MUT lecturer accused of sexual harassment
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DURBAN - THE Mangosuthu University of Technology on Monday denied reports that it had protected a lecturer accused of sexual harassment by not taking action against him.
The tertiary institution maintained that it was going to conclude disciplinary action against the said lecturer.
MUT had responded to an article published in City Press on Sunday in which it was alleged that the lecturer had been found guilty of sexual harassment in 2016, and was again found guilty of the same offence last year, but remained an employee at the university.
The engineering lecturer, who was suspended, is accused of soliciting nude photographs and asking for sex from female students in exchange for good marks.
“The report is inaccurate and misleading.
“While there was a task team assigned to this investigation, their recommendation was made bearing in mind that a formal disciplinary process would be undertaken by the university,” read a MUT statement.
According to the university, the task team’s mandate was to establish whether there were grounds for MUT to institute a disciplinary hearing against the lecturer.
MUT said the disciplinary process against the lecturer in 2016 could not proceed because the witnesses were no longer available to testify against him.
“MUT, like all universities, operates within the confines of the law where a disciplinary process of this nature requires witnesses to give evidence to support their claims. Unfortunately, universities are spaces of transit, where students leave as soon as they complete their studies. It is also equally unfortunate that when it comes to rape, sexual assault and harassment, many victims choose to remain silent for fear of being stigmatised.
“The university’s stand on issues of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and gender-based violence (GBV) is unequivocal. This is the reason the university placed the lecturer on precautionary suspension as soon as the allegations were brought to our attention.”
The institution said that while the lecturer was presumed innocent until proven otherwise, he was still suspended from all university activities until the matter had been concluded.
“In addition, the university ran an aggressive sexual harassment campaign to raise awareness on sexual harassment and GBV, and encouraged staff and students to report such incidents.
“To address the continued silence among victims of crimes of a sexual nature, the university has now coined a new campaign – ‘Breaking the silence’ – and will be collaborating with prominent rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment survivors.
“The institution recognises that this case is a microcosm of the bigger rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment pandemic that South Africa faces.”
Reacting to the issue of GBV in South Africa, civil rights organisation Action Society spokesperson Elanie Van der Walt felt that the government had a complete lack of resolve to fight the scourge.
“The government is complicit in gender-based violence and this again goes to show that their incompetence and lack of political will causes further destruction to the lives of thousands of women and children in the country.”