Rupert Taylor in Wiki wars

Controversy around the dismissal of former politics professor Rupert Taylor has continued to his Wikipedia page which has been changed more than 50 times in the past two weeks by rival editors.

Taylor was dismissed in September following an investigation into accusations of sexual harassment by Wits.

The editing, mostly by anonymous users, started in September with a simple change noting Taylor’s dismissal in what was then only a two paragraph biography.

“Professor Taylor was reportedly fired by Wits University in September 2013 for sexual harassment,” read the edit.

The next day another user substantially lengthened the biography to eight paragraphs and changed the line referring to Taylor’s dismissal.

“In 2013 Professor Taylor was, according to Wits University’s Head of Communications, put on special leave and ‘escorted off the campus’,” read the change.

Shortly thereafter, the Wiki war over Taylor’s page was in full swing with this sentenced removed only to be added again the next day. Several other changes were made, back and forth, to the page.[pullquote align=”right”]Removed links as it is misleading, all false reporting pertaining to Taylor’s case [/pullquote]

A major change was made on October 7 when Taylor’s page was changed to suggest that the professor was dismissed due to racism on the part of Wits.

The edit read: “In 2013 Professor Taylor was dismissed for ‘improper conduct’ by the historically-white Wits University for having had an affair with an African student; in a context within which that University has become increasingly ‘toxic’”.

Links to news articles on the allegations of sexual harassment were added and removed several times during the Wiki war.

Wikipedia requires that users give reason for editing a page. One user who had removed links to the news articles justified the action by calling them “false reporting” and threatened other Wikipedia editors with “civil legal action”.

“Removed links as it is misleading, all false reporting pertaining to Taylor’s case will be facing civil legal action so please do not repeat on this page,” read the edit.

Editing to Taylors’ Wikipedia page has continued throughout the month and it is not clear when the tit for tat editing will end. The page was last edited on Wednesday.

In September 2012 Taylor stepped down as head of the political studies department following allegations by students of inappropriate behaviour were published in Wits Vuvuzela.

Taylor was put on special leave in March 2013. At the time he denied the allegations and told Wits Vuvuzela he was considering legal action.

 

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BREAKING: Third “sex pest” sacked

Prof Rupert Taylor of the Political Studies department. Pic: Facebook.

Prof Rupert Taylor of the Political Studies department. Photo: Facebook.

By Nokuthula Manyathi and Pheladi Sethusa

Prof Rupert Taylor has become the third Wits lecturer to be fired following a university investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.

Political studies department head Prof Daryl Glaser confirmed to Wits Vuvuzela that Taylor, formerly a senior lecturer, has been dismissed after a four-month inquiry.

“I am relieved that the process has come to a conclusion,” said Glaser.

Glaser said he had just been told of Taylor’s dismissal on Thursday afternoon. He said would comment further when he had more information.

Taylor was forced to step down as head of the political studies department last year following a report in Wits Vuvuzela of sexual harassment allegations made against him by students.

In March of this year, Taylor was put on special leave and made to leave university premises.

[pullquote]“I am relieved that the process has come to a conclusion”[/pullquote] Taylor had denied the allegations at the time, telling Wits Vuvuzela: “I am deeply upset and concerned about the damaging allegations that have been published against me.”

Taylor is the third lecturer to be dismissed after allegations of sexual harassment were lodged against him. Former head of the media studies department Dr Last Moyo and former senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu were fired in July following investigations.

In a statement regarding the most recent dismissal, Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib said the university had adopted a “zero tolerance” policy towards sexual harassment.

“We hope that the swift action taken by the university in these three cases, sets a clear example that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in any form on our campuses,” Habib said. Wits Vuvuzela has so far been unable to contact Taylor for comment on his dismissal.

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Wits sexual harassment inquiry complete

 by Shandukani Mulaudzi and Caro Malherbe

 

Prof Bonita Meyersfield outlines some of the findings from the report. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Prof Bonita Meyersfield outlines some of the key findings from the report. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Wits has pledged to undertake a multidimensional approach to issues of sexual harassment on campus by formulating a special task team initiated by the vice chancellor’s office. These measures and others were announced today at a press conference called to make the findings of an independent inquiry into issues of sexual harassment at Wits University.

Vice chancellor Prof Adam Habib said he takes full responsibility for the abuses that happened at Wits and that the report highlights the failure of the university’s system to address rumours and allegations decisively.

