Unisa Council takes firm stance against sexual harassment and abuse of power

The Council of the University of South Africa (Unisa) is concerned by recent reports in the social and mainstream media platforms about allegations of sexual harassment levelled against senior academics in the university by both junior employees and students.

Whilst Council acknowledges and respects the fact that due process must follow internally as part of the requirements to establish the veracity of all allegations raised, Council however holds a strong view that the university must demonstrate unequivocal support towards employees and students who report cases of sexual harassment and abuse of power. We similarly, express our unambiguous condemnation of any acts of sexual harassment, any other forms of violence against women and abuse of power. To this end, we are first responsible for providing psychosocial support to all the victims of sexual harassment whilst due processes of justice are followed.

Council therefore wishes to state categorically that it takes all allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and urges all victims to report all such cases to the relevant authorities within the university as well as to the South African Police Service. Council has explicitly directed university management to attend to these matters expeditiously and to ensure that the victims are given the necessary assistance.

Council further directs university management to immediately approach the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) and seek guidance in the urgent review of all internal policies dealing with all forms of gender-based violence (GBV). This should including drawing the terms of reference and launching the GBV Office at UNISA. Management is asked to benchmark these interventions with other higher education institutions that have instituted such policies barring senior staff members from having intimate relationships with junior students and or asking them to declare where such occurs.

Council trusts that enlisting the Commission for Gender Equality will help the university develop effective policies and implementation mechanisms.

As the above processes unfold, Council calls on management to launch a visible and inclusive anti-gender based violence campaign commencing with and beyond the 16 Days of Activism Against Women and Children Abuse. This should seek to raise awareness across the university community and stakeholders that UNISA is striving to become a GBV-free institution.

Council will give regular reports on progress made in this regard. We have also shared this strategy with the Portfolio Committee on Education as well as the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation as part of transparency and our readiness to account.

Publish date: 2019/11/21