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SINGAPORE: A faculty member at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has been sacked after “inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour” towards a student, said the university on Thursday (Apr 28). 

Several reports have identified the faculty member in question as former associate professor Ethan Putterman, with the university’s political science department. 

In response to CNA’s queries about Mr Putterman’s identity and alleged misconduct, a spokesperson for NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) said it received a complaint regarding allegations of misconduct by a faculty member towards a student. 

NUS did not confirm Mr Putterman’s identity or provide details about his alleged misconduct. 

Upon receiving the complaint, NUS issued the staff member with a no-contact order to prohibit interaction with the student, the spokesperson said. 

“The staff was also suspended from work while investigations were carried out.” 

A committee of inquiry determined that the staff member’s actions “constituted inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour towards the student”, and broke the code of conduct for NUS staff, said the spokesperson. 

Based on these findings, and “in view of the serious nature of the misconduct” the staff member’s employment with NUS has been terminated, the spokesperson added. 

A police report has also been filed and police investigations are ongoing, said the NUS FASS spokesperson. 

“All staff are expected to adhere to the code of conduct for NUS staff and hold themselves up to high standards of professional and personal conduct. Staff who contravene the code of conduct will face disciplinary sanctions which may include dismissal for serious breaches.” 

In 2020, two NUS professors – Dr Jeremy Fernando and Professor Theodore G Hopf – were sacked after internal investigations following investigations into allegations of inappropriate behaviour and sexual misconduct. 

Dr Fernando, a professor at Tembusu College, had an “intimate association” with an undergraduate and was dismissed in October 2020. Prof Hopf, who was also part of the department of political science, was dismissed in December 2020 after investigations found that he had sexually harassed a student in physical, verbal and written forms. 

A third, Professor Zheng Yongnian, who was formerly with the university’s East Asian Institute, left the university before investigations concluded. NUS eventually found that he had acted inappropriately in a professional setting by hugging a colleague without her consent

Another research employee at NUS was sacked after two students reported that they were sexually harassed by the staff member. The report was made on Mar 25, 2021 and investigations concluded on Apr 7, 2021. 

The staff member admitted to touching the student’s knees and making inappropriate remarks, said the university in an August 2021 report on complaints of sexual misconduct made available on the university’s website.