Incoming Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib has acknowledged the university needs “a new paradigm” for pursuing perpetrators of sexual harassment, he said in an interview with the Vuvuzela.
“The difficulty has therefore been sustaining the case against these individuals. I understand the difficulties of doing so. But this has been a challenge,” said Habib.
“Clearly we need a new paradigm for addressing these violations.”
Referring to students’ reluctance of coming forward, Habib said he understands the difficulties of doing so, but that this has been a challenge for the university.
Habib, who will be taking over as acting vice chancellor in May, shared his thoughts on the sexual harassment scandal that has invaded the Wits campus.
He told Vuvuzela via email on Wednesday that, “The University definitely has to throw the full force of the law at anyone who has been found to be guilty of sexual harassment.”
When asked about the difficulties in addressing sexual harassment within Wits, Habib said it was crucial for the university to create an environment where students feel safe to report and charge anyone who has violated their rights.
“If we cannot create a safe and enabling learning environment, then we have failed in our primary function at the university” he said.
“Clearly we need a new paradigm for addressing these violations,” he said.
Habib added that he hopes the new sexual harassment policy will be able to address this.
He is currently away in the United States with incumbent Vice Chancellor Loyiso Nongxa.
Habib said that while they were in being away in the US with the current VC, Prof Loyisa Nongxa. IN their absence, he has asked senior female university officials to meet with students.
“The VCO [vice-chancellor’s office] has asked its senior women executives to host a meeting with students to hear their challenges in this regard, and what else we can do as an institution.”
He also said that if needed he and Nongxa will host another meeting with women students and staff, upon their return.
“In the meantime, the senate is in the process of making a statement condemning lecturers who have been involved in this.
“What is imperative is that the safety of our learning environment must be enhanced, as must the trust relationships between our academics and our students,” Habib concluded.