Following the dismissal of professor Jeremy Fernando from his position at Tembusu College in the National University of Singapore (NUS) after complaints arose of his alleged sexual misconduct, former diplomat Tommy Koh offered to resign from his position as the college’s rector last Saturday (24 October).
Responding to a Facebook comment calling for his resignation in connection to the university’s handling of Dr Fernando’s dismissal, Prof Koh said that he would send in his resignation to NUS.
However, just two hours after his initial announcement, the veteran diplomat decided to backtrack on his decision.
At around 1pm on Saturday, he responded again to the same person who posted the original comment, stating: “I am afraid that most of the people do not agree with you. I will abide by their sentiment that I should not resign. Thank you for your suggestion anyway.”
Responding to a query from TODAY, Prof Koh also said on Saturday that he was “joking” when he said that he would offer to resign.
A week earlier (18 October), NUS revealed that it has sacked Dr Fernando, 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 Fernando was found to have “fallen short of the standards of professionalism that the university expects of a teaching staff”.
Although the university did not provide details of the complaints, a report by The Straits Times disclosed the details of what the lecturer allegedly did to the two undergraduate victims. Both of them did not want to be named.
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.
Following that, Prof Koh took to his Facebook to address the issue, especially on the university’s delay in informing the students about the incident.
“The delay in informing the students and faculty of the college was wrong because the students (have) a right to be informed about the dismissal of one of their teachers before learning about it from the mainstream and social media,” he wrote on Saturday, adding that the last few weeks have been “a very difficult time” for Tembusu College.
“At yesterday’s town hall meeting with the students and the press conference, we agreed that in future NUS would be open, transparent and share information with its stakeholders in a timely manner.”
If that’s not all, Prof Koh also told journalists last Friday that NUS had “fallen short” in handling the dismissal of Dr Fernando.
In the comment section of the post, a netizen then stated: “As rector, you should resign and take responsibility.”
To this, Prof Koh replied: “I will offer my resignation to NUS.”
Just hours later, the veteran diplomat retracted his move, and thanked the netizen for his “suggestion”.
Online users react
Upon learning about Prof Koh’s move to backtrack his decision to resign from NUS, many netizens supported him and stated that he should not have to resign.
Commenting on the Facebook pages of CNA and TODAY, they said that this incident is not his fault so he should not offer to resign. One user even said that his resignation will be a “great loss to the academia”.
Others applauded Prof Koh’s accountability and sensible nature as he took the bold step to resign from his position at the university.
One user said that this is “rare with public servant”.
Some commenters also pointed out that instead of the veteran diplomat, others on the Board of Directors are the one who should have offered to resign as they were the ones who took so long to inform the students about Dr Fernando’s dismissal.
On the other end, a number of netizens slammed Prof Koh for backtracking his decision to resign just hours after saying he would do so.
They wrote that Prof Koh should have kept to his words and not embarrass himself and ruin his own reputation by going against his own words.
Others opined that someone with a status like Prof Koh should have not said he was “joking” when he announced that he will leave his position.