An indictment against Wits admin

The Legal Office, nor Employee Relations, should deal with sexual harassment, the report by Norton Rose and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies recommended last week.
This was revealed in the final sexual harassment report. The report also said that some sexual harassment complainants were told, “you realise if you go ahead with this you’ll be ruining this person’s life; are you prepared to do that?”.

[pullquote]“you realise if you go ahead with this you’ll be ruining this person’s life; are you prepared to do that?”.[/pullquote] The report revealed that both offices are conflicted and this compromises their ability to combat sexual harassment on campus.
“In our view the Legal Office is simply tasked with too many disparate roles to address sexual harassment claims comprehensively,” the report suggested.

The Legal Office and Employee Relations were exposed for not having any expertise or training in the field of sexual harassment or gender issues.
“The perception is that it is not necessary for specialists to be brought in to handle these matters, either because they are not important, or because the Legal Office currently consists largely of female attorneys, and it is believed that sexual harassment is a ‘woman’s issue’, which can be handled by any woman,” read the report.

Three particular areas were highlighted as competing interests for the Legal Office in sexual harassment issues: the university’s reputation, the complainant’s interests and the interests of the alleged perpetrator.

The report also perceived that there was a universal view that the Legal Office did not pursue difficult cases.

Complainants reported that they feel as if their issues vanished into a “black hole”.
However, the report did concede that the Legal Office had good intentions. The Legal Office’s mixed response to sexual harassment was “the result of an immeasurable overload of responsibility on the Legal Office, coupled with deficient training”.

The report found that the sexual harassment approach of the Legal Office is one which is “overly legalistic”.
In addition, staff members complained that the Legal Office told them not to speak to students about sexual harassment.
The inquiry recommended that the Legal Office should be restricted to dealing solely with the university’s interests.

Legal Office response

Prof Andrew Crouch, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic responded as follows: “My colleagues at the Legal Office and I fully support the principles which underlie the Report on Sexual Harassment released on the 4th of September 2013.

We are mindful of the nuanced nature of sexual harassment.

We have always been and remain committed to assisting and supporting complainants whose matters fall under my jurisdiction.”

[pullquote align=”right”]Complainants reported that they feel as if their issues vanished into a “black hole”.[/pullquote]

Prof Crouch added that the legal office supports complainants throughout and calls upon psychiatrists where necessary as well as, “implement practical measures to keep the complainant and accused apart from each other while the relevant process unfolds”.

Employee relations

The report revealed that the uncertainty between the role players was plentiful as to who was responsible for investigating claims of sexual harassment.
“These conflicting roles lead to a perception that the Employment Relations Office may encourage students to report but the Office is not available to support students through the process,” the report reflected.

In conclusion the report recommended that the Employee Relations office should not deal with sexual harassment because of the conflicted roles.

The report also revealed that intuition was used when dealing with sexual harassment as opposed to a “prescribed manner”.

“Often the policy is not consistently pursued due to a lack of practicality, time and certainty”.

 

[pullquote]“Often the policy is not consistently pursued due to a lack of practicality, time and certainty”.[/pullquote]

Lack of resources was another factor in the poor response as there were only two human resource officials at Wits.

“Various persons, who came before the inquiry, expressed the view that Employment Relations indicated that they were burdened by their complaints and did not do their best to deal with the matter.”

The inquiry also received complaints that communication involving follow-ups was reported as inconsistent or absent. The report highlighted inconsistencies, lack of co-ordination, lack of training on the issue, and a lack of resources.

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Wits Vuvuzela: Wits Legal Office “gags” politics department. March 12, 2013

Oh my Lord, wenzeni?

 

Dr Lord Mauko-Yevugah

Dr Lord Mauko-Yevugah

INTERNATIONAL relations lecturer Dr Lord Mawuko-Yevugah has been placed on special leave following an investigation.Social Sciences head of school Prof Shahid Vawda said Mawuko-Yevugah had been put on leave about two weeks ago and would “be back as soon as the investigation is over”.

Vawda could not confirm the details or the nature of the investigation. He said he had not recieved formal confirmation of the nature of the allegations or the investigation.

Vawda said the investigation could be in relation to any form of misconduct such as sexual harassment, racial discrimination or gender-related issues.

He told Wits Vuvuzela to approach the Wits legal office for any further information or comments regarding the investigation.

Wits Vuvuzela was unable to reach the Wits legal office for comment. The communications office referred the paper to Wits employee relations.

Director of Employee Relations, Elaine Milton, said she could not rule out that the pending investigation was unrelated to sexual harassment. Milton referred further questions to the legal office.

When contacted Mawuko-Yevugah said he was on “personal leave” due to ill health since his return to the country from his trip to Ghana.

“I don’t know how long I will be away for but I will be back,” said Mawuko-Yevugah.

 Administrative officer for the  international relations department, Hilda Potgieter, said Mawuko-Yevugah “had taken personal and family leave”.

Potgieter said a contingency plan had been implemented to ensure students did not miss lectures and were not inconvenienced by Mawuko-Yevugah’s sudden absence.

“New lecturers have been assigned,” said Potgieter.

Mawuko-Yevugah is one of at least four lecturers who have been put on special leave by the university in the past two months, pending investigations.

Following Mawuko-Yevugah’s sudden absence, social science students were left confused and approached Wits Vuvuzela to express their concern.

Mawuko-Yevugah who teaches international relations subjects to undergraduates, postgraduates and Wits Plus students, joined Wits University in June 2011. He holds a PhD from Alberta University in Canada, with a specialisation in international and comparative political economy.

Additional Resources

Wits Vuvuzela. April 13, 2013: Wits staff in sexual harassment inquiry.