NUS prof sacked for sexual misconduct against student
University's inquiry found he 'had failed to act with propriety, respect, and decorum' with the student
A top professor from the National University of Singapore (NUS) was dismissed yesterday for sexual misconduct, the university said in a statement.
Professor Theodore G. Hopf, 61, was dismissed by NUS after he was found to have sexually harassed a student in "physical, verbal and written forms", the university said.
This is the second time in two months the university has had to sack a faculty member over allegations of sexual misconduct involving students.
There was also a third incident recently involving a professor and a staff member.
In the latest case, the university began an investigation into the former provost chair professor of the department of political science in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) after an anonymous complaint against him in August.
The investigation found that earlier that month, Prof Hopf, an American, had met with a student on campus and allegedly offered and drank alcohol with the student.
He then made an offensive remark about certain parts of the student's anatomy.
He also allegedly pulled the student forcefully towards him twice, during which the student resisted, moved back and told him to stop.
While Prof Hopf admitted to placing his hands on the shoulders of the student while facing the student, he denied pulling the student towards him.
A Committee of Inquiry (COI) that was appointed on Oct 7, however, found the student's account of the unwelcome physical contact to be credible.
The COI also found that Prof Hopf had sent the student a sex text in October 2018.
While he claimed the message was meant for someone else, the COI found that he did not clearly inform the student as such and did not apologise.
Prof Hopf later told CNA the message was meant for his wife.
The COI concluded its inquiry on Nov 18 and determined that Prof Hopf "had failed to act with propriety, respect, and decorum in relation to the student", and that his conduct was a serious breach of the NUS staff code of conduct.
"Given the serious nature of the offences, NUS dismissed Prof Hopf on Dec 1," the university said.
It also sent e-mails to staff, students and alumni about the incident on the day of Prof Hopf's dismissal, citing its commitment to "openness and transparency" in the communication of sexual misconduct cases.
It declined to reveal any information on the student, including the gender.
Prior to dismissing Prof Hopf, NUS lodged a police report against him last Friday after informing the student that the university would do so in line with its legal obligations.
Police investigations are ongoing.
NUS also said its Victim Care Unit and FASS have been providing care and support to the student since the allegations were first brought to its attention.
NUS had previously come under fire for its handling of former Tembusu College fellow Jeremy Fernando, who was sacked on Oct 7 following allegations of sexual misconduct made against him by two students.
Then, women's rights group Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) had questioned NUS' decision to file a police report when the alleged victims had decided not to.
Aware's executive director Corinna Lim told The New Paper yesterday that speaking to the alleged victim before making a police report this time around could signal a new approach for the university.
She also acknowledged the fact that the university communicated the information to the NUS community in a timely manner and put interim measures in place while the investigations were being conducted, such as a no-contact order issued on Sept 15 prohibiting Prof Hopf from contacting any NUS student.
Prof Hopf was later suspended and told to stay off campus while investigations were ongoing.
Recent NUS cases
- In October, NUS sacked Dr Jeremy Fernando, a professor at Tembusu College, over allegations of sexual misconduct. Two students alleged that he made non-consensual advances towards them, and
Dr Fernando was sacked after internal investigations found he had an intimate association with an undergraduate.
Police investigations are ongoing.
- Last month, NUS determined that former East Asian Institute (EAI) director Zheng Yongnian had behaved inappropriately with a subordinate by hugging her without consent during a work meeting in May 2018. The finding was made after investigations by a Committee of Inquiry.
Professor Zheng stepped down as EAI director in June. He has maintained his innocence and said his resignation had nothing to do with the allegations.