YOU MAY have heard that a senior member of Wits’ academic staff was accused of sexually harassing his colleagues. I have not commented on this matter until now because the matter was the subject of an internal disciplinary hearing.
Late last year, a complaint was received by the Gender Equity Office (GEO), and was subsequently investigated, in line with the University’s policies and processes related to Gender Based Harm (GBH). An independent investigation was undertaken and the staff member was found guilty of misconduct on the grounds of sexual harassment in respect of three complainants.
The independent panel further found the misconduct to be a dismissible offence, and the outcome was presented to me today. In line with the University’s policies and processes, I have informed the individual concerned that he has been dismissed.
The University established the Gender Equity Office about five years ago to deal firmly and categorically with sexual harassment. We believe that this is an example of where the University has moved swiftly within the parameters of the law to address GBH on our campuses. The University does not tolerate any form of GBH and as a public institution we are determined to eliminate GBH.
Again, I would like to make it very clear that the University will not tolerate any form of sexual harassment or GBH. We have revised our policies, instituted several programmes and conscientised the University community to speak out and act against GBH.
The GEO’s mandate and strong commitment to prevent harassment and to eradicate gender-based discrimination in the University remains. I urge members of the University community to work with the GEO to establish a University environment that is free from sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.
Anyone who experiences or witnesses any gender based harm is encouraged to report such incidents to the GEO immediately for support and/or advice.
Professor Adam Habib
Vice-Chancellor and Principal.
1 February 2017