SINGAPORE — Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has investigated a case involving a male undergraduate, who was in the running to become the university’s Students’ Union president, after a female student’s complaint that he manipulated her to drink alcohol until she passed out in his dormitory room.
The complaint did not allege any form of sexual misconduct, and no evidence of sexual misconduct “as alleged in some social media posts” were found as well, the university said in response to TODAY’s queries on Monday (Sept 25).
NTU has since extended well-being support to the students involved and has also counselled the male student, it said.
In a written response to TODAY, the female student said that she had not received any well-being support for this particular incident, although she has received such support for other personal health issues.
In an interview with the student-run news website Soapbox.sg, the female student claimed that the subject of her complaint, fourth-year business undergraduate Ethan Ong, had given her cups of alcohol to drink when she had asked for water during a drinking session at his dorm in October last year.
She told TODAY that she was already “drunk” at this point, as Mr Ong had given her more alcohol before her request. This led to her “drinking more than others without (her) knowledge”, as well as her inability later to differentiate between water and the alcohol she was drinking.
“I was the only person he gave that many cups of alcohol to previously, which caused the drunk state,” she claimed.
Both the female student and Mr Ong were committee members of the NTU Students’ Union at the time. Four other union members were also present during the session, which was held after a committee meeting.
The student claimed that she blacked out in Mr Ong’s dormitory room after that, and only learned about what happened a week later from the other union members.
NTU said that the incident was first reported to the students’ union, which had taken the “necessary action in line with its disciplinary procedures” last year.
A complaint was filed to the university earlier this month, stating that Mr Ong had caused the female student to drink more alcohol than she had intended by telling her that it was water, NTU added, though it did not identify the students involved.
The university then “immediately” investigated the complaint, which was in line with its student discipline policy and procedures, it said.
Both Mr Ong and the female student were interviewed during the investigations, as well as the four eyewitnesses who were present at the social gathering.
“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.”
The university stated that it was concerned by some online comments and urged people to refrain from making “speculative and unsubstantiated allegations”.
STUDENT STOOD FOR UNION PRESIDENCY
Online chatter about the incident began after Mr Ong became the sole candidate running for the union’s presidency this year, after having served as its vice-president of policy in the past academic year.
On online forum Reddit, for example, some users said that Mr Ong’s alleged actions were akin to sexual misconduct, while others accused the students’ union of trying to shield him.
The alleged victim was also reported by Soapbox.sg as saying that she was unhappy with how the union had dealt with the matter and felt that Mr Ong should not continue to run for the union’s presidency.
Responding to these posts, the students’ union said last Saturday in a statement on Instagram that it had meted out “a five-week suspension from union duties” on Mr Ong after its own internal investigation last year, and that his “eventual reinstatement (into the students’ union) was agreed upon by all parties involved”.
“To date, there are no other ongoing disciplinary proceedings being taken against the executive committee member concerned,” the student body said.
It added that “more severe assertions about misconduct of a different nature are unsubstantiated”.
Mr Ong stood for the union’s presidency election on Sunday but was not elected. He then decided not to run for by-elections for other positions in the union.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to remove the name of the female student.