Habib added that the university welcomes the recommendations and will form a Senior Executive Team to start a plan of action on how the issue of sexual harassment will be dealt with, in line with the culture of the institution.

Special Task Team 

The special task team will originate from the VC’s office and comprise various experts from within the university including gender specialists, the transformation office, sexual harassment advisors, legal expertise and student representatives.

Habib said student representatives will not be solely from the SRC but from various sectors of the student body.

[pullquote align=”right”]“The inquiry was one of the most difficult tasks for the whole team to undertake because we were dealing with our own university. But it was important and totally worth it.”[/pullquote]

 

Vice Chancellor, Adam Habib and registrar  Kirti Menon deliberate questions from the media. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Prof Adam Habib, Kirti Menon and Prof Andrew Crouch field questions from the media. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Difficulties of investigation
Prof Bonita Meyersfeld, the director of the Centre of Applied Legal Studies at Wits was part of the team who compiled the report together with lawyers from law firm Norton Rose. She said this was one of the most difficult inquiries to undertake.

“The inquiry was one of the most difficult tasks for the whole team to undertake because we were dealing with our own university. But it was important and totally worth it.”

Meyersfeld said students and members of staff were initially reluctant to speak to them but in the last two months of the inquiry they were more willing to come forward.

“The emotion involved in both students and staff alike is evident throughout the university and administration. Students felt they were not listened to and not taken seriously.”

[pullquote align=”right”]”There were other perpetrators discovered during the inquiry.”[/pullquote]

Meyersfeld said the students were also worried about following the legal process as they were worried about being re-traumatised by speaking to various entities about the same incident.

Members of staff, although they shared the same sentiments also worried about the threat posed to their careers if they came forward.

Continuing investigation 

Two cases have already been dealt with and the accused persons have been dismissed. Habib said there are two other cases that are on-going.

“Two have been dismissed and another who began investigations will hopefully be released to me tomorrow. The fourth is yet to begin.”

The on-going investigation is that of Prof Rupert Taylor, while the one that has not yet begun is that of Dr Lord Mawuko. This was confirmed by a reliable source who did not want to be named.

SRC President, Sibulele Mgudlwa answers a question from teh audience. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

SRC President, Sibulele Mgudlwa answers a question from the audience. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Meyersfeld said while there were other perpetrators discovered during the inquiry. However cases were dealt with on a confidential basis and unless students asked for their accusations to be pursued, they were not.

Habib added: “We pursued various other avenues to get to the bottom of it [new cases]. But in those instances our findings yielded no further investigation.”

Habib thanked the media for blowing the whistle on issues of sexual harassment as this forced the university to take immediate action.

 

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BREAKING: Fired sex pests named

Dr Last Moyo pictured at a Wits event last year. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

Fired! Dr Last Moyo pictured at a Wits event last year. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

by SHANDUKANI MULAUDZI and PRELENE SINGH

Two of the four Wits University lecturers accused of sexual harassment have been dismissed.

Although the statement did not name the lecturers, Wits Vuvuzela has learned that the dismissed lecturers are Tsepo wa Mamatu and Last Moyo.

According to a statement  released today by Wits vice chancellor, Prof Adam Habib, “the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, has just dismissed two employees who have been found guilty of sexual harassment.”

Habib declined to name the individuals.

Habib said that  the hearing was conducted and chaired by independent senior counsel who submitted the guilty verdict to Wits University.

Both of these lecturers were found to be in breach of the University’s Sexual Harassment Policy, Relationship Guidelines and the University’s Code of Conduct.

“The staff members have been found guilty of sexual harassment and misconduct, and one of them has also been found guilty of sexual/indecent assault,” said Habib.

Habib apologised to all students who had been victimised by theses lecturers and added that the university would not tolerate any future incidents of sexual harassment.

The cases of the remaining two suspended lecturers are ongoing and these outcomes will be announced over the next couple of weeks.

Tsepo wa Mamatu, a lecturer in Drama has also been fired from Wits for sexual harassment.  Photo: Provided

Tsepo wa Mamatu, a lecturer in Drama has also been fired from Wits for sexual harassment.
Photo: Provided

As previously reported by Wits Vuvuzela, the university was conducting two inquiries and it is said that the campus-wide inquiry “is expected to be completed in the next two weeks”.

