South Africa 5.9.2013 06:00 am

Task team to tackle Wits sexual cases

Professor Bonita Meyersfield of Wits University speaks to the media about the release of the report on sexual harassment at the university, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.  4 September 2013.  Also peaking to the media, Adam Habib apologised on behalf of Wits and said

Professor Bonita Meyersfield of Wits University speaks to the media about the release of the report on sexual harassment at the university, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. 4 September 2013. Also peaking to the media, Adam Habib apologised on behalf of Wits and said "˜The university was determined to restore trust and confidence in the institutions ability to provide a safe environment for all who visit, live and work at Wits". Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

A special task team will be assembled to assist with tackling cases of sexual harassment at Wits University in Johannesburg.

A senior executive team would initiate a plan of action driven from the vice-chancellor’s office with the assistance of an advisory group, the university said yesterday.

The newly-formed group would comprise members of management, staff, gender specialists and students. This follows the university commissioning an independent inquiry into the nature, scale and extent of sexual harassment on its campuses.

Wits Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib welcomed the report, and apologised to those who had fallen victim to harassment at the institution. He vowed to ensure that the university become a safe place for all. “We must learn from this traumatic experience.”

The director of the university’s Centre of Applied Legal Studies, Professor Bonita Meyersfeld, identified the scale of the problem, and said the students’ trust had been difficult to earn; however, they did come forward with accounts of harassment.

Of the four cases that were probed, the university fired two staff members for sexual harassment after disciplinary hearings in July. A third case is being investigated, while a fourth is yet to begin, according to Habib. The university’s Student Representative Council (SRC) welcomed the report’s findings.

SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa said the council would encourage students to speak out on sexual harassment.

 

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