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Johannesburg - Wits University has fired a political studies professor for alleged sexual harassment after accusations of making sexual advances to students via SMS and on social media networks.
While the university declined to reveal the identity of the academic, citing legal reasons, The Star was reliably informed that it was Rupert Taylor.
The university’s decision on Taylor brings to three the number of academics fired since the university launched its investigation to root out sex pests at the institution.
Other academics shown the door for various forms of sexual harassment were former senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu and former media studies senior lecturer Last Moyo.
Mamatu and Moyo were dismissed after an investigation found them guilty of sexual harassment in July.
Taylor was head of the political studies department, but stepped down last year when the sexual harassment allegations against him initially surfaced.
In April, he was placed on special leave and escorted off the campus by security officials over the alleged SMSes and messages posted on social networks.
When responding to the allegations against him at the time, Taylor released a statement to the campus newspaper, Wits Vuvuzela, saying he was “deeply upset” by the allegations and was looking to pursue legal action.
“I regard these allegations of sexual harassment against me as devoid of any truth and defamatory.
“The false allegations have resulted in very serious damage to my dignity and reputation. I am taking legal advice on my possible recourse in this regard,” he wrote.
Wits University’s vice-chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, said a fourth case was still under way.
“The university has adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment.
“We hope that the swift action taken by the university in these three cases sets a clear example that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in any form on our campuses,” he said.
Habib said he was confident that the dismissals would send a strong signal that the university would act decisively on sexual harassment matters in the future.
“The university will continue to pursue complaints relating to sexual harassment vigorously and robustly,” he said.
At a press conference on Wednesday, where findings of an internal campus-wide inquiry on the nature and scale of sexual harassment at the university were released, Habib announced that the university would set up a task team that would assist Wits in dealing with sexual harassment.
“Sexual harassment is a national problem that affects all sectors of society. The university is determined to maintain trust and confidence in the institution’s ability to provide a safe environment for all who visit, live and work at Wits,” he said.
Habib also revealed that so far the university has not been subjected to any legal action since the investigations had got under way.
Moyo’s case is before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.
The Star tried to contact Taylor on his cellphone several times on Thursday.
He also did not respond to messages left on his phone.