SINGAPORE — Mr Ethan Ong, a male undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) who faced allegations that he had manipulated a female student into drinking alcohol during a social gathering, has claimed that he offered her alcoholic drinks at her “continued requests”.
In a statement on Monday (Sept 25) evening to TODAY, he added that he had said the alcoholic drinks were plain water so as to appease both the female student and another union leader who had advised that water be given to the female student seeing her intoxicated state.
“There was no malicious intent on my part, at any point,” Mr Ong said, as he apologised for his “lack of judgement” in the incident.
Earlier on Monday, NTU said in a statement that it has looked into a complaint filed by the female student of the incident between the two committee members of the NTU Students’ Union.
The female student claimed that Mr Ong had manipulated her to drink alcohol until she passed out in his dormitory room and that she only learned about what happened a week later from the other union members.
She told a student-run news website Soapbox.sg that Mr 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 on Monday 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.
She also claimed that she was the only person “he gave that many cups of alcohol”, which caused her to get drunk.
Mr Ong, a fourth-year business undergraduate, told TODAY that he had offered his hall of residence as a venue for an informal “get-together” as a group with five other members of the students’ union following a committee retreat that month.
Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages were served at the event, according to the attendees’ preferences, he said.
He then claimed that the female student had asked for more alcoholic drinks on numerous occasions although she became “progressively more high”.
A senior leader in the room then advised that water be offered to her instead.
“Given the lively atmosphere of the evening and at the team member’s continued requests, stating that she is okay, I had acceded to her and offered her alcoholic drinks two to three more times, and had said that it was plain water to the senior leader and the team member, thinking that it would appease both parties,” Mr Ong said.
The group continued to chat as the evening progressed, while the female student fell asleep with two female executive members watching and sitting beside her directly, he added.
“There was no contact by me or anyone else,” he said.
“When she threw up at one point, all of us helped her. When she regained sobriety, we collectively ensured that she got back to her hall safely.”
Mr Ong stated: “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.”
Mr Ong said that he had fully co-operated with the disciplinary committee of the students’ union and gave his full account of the events, which later led to a one-month suspension of duties by the union.
He also said that he was later reinstated for duties, as approved by every executive committee member.
An investigation by an NTU committee of inquiry earlier this month had found no allegations or findings of sexual misconduct whatsoever, and no further disciplinary actions were taken, Mr Ong said, adding that he was verbally counselled by the university to be careful in future similar settings.
“I recognise I am on a learning journey and the most significant lesson I have gained from this experience is the importance of maintaining professionalism and responsibility as a leader, even in informal social settings.
“My actions were not motivated by any malice, but rather a lack of judgement in a situation where better discretion should have prevailed. I would like to offer my apologies to all affected parties.”