Sexual harassment is a serious problem for students at all educational levels. While it is common knowledge that in Africa, lecturers harrass female students mostly for sex-for-grade incentives; it becomes necessary, especially in view of the recent happenings trending all over social media to educate students on proactive steps they can take on curbing sexual harassment by lecturers.
A survey of students conducted at 27 elite research universities in 2015 showed 5.9% of female undergraduates and 22.4% of female graduate students reporting sexual harassment by a member of the faculty. This necessitates the immediacy of providing a safe and conducive environment for students to study. What can universities do to curb sexual harassment of students by lecturers? Let’s find out.
1. No history of sexual harassment
When hiring, colleges should ensure that faculty members do not have documented histories of sexual harassment. Applicants can be made to sign a release which allows prior employers to certify that the applicant is not involved in an ongoing sexual harassment or assault investigation. Applicants should also be certified of not being found in violation of the institution’s sexual harassment policy previously.
Furthermore, where the applicant was in violation, the release could include a request for a redacted copy of the investigative file or other documents that may clarify the situation. However, prior employers should be released from potential liability.
2. Sexual harassment Policy
Faculty members should be made to understand the university’s sexual harassment policy at the point of hiring. They should also be informed of policy updates as well as acknowledge that they have reviewed and understood the change. Yet again, clear notification of specific violations and resulting sanctions should be given to the faculty member. This will serve as a deterrent to others.
Sexual harassment can inflict deep psychological damage to its victims. Therefore, conduct should also be taken into consideration when tenure and promotion evaluations are being made. The evaluation process must include access to relevant information. That is information which is not routinely shared between the faculty-affairs and equal-opportunity processes at many institutions. This way, those found wanting don’t get promoted.
4. Punitive Measures
More needs to be done than paying lip service to this all-important issue. Especially if the severity and/or frequency of the infractions rise to the level of termination and due process has been followed. Under such circumstances, colleges must be willing to follow their own guidelines. Termination of employment should take effect without delay to serve as a deterrent to other faculty.