A “very senior” member of management has been accused of using his position to quash allegations against him, the sexual harassment report has revealed.
This is the fifth allegation of sexual harassment since the start of the inquiry. Three lecturers have been fired while the final investigation on Dr Lord Mawuko-Yevugah of the international relations department is still pending.[pullquote]“to encourage other staff and student representatives to coerce the student to retract the complaint and not to take the matter any further”[/pullquote]
The report, which was released last week, says the senior member of staff used his influence “to encourage other staff and student representatives to coerce the student to retract the complaint and not to take the matter any further”.
Prof Bonita Meyersfeld, director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), said she could not say who the accused was or how many people made the accusation due to a confidentiality agreement with all the people who spoke to the committee during the inquiry.
Meyersfeld said she was not certain whether this specific case was investigated.
“Well my honest answer is that I do not think so, but I do not know that for sure.”
At the press conference held last week, Meyersfeld said other perpetrators were discovered during the inquiry, but cases were dealt with on a confidential basis and unless students asked for their accusations to be pursued, they were not.[pullquote align=”right”]“We pursued various other avenues to get to the bottom of it [new cases]. But in those instances our findings yielded no further investigation.” [/pullquote]
Meyersfeld said, however, that she was not certain if there was an explicit instruction from the senior staff member’s accuser/s that this matter should not be investigated.
Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib told the press that all the matters that came to their attention during the inquiry were investigated although nothing materialised.
“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 said.
One of the report’s recommendations was to have a new, independent sexual harassment office. Meyersfeld said this was important in cases like this where a member of staff from the vice chancellor’s office may be involved.
“We realise that the proposed office must be completely autonomous so that if someone from the vice chancellor’s office is affected, a person can go directly to levels as high as senate.”
The inquiry was officially started on February 1, after the Sunday Times published an article on the allegations against drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu.
The report says, however, that the Legal Office began the process of establishing the inquiry after Wits Vuvuzela published an article in September last year about a professor who asked students for sex.
The aim of the inquiry was not to investigate specific cases of sexual harassment but to find out how prevalent the problem is on campus.
It was conducted by Meyersfeld along with other members of CALS and lawyers from law firm Norton Rose. Together, they compiled the report and made recommendations for the university to deal with cases of sexual harassment on campus more effectively.
An infographic tracking everything which has happened with regard to sexual harassment on campus till now. Graphic: Prelene Singh
THE UNIVERSITY is sitting tight on the official reports from sexual harassment hearings which resulted in the dismissal of two lecturers last week.
Tsepo wa Mamatu and Dr Last Moyo were fired last week by the university after they were found guilty of sexual harassment and misconduct during hearings conducted by Wits and law firm Bowman Gilfillan.
However, the details of the harassment and misconduct leading to the dismissals appear to be a tightly kept secret with only one staff member, Employee Relations head Elaine Milton, in possession of a report on the hearing’s findings.
[pullquote]“Under no circumstance can I release the details of the report, it is completely confidential and would be a breach of policy to release it,” [/pullquote]
Vice Chancellor Adam Habib told Wits Vuvuzela that he did not have a copy of the report and did not know its exact contents.
Xolisile Selatela, associate attorney from Bowman Gilfillan, participated in Moyo’s hearing but said “no, I don’t know,” when asked if she knew the details of why the former lecturer was dismissed. She then put down the phone abruptly.
Milton, the only person with the report, declined to speak about its details with Wits Vuvuzela. “Under no circumstance can I release the details of the report, it is completely confidential and would be a breach of policy to release it,” Milton said.
Moyo declined to comment on the report while wa Mamatu could not be reached for comment. The dismissals are a point of contention with the lecturers. In previous interviews, wa Mamatu said the university was only trying to claim “moral authority” by firing him while Moyo said the accusations against him were not serious and he was fired for “petty” reasons.
Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel told Wits Vuvuzela: “The university stands by their decision made by the independent chair of the disciplinary committee.” Patel added that both former staff members had a right to appeal their dismissals.
Meanwhile, a campus wide inquiry into sexual harassment policy is also being conducted by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) and law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.
CALS director Bonita Meyersfeld said that it was important to identify flaws in the existing policy such as when it did not address inappropriate behaviour by students and staff.
[pullquote align=”right”]“The university stands by their decision made by the independent chair of the disciplinary committee.” [/pullquote]
The policy inquiry will release a report at the end of the month. In contrast to the report on the disciplinary hearings, Meyersfield said the policy report would be made public.
Meyersfeld said there was already debate over its findings. For example, people had strong opinions on whether or not student-lecturer relationships should be banned.
“There is no silver bullet solution and we have to work hard to apply our minds to the entire university to achieve this,” Meyersfield said.
A list of specific questions asked by staff and students about sexual harassment policy has been drawn up and will be included in the policy report.
By Prelene Sigh and Emelia Motsai
ONE of the investigations into allegations of sexual harassment against Wits staff members has almost been completed.
“The first of the reports is expected in the week commencing August 5 2013,” Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said.
Three Wits staff members were put on special leave pending an investigation into accusations of sexual harassment. Their accusers have been waiting for the outcome of these investigations.
A lecturer accused of sexual harassment, Dr Last Moyo, has pleaded not guilty to the accusations brought against him.
