “had an intimate association” with an undergraduate – a serious breach of its code of conduct for staff, NUS said last Wednesday.

Two students had alleged that Dr Fernando made non-consensual advances towards them, and the university said that it had made a police report, “given the seriousness of the allegations”.

Ms Sun said: “The issues around this case lead us to question: How can we better guard against educators and other individuals who cross the line, and how can we collectively strengthen campus safety?”

She added that the MOE will continue working closely with all IHLs to tighten processes where needed and to ensure the safety of the student community at all times.

Responding to the Facebook post in a comment, NUS dean of students Leong Ching clarified that when she admitted that the university could have handled the issue better during a media conference on Friday, she referred to the “less-than-timely communication” of the university’s decision.

“I do not refer to our response to the complaint, which was first, to provide immediate support and care to the students involved; second to immediately suspend and then summarily dismiss the staff, all in just over a month. I believe that this was the most expeditious possible, while keeping to due process.

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“With respect, minister, this is what zero tolerance looks like,” wrote Associate Professor Leong.

Investigations are ongoing.

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