National University of Singapore professor sacked for sexual misconduct against student

Professor Theodore G. Hopf, the provost chair professor at the department of political science in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, had sexually harassed a student. - SCREENGRAB FROM FASS.NUS.EDU

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN): A top professor from the National University of Singapore (NUS) was dismissed on Tuesday (Dec 1) for sexual misconduct, the university said in a statement.

Professor Theodore G. Hopf, the provost chair professor at the department of political science in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), “had sexually harassed the student in physical, verbal and written forms", it added.

In the statement listing the sequence of events and a summary of key findings, NUS said an anonymous complaint was sent to the university in August this year and investigations began immediately.

After interviews with the student and Prof Hopf, a No-Contact Order was issued to the professor on Sept 15, prohibiting him from contacting any NUS student.

The 61-year-old American was later suspended and told to stay off campus while investigations were ongoing.

A Committee of Inquiry (COI) was appointed on Oct 7. It interviewed the student, who was accompanied by a care officer from the NUS Victim Care Unit (VCU), on Oct 21.

As Prof Hopf needed to seek treatment for a serious medical condition, the COI interviewed him on Nov 13 after his medical leave, NUS said.

The COI submitted its inquiry report to the university on Nov 18.

NUS made a police report on Nov 27, after informing the student that it would do so in line with its legal obligations.

“Given the serious nature of the offences, NUS dismissed Prof Hopf on Dec 1, ” said the university.

It declined to reveal any information on the student to protect the identity of the person.

The NUS statement said that during Prof Hopf’s meeting with the student on campus in August this year, he allegedly offered and drank alcohol with the student, and also made an offensive remark about certain parts of the student’s anatomy.

He later admitted to making the remark.

The COI found that the consumption of alcohol in the workplace and the act of making an offensive remark went against the code of conduct for staff relating to expectations of professional behaviour.

During the same meeting, Prof Hopf pulled the student forcefully towards him twice, during which the latter resisted, moved back and told him to stop.

Prof Hopf admitted to placing his hands on the shoulders of the student while facing the student, but denied pulling the student towards him.

The COI “found the student’s account of the unwelcome physical contact to be credible” and that the acts also went against the code of conduct for staff.

In October 2018, Prof Hopf had also sent a sex-text message to the student. He admitted to sending the message but explained to the COI that it was meant for someone else.

As Prof Hopf did not clearly inform the student that the message was meant for someone else, and he also did not apologise for sending it by mistake, the COI established that this was a serious professional misconduct.

“Prof Hopf had failed to act with propriety, respect, and decorum in relation to the student. The COI also found that Prof Hopf, who was in a position of authority, had sexually harassed the student in physical, verbal and written forms. The COI concluded that his conduct was a serious breach of the NUS Staff Code of Conduct, ” said the committee.

NUS added: “The VCU and FASS have been providing care and support to the student since the allegations were first brought to the University’s attention, and will continue to do so.”

The university reiterated it expects high standards of conduct from staff members.

“There are strict guidelines pertaining to personal and professional conduct. In particular, the university has zero-tolerance for sexual misconduct by staff. Disciplinary sanctions are imposed for every infraction, including dismissal for a staff offender for serious breaches.”

Prof Hopf had previously served on the faculties of Ohio State University, Ohio University and the University of Michigan.

He had also sat on boards including NUS’ Asia Research Institute management board.

He has authored a number of books, including 'Reconstructing the Cold War: The Early Years, 1945-1958'. - The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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