The National University of Singapore (NUS) revealed on Sunday (18 October) that it has sacked a lecturer who taught at Tembusu College in the university following an internal investigation.
A spokesman of NUS was quoted in an article by TODAY stating that Dr Jeremy Fernando was found to have “fallen short of the standards of professionalism that the university expects of a teaching staff”.
It appears that NUS started its investigations after it received two complaints highlighting that Dr Fernando had behaved “inappropriately” as a lecturer. However, the university did not divulge any details of the complaints or findings of the investigations as staff matters are internal and confidential, it added.
“The university is providing support and assistance to those affected by this matter,” the spokesman said.
For those who are unaware, Tembusu College is a residential programme by NUS, where the students live and study together under the same roof.
The NUS spokesman also revealed that the fired Dr Fernando was a non-residential teaching staff.
Associate Professor Kelvin Pang of the university noted that an internal memo from the college was sent to all the students on Sunday by Tembusu College Master.
The memo stated that there has been student speculation about Dr Fernando’s departure.
“Please know that your safety and well-being is, and always have been, at the heart of what we do,” said Assoc Prof Pang.
He added, “If any of you have further questions, please reach out directly to me, and if any of you need support, please reach out to a residential fellow or any member of the residential team. We will be there for you”.
According to Dr Fernando’s online resume, it appears that he has been a literature lecturer and fellow at the college since September 2011, and has even taught at other schools in NTU.
Although the university did not provide details of the complaints, a report by The Straits Times revealed the details of what the lecturer allegedly did to the two undergraduate victims. Both of them did not want to be named.
The first victim, a student in the residential college, said that Dr Fernando started making his advances since October 2019 and it only stopped during the circuit breaker period this year.
She said that the lecturer apparently made non-consensual sexual advances, like kissing and groping her, as well as performed oral sex while she was drunk.
“Throughout these months, he made increasingly informal contact that grew in intensity and frequency. He also sent many gifts to my house even after I requested him to stop. He pressured me into various sexual acts and discouraged me from telling my friends,” she said.
As for the second victim, she said that Dr Fernando first approached her during online classes this year and privately messaged her on Zoom. A week later, they met another male students for drinks and went back to her apartment.
She alleged that while they were there, the lecturer tried to touch her and kissed her when the male student left to the toilet. After she pulled away, he told her to keep this as a secret and if she refuses to do so, he would lose his job.
Both the female victims did not report the matter to the police but instead told the college at the beginning of this semester. They did so in the hope that others would not go through the same ordeal.
Commenting on Dr Fernando’s dismissal, the victims said that they were disappointed with the lack of communication and statement of clarification from NUS to the students. They added that the university only did so after the issue surfaced on social media.
Past incidents at NUS
This is not the first time NUS has come under scrutiny for sexual misconduct cases. In April 2019, Monica Baey, a third-year NUS communications and new media undergraduate, took to Instagram to reveal that she was secretly filmed showering at Eusoff Hall in November 2018.
According to Ms Baey, the perpetrator, whom she noted was an engineering student, had to only write an apology letter to her, was suspended from school for a semester and had to undergo mandotary counselling.
The university later added that the case was being investigated by the police and the man was given a 12-month conditional warning by the authorities.
Ms Baey then took to her Instragram account to call out to NUS for trying to protect the male student after he conducted such a horrible act.
In a different case in October 2019, a senior lecturer from NUS was sentenced to 14 weeks’ jail after he molested an undergraduate on board a campus shuttle bus.