Wits says harassment policy under review

Johannesburg - Witwatersrand University (Wits) expressed concern on Tuesday over reports that a lecturer was under investigation for sexual harassment.

The Wits Senate, the university's highest decision-making body, said in a statement that important questions were being raised regarding processes for addressing the problem.

"In higher education, it is imperative to the success of the academic project that students feel safe to explore, experiment, create, and innovate," Senate chairperson Loyiso Nongxa said in a statement.

"Integral to fostering such a context is ensuring a lecturer-student relationship that is based on trust, integrity, and respect."

Any violations of those principles had no place at Wits. The university was against sexual harassment of any kind.

"We believe that the learning environment at Wits is a safe space for students and are committed to ensuring that the culture and mechanisms required to foster this are put in place."

Allegations had to be taken seriously and investigated.

An environment where people could raise concerns might lead to an apparent increase in reports, but ultimately a safer environment, which Wits believed would be a positive outcome.

"The current Wits sexual harassment policy is under review. We support strengthening this policy to ensure that issues are dealt with immediately, openly and with due process.

"This problem cannot be resolved by denying or hiding incidences of sexual harassment."

Wits said the contract of a lecturer had been brought to an end after past accusations of sexual harassment came to light, and the lecturer had failed to disclose the accusations to the university.

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