This inquiry is being led by the Head of the Centre of Applied Legal Studies, Professor Bonita Meyersfeld and Joe Mothibi from Norton Rose Fulbright.

Read more in the Wits Vuvuzela print edition or online this Friday.

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Sex accused kicked off campus

Prof Rupert Taylor of the Political Studies department. Pic: Facebook.

Prof Rupert Taylor of the Political Studies department. Pic: Facebook.

Professor of Political Studies, Rupert Taylor, was escorted off campus by security on Tuesday after he was placed on special leave following allegations of sexual harassment.

Director of Campus Control, Robert Kemp, said Campus Security was called by Elaine Milton, head of employee relations, and given the instruction to remove Taylor from campus.

Taylor contacted Wits Vuvuzela via email on Wednesday to give a statement: “I am deeply upset and concerned about the damaging allegations that have been published against me in Vuvuzela and elsewhere, on and beyond Wits campus.

“I regard these allegations of sexual harassment against me as devoid of any truth and defamatory.

“The false allegations have resulted in very serious damage to my dignity and reputation. I am taking legal advice on my possible recourse in this regard.”

Shireen Hassim, professor of politics, was present when Taylor was escorted out of his office, to his car by security. She said that Taylor had initially declined to be removed but, when security was called, he complied. “It was not conflictual. He was very dignified,” Hassim said.

Prof Daryl Glaser, head of the politics department, said: “I can confirm that Prof Taylor is on leave, and that arrangements have been made to ensure continuity in teaching and supervision.”

Questions were raised about Taylor following a Wits Vuvuzela report published last year. Many suspected the article was about Taylor, as he was not named at the time. The allegations against Taylor arose again after a senior drama lecturer, Tsepo Wa Mamatu, was accused of sexual harassment and rape in the Sunday Times earlier this year.

Wits Vuvuzela reported in March that Dikeledi Selowa, former politics first year class representative, said there had been talk among the students about Taylor. “We knew of his history and some students were warned about him.”

Glaser confirmed that “investigations into sexual harassment claims are still ongoing”

Wits staff in sex harassment inquiry

Four cases of sexual harassment in Faculty of Humanities are among those that are the subject of an university-wide inquiry by the law firm of Bowman Gilfillan.

“There are a number of cases being investigated by Bowman, four cases in the Faculty of Humanities,” Prof Libby Meintjes, head of the School of Literature Language and Media.

The inquiry follows allegations of sexual harassment against Wits staff members including suspended senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu, former head of the political studies department Prof Rupert Taylor and former head of the media studies department Dr Last Moyo.

Meintjes emphasised that Moyo was on “special leave” and not “suspension”. “Dr Moyo has been placed on special leave with no access to the campus pending the investigation,” she said. [pullquote align=”right”]“Students, feel free to speak out openly, without fear.”[/pullquote]

She said Moyo has not been suspended, as there have not been enough formal complaints made.

Director of employee relations Elaine Milton told Wits Vuvuzela it is better for a staff member who is the subject of an investigation to be off campus while such an investigation is taking place.

Milton said proceedings were at a “very delicate stage” and she could not disclose the names of staff members involved as this will prejudice the investigation.

She said that “special leave” is a leave of absence without the loss of benefits or remuneration in order for the university to be able to conduct an investigation in an “unfettered” and an unhindered” manner.
Milton added that Taylor, who stepped down as head of the political studies department last year following sexual harassment allegations, has not been formally placed on special leave.

Meintjes stressed that students should not fear to come forward with complaints about sexual harassment. “If they take [their complaints] to the correct sources, to the correct persons, there will be no backlash,” she said.“Students, feel free to speak out openly, without fear.”

Dr Mehita Iqani, acting head of the department of media studies, said: “There is a lack of trust in the institution. I don’t think anyone should HAVE TO work in an environment where there is a sense of fear…Students need to know that if they have a complaint against staff confidentiality will be absolutely protected.”

University Registrar Kirti Menon said the university is hoping to receive feedback from the Bowman Gilfillan attorneys by the end of next week.

Meintjes said: “We are hoping it will be concluded very soon.”
“I don’t think we’ve heard the end of this.”

While the investigation into the sexual harassment allegations is being conducted, a separate inquiry into the university’s procedures for the reporting of sexual harassment is also taking place.

The vice chancellor’s office has asked Norton Rose Attorneys and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at the university to conduct the inquiry into the university’s policies and mechanisms dealing with sexual harassment. This inquiry is expected to be concluded by August.

