Even as Dr. Jeremy Fernando, ex-Tembusu College lecturer has been embroiled in a scandal that resulted in his dismissal on October 7, he had previously written about student-teacher relations on his website.
In an undated article, the second from the latest published entitled, “In defense of lost causes; on teaching, or to sir with love…,” Jeremy Fernando explored the 2014 Singapore sex-for-grades scandal, inadvertently casting light on his thoughts on teacher-student relations.
What did Dr. Jeremy Fernando say about sex-for-grades?
He dedicated the article to a friend and colleague named Yanyun Chen.
In contrast to his own case, where two students had come forward to accuse him of kissing and touching them in various situations, his article addressed at first how grades may have been inflated in the course of the relations. He then questioned the relationship of a student and a teacher, which he said was the same as asking, “What does it mean to teach alongside what does it mean to be a teacher?“
He also said that teachers should be above feelings towards their students, as he mentioned that the student testified in court that there was love involved between the pupil and the mentor. He goes further to say that because society was always shocked by how feelings can be involved in teacher-student relationships, that the fantasy of a teacher being above emotions should be maintained.
He went on to say that what was important to society when it came to teacher-student relations was the appearance that the teacher awards grades on merit and does not have emotions. Jeremy Fernando also said that, “In fact, one could even argue that the ability to do the job is almost less important than maintaining the image of spotlessness, faultlessness.”
He goes on further to describe that teaching was about love and that what can be leveled at a teacher who loves their student is unprofessionalism. In the end, he wrote, “Thus, a categorical dismissal of the potential relationality between a student and a teacher—even if this relationship extends to a sexual nature—is to make teaching a profession. Which is not just to sterilize the one who teaches—it is the devastation of the possibility of thought itself.”
NUS files police report
According to a report from Channel News Asia, the National University of Singapore filed a police report on October 7. It also published a statement after various student-lead civic groups called for transparency and accountability in handling Dr. Jeremy Fernando’s case.
You can read their statement here, where they said that they had dismissed Dr. Fernando after they conducted an investigation and found that he had violated the code of conduct for their employees.
A timeline presented in the statement said that Tembusu College received a formal complaint on August 27, and began investigations on the matter four days after. He was suspended from duty and was not allowed back on campus or to contact the complainant.
On the same day, the student who filed the complaint was interviewed. The complainant was asked if they wanted to file a police report but had declined.
On September 1, Dr. Jeremy Fernando was interviewed as well, and their initial investigation finished on September 5. Two days later, another complaint was filed.
The second complainant was interviewed on September 7, and was asked if they wanted to file a police report, which was declined.
Dr. Jeremy Fernando was interviewed as well then asked to answer the allegations in seven days. He did so on September 30, Wednesday. The college dismissed him on October 7 and told his colleages that he was making a “departure.”
The college only informed the staff and students that Dr. Fernando was dismissed on October 18.
According to the timeline, the college continues to engage students and the complainants to check on their well-being and process the events.