Sexual harassment has been viewed by students, staff and management at Wits University as a major problem for several years. In 2011, the University’s Transformation Office recognised this concern and commissioned a review of its sexual harassment policies. While this review was still underway in 2012, an article was published in the University’s student newspaper the Vuvuzela entitled 'Professor asked student for sex'. The article described how Wits academic staff members routinely harassed their students, giving specific examples. The University responded by calling for an inquiry into sexual harassment on campus.
The independent inquiry ran from 1 February to 15 August 2013. Its committee was made up of an internal team from CALS and an external team of labour lawyers from Norton Rose Fulbright. The purpose of the inquiry was to bring to light how common sexual harassment was at the University and whether the processes for dealing with it were clear, fair and effective. The committee found that sexual harassment was indeed a widespread problem at Wits, and that its policies for dealing with these incidents were both vague and inconsistent. The committee’s report recommended restructuring the reporting process and establishling a new Sexual Harassment and Safety Office with skilled staff and appropriate resources, not only to handle current cases of sexual harassment, but to develop an advocacy programme to prevent future incidents.
The University has accepted the findings of the report and welcomed its recommendations, and has committed to changing the policies, procedures and institutional culture associated with sexual harassment. The first step the University has taken is to establish an Advisory Group, consisting of management, staff, gender specialists and students to assist the Vice-Chancellor’s Office. Bonita Meyersfeld, Director at CALS, chairs this Advisory Group. Wits has also established the Gender Equity Office which is a central office dealing with all matters of sexual harassment at the University.
|The Independent Inquiry into Allegations of Sexual Harassment at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg concluded in August 2013. The Inquiry committee released their Formal Inquiry Report on 4 September 2013.|