The majority of tertiary students are in favour of tougher punishments for sexual offences committed on campus, a poll by The New Paper shows.
This issue became a hot topic after National University of Singapore (NUS) student Monica Baey, 23, complained that a male student who filmed her showering without her consent at student residence Eusoff Hall last November had been inadequately punished.
The police issued the culprit a 12-month conditional warning, while NUS suspended him for a semester, banned him from entering all on-campus housing, ordered him to undergo mandatory counselling and to apologise to Miss Baey.
Fifty students, comprising an equal number of men and women, were asked whether they felt the punishments meted out by the police and NUS were adequate and to give their reasons.
Thirty-four of them, split equally between men and women, felt the police warning was inadequate.
Thirty-four - 18 men and 16 women - felt the NUS punishment was inadequate.
Among them, 28 students felt both punishments were inadequate, with 12 others feeling either the NUS penalties or the police warning was inadequate.
This means 40 of the 50 students felt at least one of the punishments was inadequate.
The nearly equal number of men and women who felt the same way also indicates there is no gender gap.
SHOW OF REMORSE
A fourth-year sociology student in NUS took issue with how the police had assessed the offender before issuing him the warning.
The police said on Tuesday that their decision not to prosecute the offender was based on his strong likelihood of rehabilitation and show of remorse, among other factors.
The 24-year-old female student said: "There is little transparency in how they had assessed the situation to come to that conclusion.
"Furthermore, being remorseful does not excuse anyone from the consequences of their actions, and it's not a good enough reason to excuse them from actual punishment."
But a first-year male student from Nanyang Technological University said: "I feel the warning given by the police after the offender showed remorse is okay as it is a lesson for him, a chance to improve himself and reflect on what he had done."
Other students were critical of NUS' handling of the case.
Ms Dora Oh, 20, a first-year student at the National Institute of Education, said that NUS' policy of "second strike and you are out" for sexual misconduct cases was inadequate.
She was referring to a comment by NUS Vice-Provost (student life) Florence Ling on Monday that the school gives first-time offenders a chance and does not expel them.
Ms Oh said: "The offence is serious and done with intent. It should have been handled more seriously.
"His actions had affected another person and the punishments didn't seem to consider Monica Baey's concerns."
Mr Darrill Chan, 19, a third-year Music and Technology student in Singapore Polytechnic, said: "Increasing the suspension to a full year would have given the offender time to reflect on his actions. It would also have served as a stern warning to all students."
A fourth-year female student from NUS said its punishment was sufficient as "rehabilitation is more equitable than punishment, especially when he has shown remorse".
POLL QUESTION 1
According to NUS' Student Union, the perpetrator received the following punishment from the school:
- One semester's suspension
- Ban from entering all on-campus housing premises
- Mandatory counselling sessions at the University Health Centre
- Community-based sanctions of 30 hours of supervised community service
- Mandatory rehabilitation and reconciliation sessions with a social worker
- Writing a mandatory letter of apology
- Official letter of reprimand
Was this adequate?
NO 72 per cent of men 64 per cent of women
YES 28 per cent of men 36 per cent of women
POLL QUESTION 2
The police said the perpetrator had shown remorse and a high likelihood of rehabilitation, among other factors, so they decided to give him a warning instead of prosecuting him.
Was the police punishment of a 12-month conditional warning adequate?
NO 68 per cent of men 68 per cent of women
YES 32 per cent of men 32 per cent of women
This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.