Four cases of sexual harassment in Faculty of Humanities are among those that are the subject of an university-wide inquiry by the law firm of Bowman Gilfillan.
“There are a number of cases being investigated by Bowman, four cases in the Faculty of Humanities,” Prof Libby Meintjes, head of the School of Literature Language and Media.
The inquiry follows allegations of sexual harassment against Wits staff members including suspended senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu, former head of the political studies department Prof Rupert Taylor and former head of the media studies department Dr Last Moyo.
Meintjes emphasised that Moyo was on “special leave” and not “suspension”. “Dr Moyo has been placed on special leave with no access to the campus pending the investigation,” she said. [pullquote align=”right”]“Students, feel free to speak out openly, without fear.”[/pullquote]
She said Moyo has not been suspended, as there have not been enough formal complaints made.
Director of employee relations Elaine Milton told Wits Vuvuzela it is better for a staff member who is the subject of an investigation to be off campus while such an investigation is taking place.
Milton said proceedings were at a “very delicate stage” and she could not disclose the names of staff members involved as this will prejudice the investigation.
She said that “special leave” is a leave of absence without the loss of benefits or remuneration in order for the university to be able to conduct an investigation in an “unfettered” and an unhindered” manner.
Milton added that Taylor, who stepped down as head of the political studies department last year following sexual harassment allegations, has not been formally placed on special leave.
Meintjes stressed that students should not fear to come forward with complaints about sexual harassment. “If they take [their complaints] to the correct sources, to the correct persons, there will be no backlash,” she said.“Students, feel free to speak out openly, without fear.”
Dr Mehita Iqani, acting head of the department of media studies, said: “There is a lack of trust in the institution. I don’t think anyone should HAVE TO work in an environment where there is a sense of fear…Students need to know that if they have a complaint against staff confidentiality will be absolutely protected.”
University Registrar Kirti Menon said the university is hoping to receive feedback from the Bowman Gilfillan attorneys by the end of next week.
Meintjes said: “We are hoping it will be concluded very soon.”
“I don’t think we’ve heard the end of this.”
While the investigation into the sexual harassment allegations is being conducted, a separate inquiry into the university’s procedures for the reporting of sexual harassment is also taking place.
The vice chancellor’s office has asked Norton Rose Attorneys and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at the university to conduct the inquiry into the university’s policies and mechanisms dealing with sexual harassment. This inquiry is expected to be concluded by August.
- Wits Vuvuzela, 11 March 2013: New lecturer in sexual harassment allegations
- Wits Vuvuzela, 22 March 2013: SLLM engages students on sexual harassment
- Wits Vuvuzela, 15 March 2013: Media Studies tackles sexual harassment
- Wits Vuvuzela, 13 March 2013: SLLM announces sexual harassment committee
- Wits Vuvuzela, 11 March 2013: Campus-wide inquiry into sexual harassment
- News24 SAPA, 8 April 2013: Wits sexual harassment claims probed
- News24 SAPA, 5 March 2013: Wits fire lecturer over harassment
- News24 SAPA, 5 March 2013: Wits says harassment policy under review
- TimesLive SAPA, 7 March 2013:Wits university undertakes sexual harassment inquiry