Ex-NTU student leader apologises for alcohol-related incident involving female junior
A former student leader at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) who was embroiled in an “alcohol-related incident” in 2022 has apologised, saying there was a “lack of judgment” in his actions.
This follows NTU’s recent conclusion of its probe into the matter involving Mr Ethan Ong, who has since been counselled by the university.
The incident had resurfaced in recent days because the fourth-year Nanyang Business School student was a candidate in the student union’s council elections on Sunday. The polls were held to elect the union’s executive committee for the 2023-2024 academic year.
However, Mr Ong, who had also served as an office holder in the NTU Students’ Union (NTUSU) in the previous academic year, failed to secure a sufficient number of votes to win a seat on the new executive committee. The 24-year-old then withdrew from the contest.
He had previously been suspended from his role by the student union for five weeks because of the incident.
In response to queries from The Straits Times, NTU said on Monday it takes all allegations of misconduct “very seriously”.
In September this year, a complaint was filed with the university about an “alcohol-related incident”, NTU said. The complaint had alleged “that the respondent had caused the complainant to drink more alcohol than she had intended by telling her that it was water”. The university then launched a probe into the matter.
The incident took place in October 2022 and was reported to the student union then, not to the university, it added.
NTU said six students who were present at the “social gathering” where the incident took place were interviewed during its investigation.
It added: “At no time during the gathering was the complainant alone with the respondent. There was no allegation or assertion by the complainant or any of the witnesses that the respondent had tried to do anything so that he could be alone with the respondent.”
Mr Ong told ST on Monday that he apologises to “all affected parties”.
He said: “I sincerely regret this incident and the impact it might have on other members at the gathering.
“However, I firmly disagree with any characterisation or actions taken online which suggest that I had any intention to deceive another individual. My actions were not motivated by any malice, but rather a lack of judgment in a situation where better discretion should have prevailed.”
Speaking to ST, the woman, who wants to be known only as L, said she is glad that she told NTU about what happened last year.
“It led to the just outcome of the election, which showed me that people want accountable and safe leaders,” said the 20-year-old.
Addressing the doxxing which she has been subjected to after a student-run online publication named her in an article, she said she was “quite upset” initially.
“But I’m quite encouraged by how netizens are standing up, not just for me, but for other girls who are going through the same thing as well,” she said.
“I think this is the kind of situation where girls don’t want to step up because they get victim-blamed by people around them.”
NTU said support was offered to “students connected with the incident”.
A representative from the student union told ST on Monday that following the incident on Oct 15, its disciplinary committee launched an internal investigation on Oct 17.
The union representative said: “NTUSU’s five-week suspension followed an internal investigation into the alleged individual’s behaviour at the incident, which did not meet the professional standards of conduct that it expects of its Executive Committee.”
The union representative said the accused was not barred from running in this year’s council elections because disciplinary investigation proceedings by the university had concluded, “which decided that there would be no further disciplinary sanctions for the alleged individual beyond being counselled by the school”.
Following reports of the incident on social media platforms and alternative news sites, NTU urged netizens to refrain from making “speculative and unsubstantiated allegations” online.