Wits University confirms another SRC member facing disciplinary hearing

Wits University has confirmed that it is investigating another member of the Student Representative Council (SRC) following a series of accusations on social media and media enquiries.

“The university can confirm that legal proceedings are indeed underway against another SRC member, following incidents which occurred last year, before the member took office,” the university said in a statement.

“These proceedings are being adjudicated by an independent student disciplinary committee and an outcome is expected in the next few months. The university’s management has no control over these proceedings. However, once a decision is made, the university will act accordingly.”

The Wits Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) had sent a number of tweets asking why no action had been taken against the SRC member as had been done with the dismissal of former SRC president Mcebo Dlamini.

 

The university said the raising of the matter was “political opportunism” and would not be pressured to act “outside of its normal procedures in response to this opportunism.”

STATEMENT FROM WITS UNIVERSITY

 The University has received multiple queries from the media and social media pertaining to the status of another disciplinary hearing involving a member of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC). We understand that this matter is being raised as a result of political opportunism to force the University to act beyond its boundaries. The University will not act outside of its normal procedures in response to this opportunism.

However, the university can confirm that legal proceedings are indeed underway against another SRC member, following incidents which occurred last year, before the member took office. These proceedings are being adjudicated by an independent Student Disciplinary Committee and an outcome is expected in the next few months. The University’s management has no control over these proceedings. However, once a decision is made, the University will act accordingly.

All student disciplinary matters are dealt with in terms of the policies and procedures of the University, which apply equally to all students. The University acknowledges that these procedures generally take too long to reach a conclusion and management has been authorised by Council to look at ways to expedite these processes without compromising the disciplinary processes.

Sex scandals scar

By Caro Malherbe and Ray Mahlaka.

SEXUAL harassment allegations against Wits university lecturers have dented the university’s reputation. At least three academic staff members have been suspended for alleged sexual harassment and have been put on special leave, pending an inquiry.

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said the coverage of the sexual harassment cases in the media has cost thousands of rands in reputation damage.[pullquote align=”right”]”Reputation is everything in academia as well as the world of corporate and consumer brands”[/pullquote]

“We have adopted an open and transparent approach pertaining to this matter, without compromising the legal processes underway…However, we can facilitate the communication as much as we like, but if we do not fix the real problems in our system, these issues will recur,” Patel said.

Communication strategist Sarah Britten said that in a country where people are aware of gender based violence, institutions such as Wits should be criticising society.

“Scandals like this [sexual harassment] could scare off potential students and staff and cost Wits money in lost fees and the inability to attract the best academics. “Reputation is everything in academia as well as the world of corporate and consumer brands and this has been damaging,” Britten told Wits Vuvuzela.

Britten said that the Sunday Times article on senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu will linger in people’s memories. “In cases like this, it’s important to create the perception of transparency and swift action. I’m not sure they have actually done this,” she said.

Word of mouth can harm the reputation of the university more than the reported stories in the media, said Britten.

Public relations consultant Chris Vick said the university has been “relatively successful” in demonstrating that it will not tolerate sexual harassment. “But the key is to maintain momentum by formulating and announcing steps, such as policies and practices, to ensure this does not happen again and to communicate these to students, in particular, in a convincing way.”

Students’ thoughts

Melissa Lowrens, 2nd year BA, said she felt the scandals that were exposed this year have caused “irreparable damage to Wits’ reputation.”

Lowrens said people often tell her: “Oh, that school that was in the paper for sexual harassment.” However, Imra Schaik, 2nd year BA General, said that he remains a proud Witsie even after the scandals. “My friends who are at UJ [University of Johannesburg] still think I’m a boss for getting into Wits.”

 

 

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Wits Vuvuzela April 19, 2013: Sex accused kicked off campus

Wits Vuvuzela April 13, 2013: Wits staff in sex harassment inquiry

Wits Vuvuzela March 11, 2013: New lecturer in harassment allegations

Daily Maverick April 8, 2013: Scared out of their Wits: Sex predator scandal stalks university