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Wits Legal Office “gags” Politics department

The Political Studies (politics) department has written that it is “deeply disappointed” by the action taken by the Wits Legal Office following allegations of sexual harassment made by Wits Vuvuzela, last year. The department  alleges that it was effectively “gagged” by the Wits Legal Office in its attempt to address the allegations against one of its staff members. A response written by the Head of Department, Professor Daryl Glaser, was widely circulated via email on Monday evening.

 

“Not long after the publication of this article, members of [the Politics] Department learnt that this report most probably concerned one of our colleagues,” said the open letter.

 

In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela last week, Glaser confirmed an investigation was underway against the former HOD, but stopped short of confirming the identity of the individual.

 

But in this latest letter Glaser did not shy away from naming Prof Rupert Taylor as the academic at the centre of the allegations.

 

 “We have not been impressed with the way in which the university legal department has dealt with this issue”

 

According to Glaser, the department was informed “at a meeting with the legal office that they would set up an investigation into the rumours and allegations.” They were advised by the legal office “that actions taken by [the] department could potentially complicate any future investigation or other related initiatives.”

 

The politics department stated in their response: “While we appreciate that discretion and restraint are required here, we have not been impressed with the way in which the university legal department has dealt with this issue.”

Prof Rupert Taylor of the Political Studies department. Pic: Facebook.

Prof Rupert Taylor of the Political Studies department. Pic: Facebook.

 

“When Prof Taylor stepped down, we were explicitly instructed not to say anything about why there was a new head of department. When we raised the prospect of discussing sexual harassment with our students, we were expressly forbidden from doing so, as it might compromise the investigation,” said Glaser.

 

Dikeledi Selowa, a former politics first year class representative for 2012, told Wits Vuvuzela that no information was given to the students by the department and they weren’t provided with a platform to discuss the allegations.

 

The department’s response explained: “When our students wanted to hold a public meeting to exchange experiences and handling of sexual harassment on campus, they were informed that no persons or departments could be named, that it could only take the form of a protest.”

 

“No public comment of any sort was permissable”

 

Glaser told Wits Vuvuzela that that no students had come forward with official statements against Prof Taylor. But the department was also discouraged from asking students to come forward “because the act of asking them about sexual harassment would compromise anything that they reported in response.”

 

He continued by saying: “When we repeatedly pushed for a public statement from the university in response to the Vuvuzela article, nothing was forthcoming. No public comment of any sort was permissible.

 

“In our opinion, the extreme conservatism and lack of responsiveness of the legal department has been a major stumbling block in addressing this issue.”

 

The letter stated that until now the legal office has still not communicated with the politics department what happened to the investigation. But instead has “effectively gagged [the] department from making public statements or taking other public initiatives in the name of protecting an investigation.”

 

Wits Legal office refuses to comment

 

Wits Vuvuzela tried to contact the Legal Office for a response to the allegations made by the political studies department but they refused to comment.

Tasneem Wadvalla, a spokesperson for the legal office, responded by saying that because of the virtue of their (the legal office) position within the university, where they might have to act as legal representation for the Wits Vuvuzela, they cannot engage in answering questions about allegations or any other legal matters within the university.

According to Wits University spokesperson, Shirona Patel, there were two investigations on sexual harassment currently happening at the university. “The first, where an individual was named, was that of Tsepo wa Mamatu, while the second was a campus-wide inquiry where all people have been encouraged to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment.”

[pullquote]”There is scope for a more effective university response to sexual harassment and sexual violence on our campus.”[/pullquote]

 

The political department felt that “It is imperative that investigations prompted by the Vuvuzela article exceed the mandate of the announced inquiry” They said that the “conservative” approach to the issue “suggest a desire to avoid grappling with the full dimensions of this critical issue and feel that a general inquiry primarily focusing upon general policy and procedure is inadequate.”

 

The department said they were “frustrated” that this issue has gone on for so long without a strong public statement by the university, and that there is scope for a more “effective university response to sexual harassment and sexual violence on our campus.”

 

The open letter suggested that the approach of the legal department needs to be reviewed and “information needs to be constantly and immediately available for students and staff so that they are empowered to secure their own safety.”

“Students and staff need to be heard, involved and consulted in the process of battling sexual violence of all forms on this campus.”