Refilwe Kumalo, 3rd year BA, testified against Moyo, a member of the media studies department, at a June 1 hearing where the lecturer said he was innocent of the accusations made against him. Kumalo said the hearing was “intense and it’s a big deal”.
[pullquote align=”right”]“The first of the reports is expected in the week commencing August 5 2013,”[/pullquote] Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said.
Allegations against Moyo were first raised in an article published by Wits Vuvuzela in March. Several students, including Kumalo, came forward and said Moyo had behaved inappropriately towards them.
In addition to Moyo, Prof Rupert Taylor of the politics department and senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu have been placed on special leave pending investigations.
Dr Lord Mawuko-Yevugah of the international relations department has also been placed on special leave pending an investigation. However, the nature of the complaint against him is not known.
Patel said all the cases were still being heard but would be wrapped up soon. She said the process was confidential and no information could be released at this time. The university would release a statement after the reports on the allegations were made, she said.
Drama department head Kennedy Chinyowa said he was interviewed during wa Mamatu’s hearing but had not received any further information on the investigation.
Chinyowa said, as far as he knew, all the interviews of witnesses related to wa Mamatu’s hearing were scheduled to be done by June 28.
[pullquote]“The hearings are actually under way; until now there has just been a promise but now they are actually under way,” [/pullquote]
In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela, wa Mamatu said he was not coming back to Wits. However, Chinyowa said he was not aware that wa Mamatu had resigned.
“I’m not aware of this. And I am the [head of department], and officially we do not have any information about him resigning,” Chinyowa said.
Prof Daryl Glaser, head of the politics department, said he was “hopeful” because some action on the accusations had been taken after a long delay. The accusations against Taylor were first made in Wits Vuvuzela last year.
“The hearings are actually under way; until now there has just been a promise but now they are actually under way,” Glaser said.
“I know some people have been called to give evidence. I can’t say anything about what I’ve heard has happened in the hearing itself.”
Glasser said a result in Taylor’s hearing had been delayed because of postponements.
“For legal reasons, I think the defence has called for postponements, so the whole thing has been stretched out as a result,” he said.
Meanwhile, the campus-wide inquiry by law firm Norton Rose Fulbright into sexual harassment policy at Wits is also under way and will be completed by the end of August.
Joe Mothibi, employment and labour lawyer director at Norton Rose Fulbright, said the inquiry is examining “how widespread sexual harassment is on campus across all borders” between lecturers and students.
Mothibi urged students to come forward and approach him about any experiences they have had or if they know of any sexual harassment cases as “the university is a microcosm of the country and everyone is stakeholders in this problem”.
All parties coming forward will be kept “strictly anonymous”, Mothibi said.
Wits Vuvuzela. Kruger talks sexual harassment. July 12, 2013
Wits Vuvuzela. EXCLUSIVE: Tsepo wa Mamatu speaks. May 31, 2013
Wits Vuvuzela. Sexual lunch: No strings attached. May 31, 2013
Shandukani Mulaudzi and Caro Malherbe
There has been some confusion regarding an investigation into Political Studies Prof Rupert Taylor. Pic: Facebook
It is unclear whether an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against the former head of the political studies department, Prof Rupert Taylor, has been undertaken following a report last year in the Wits Vuvuzela.
Prof Daryl Glaser, current Political Studies head of department, confirmed that an investigation is underway against the former head of department [HOD] but stopped short of confirming the identity of the individual.
Glaser did say that it was public knowledge that someone in the department had allegations of sexual harassment against them.
Dawn Taylor, Director of the Wits Legal office refused to speak with Wits Vuvuzela and Tasneem Wadvalla, a legal advisor at the same office, said they could not respond to questions about an investigation into Taylor.
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.
Glaser indicated that no students had come forward with official statements against Prof Taylor to “the best of my knowledge but once the issue was brought into the public domain, the department wanted to be seen as acting.”
“We have invited the person to step down as HOD despite his denial of allegations,” Glaser said.
Dikeledi Selowa, the former politics first year class representative for 2012, told Wits Vuvuzela that students were aware that Taylor stepped down as head of politics. Selowa said there had been “hearsay” amongst the students about Taylor. “We knew of his history and some students were warned about him,” she said.
She said that no information was given to the students by the department and they weren’t provided with a platform to discuss the allegations.
“It is not true to say that we were aware of issues of sexual harassment until Wits Vuvuzela broke the story. The article was a revelation to most staff,” Glaser said.
“Students have not been informed of the investigation. But we have drawn their attention to issues of sexual harassment,” said Glaser. He said that the students were not informed of the investigation due to legal reasons given to them by the University.
Shahid Vawda, Head of School of Social Sciences said, “No students have come forward. All I can say is the legal office report said they have investigators. It is difficult for us to comment once a legal process has commenced. It is in the hands of the Transformation office.”
In another development, an anonymous blog which is run by an unnamed group of Wits students and known as 11th Floor Senate House (11thfloorSenateHouse.tumblr.com) responded to last year’s Wits Vuvuzela article by posting: “everyone in the Political Studies department (students and staff) knew that it was Professor Rupert Taylor.” Despite numerous attempts to contact Prof Taylor, Wits Vuvuzela was unable to reach him for comment.