Wits has set up a campus-wide inquiry in response to allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, most recently against a senior drama lecturer.
The inquiry will assess existing policies and procedures to prevent instances of sexual harassment and is set to conclude in August 2013, the university said in a statement.
It will be led by Centre of Applied Legal Studies head Prof Bonita Meyersfeld and Joe Mathibe, from an outside law firm.
The investigation will also look at whether there are ‘quid pro quo’ relationships at Wits and whether staff and students are aware of sexual harassment procedures.
“It will also look at whether the process of addressing incidents of sexual harassment at the university … is fair, robust and sensitive,” read the statement.
The Sunday Times reported last weekend that senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu was suspended after being accused of being a “sex pest” who sexually assaulted students.
Following the report, the School of Arts, which includes Drama, held forums on Monday and Tuesday to discuss sexual harassment and sexual assault within their department.
“The forum held on Monday was about hearing what the students had to say. The heads of school explained the incident reported by the Sunday Times but they didn’t name him,” said third year Drama student Cait Morris.
“But they were defensive about it and not taking responsibility,” she added.
According to Morris, the Monday forum was a “very emotional. One of the people who spoke was among the first to report him [wa Mamatu]”.
Morris said that one of the first questions that were asked was whether the head of department knew about the allegations against wa Mamatu.
“Head of Arts department Kennedy Chinyowa answered the question. But he did not give us a yes or no. Only later in the meeting did he admit that there had been suspicions,” said Morris.
Morris said that the forum on Tuesday was much better because the students felt they were more involved in finding a solution to sexual harassment in their department.
SRC member Pearl Pillay, who was present at the meeting, said: “The Tuesday forum was about looking for a way forward together, as staff members and students. What students think needs to be done so something like this does not happen again. “
She said problem areas were identified and students came up with solutions.
The heads of departments said they would take the suggestions, present them to the rest of the staff members and then get back to the students.