NUS staff ‘disappointed’ with probe against former director who hugged without consent

At left, a National University of Singapore sign at Kent Ridge Crescent; screengrab of Zheng Yongnian in a 2019 video. Photos: Ivan Varghese/Google Maps, Qingdao Multinationals Summit/YouTube
At left, a National University of Singapore sign at Kent Ridge Crescent; screengrab of Zheng Yongnian in a 2019 video. Photos: Ivan Varghese/Google Maps, Qingdao Multinationals Summit/YouTube

A staff member from the National University of Singapore’s East Asian Institute said she is unsatisfied with the outcome of the school’s review, which revealed that its former director had confessed to behaving inappropriately with her.

Chinese research professor Zheng Yongnian, who resigned in September, has admitted to hugging a staff member identified only as “Charlotte” on Twitter without her consent in investigations concluded yesterday. Charlotte had accused him of sexual harassment in August and is now claiming that the school had ignored her statements during the probe and that there are other victims involved.

“I am so sorry to say that I’m disappointed with NUS’s investigation. During the long investigation period, I have submitted all evidences [sic] to NUS investigation committee. But the committee fully buys Zheng Yongnian’s saying with an absence of any factual support, simply ignored my statement,” she tweeted yesterday.

“All leaked victims’ identities were from Zheng Yongnian. But NUS does not want to deal with this at all,” she added. The school’s latest statement released yesterday did not contain information about other possible victims.

She also said that the school is “trying to blur the boundaries” of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior and that what she experienced was not considered inappropriate behavior but is “illegal.”

The five-page update of NUS’ investigations stated that Zheng only admitted to hugging Charlotte without consent after a meeting in May of 2018 but denied other allegations of putting his hands on her shoulder and head, or touching her back while taking a group photo, or patting or touching her buttocks, which the school said could not be “established conclusively.”

“After due consideration of the [Committee of Inquiry’s] report, the University has determined that Prof Zheng, who held a supervisory role in EAI, had given a fellow staff member a hug without her consent during a work meeting, and this behaviour was inappropriate in a professional setting,” the school said. 

Charlotte had filed a police report against Zheng exactly a year after the incident which had him arrested for Outrage of Modesty. The police, who consulted with the Attorney-General’s Chambers, then gave him a stern warning this April.

Zheng was suspended and worked from home for the entire duration of the investigations. Both parties were issued No-Contact letters refraining contact from one another. The school informed them of their findings on Monday and said they will continue to provide Charlotte with assistance and support.

Attempts to reach NUS, Charlotte, and Zheng were unsuccessful as of publication time.

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