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Lecturer under investigation for relationship with student

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Karen Mwendera
September08/ 2017

A report accuses the pair of “inappropriate behavior” during the trip, from which “the rest of the students felt prejudiced in various ways.”

A WITS PROFESSOR from the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies is under investigation for allegedly having a romantic relationship with a student.

The alleged relationship first came to light when some students reported the matter on July 4, 2016 to the science faculty, the Gender Equity Office (GEO) and the Transformation Office. The students had noticed something amiss during a field trip between June 10 and 29 last year.

One of the students who reported the matter, but asked not to be named, told Wits Vuvuzela that, “I had also heard rumours about it [relationship]. We then spoke to her [the woman who is alleged to be in the relationship with the lecturer] casually about it because we didn’t feel comfortable,” she said.

After the alleged relationship was reported, the student said that she experienced a hostile atmosphere in the department. “He [the lecturer] was off with the class because she was there and it was extremely tense in the department,” she told Wits Vuvuzela. “I didn’t enjoy class as much as I used to, I felt scared as it was such a sticky situation.”

Head of School, Professor Fethi Ahmed would not discuss the case with Wits Vuvuzela, only saying, “The matter that you would like to discuss has been dealt with by Wits Legal Office. As the investigation is not complete. I suggest that you either wait for the outcomes/results of the investigation or speak to the investigation team [Wits Legal office],” Prof Ahmed said.

The communications office said, “The Vice-Chancellor’s Office is aware of the matter and a full investigation is currently underway. Once the investigation is concluded, the university will be in a better position to comment.”

A report was received last week by Wits Vuvuzela, alleging that the lecturer has been involved with the third-year BA general student since June 2016. That was before the university passed the Policy on Sexual and Romantic Relationships between Staff and Undergraduate and Honours Students in December 2016. The report with details – including names – about the alleged relationship, and issues of fraud in the Faculty of Science, was allegedly sent to various media houses and Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu.

The undated report was signed, “Concerned former and current staff and students of Wits University. We remain anonymous at this stage, but we will come forward and avail ourselves once an impartial legal process is commissioned.”

The report accuses the pair of “inappropriate behavior” during the trip, from which “the rest of the students felt prejudiced in various ways. On several occasions, these students were… left alone in the field for many hours while he and his girl-lover cavorted in far-away love nests”.

The report went on to allege that the student received “preferential treatment in class”. In the meantime, the accused professor is still lecturing at the university. Wits Vuvuzela has been in contact with the lecturer and his responses will be included in a follow up story.

*Click here for the follow up story.

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Karen Mwendera