More than a month before the University releases the findings of a commission into widespread sexual harassment incidents, Campus Control (CC) officers are undergoing intensive training on how to handle any issues.
Since last Thursday, the 150-plus staff members of the University’s security arm are receiving training from the Career Counselling and Development Unit (CCDU) aimed at arming officers with greater knowledge and sensitivity about sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment officer at the CCDU, Maria Wanyane, told Wits Vuvuzela that the seminars would take an “interactive approach” to the training, rather than lapsing into “lecture mode”.[pullquote]“The training will be influenced by what people bring to the seminars. It’s a learning opportunity for everyone. We want to pose the issue of sexual harassment to the officers in a wider context, working on what they tell us and slowly building on that,” [/pullquote]“The training will be influenced by what people bring to the seminars. It’s a learning opportunity for everyone. We want to pose the issue of sexual harassment to the officers in a wider context, working on what they tell us and slowly building on that,” Wanyane said.
Campus Control officers will also be educated about Wits’ harassment policy (currently in the last phase of revision), what procedures to follow, and what kind of language to use when a student comes forward to report an incident.
Measures to address the ability of Campus Control to deal with sexual harassment came after a series of articles by Wits Vuvuzela earlier this year.
The training also aims to empower officers enough to be able to identify sexual harassment in the workplace, and to report it if they themselves are victims.
Wanyane said that a “mind shift” needed to happen at the University as a whole if sexual harassment was going to be dealt with effectively.
“We will be asking the officers to talk about myths they have about sexual harassment and challenging those myths,” she said.
The training is recognition by the University of the importance that awareness plays in tackling sexual harassment; however it does need to extend beyond Campus Control.
For now, CCDU is struggling to convince lecturers and heads of schools to work with the unit to arrange awareness talks and programmes for students, as well as for the lecturers themselves.
Wanyane alone is responsible for coordinating the process of dealing with sexual harassment complaints from students, only being assisted by staff psychologists with counselling.
Recent incidents have shown the magnitude of the sexual harassment problem and the amount of work that still needs to done.