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Universities Urged to Name Sexual Harassers to Combat Misconduct



universities should name sexual predators

The following article is a reprint of an opinion piece featured in Mail and Guardian, written by Joel Quirk and Karmini Pillay

Over the past two weeks, the resignation of Vice-Chancellor Prof. Tawana Kupe from the University of Pretoria (UP) has sparked speculation within the higher education community in South Africa. There is a growing call for universities to name sexual predators to ensure accountability and protect students. Recent reports shed light on the underlying complications associated with investigating sexual harassment allegations at UP, raising questions about the thoroughness and transparency of the university’s response, per the Mail & Guardian.

The allegations against Kupe surfaced in 2022, but conflicting statements from a UP spokesperson about the lack of evidence to support the allegations leave many concerned about the investigation’s integrity. Furthermore, it has been revealed that Kupe faced similar misconduct allegations in 2016 at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits), and the university found him guilty of sexual harassment, receiving a final warning. This past event raises concerns about how institutions address sexual misconduct and protect students from abusive staff.

The article discusses the ethical and legal obligations of universities in South Africa regarding the public disclosure of outcomes from internal disciplinary proceedings involving gender-based harms. While protecting the privacy and dignity of complainants is crucial, the article argues that universities should consider disclosing material facts, excluding explicit details, when staff or students are found guilty of severe offences.

The 2012/2013 sex pest scandal at Wits led to significant reforms, introducing new policies and procedures to address sexual harassment and misconduct. Establishing the Gender Equity Office (GEO) aimed to protect complainants while ensuring fair hearings for respondents. However, not publicly naming individuals found guilty in disciplinary proceedings has persisted, leading to a lack of clarity and uncertainty within the university community.


Also read: Shocking Discovery: Police Officers in Krugersdorp Gang Rape Case Violate Data Privacy Law!

The article argues that universities should adopt a standard practice of public naming, accompanied by anonymised summaries of critical offences. By doing so, universities can balance transparency with safeguarding the rights and well-being of all involved parties. The lack of public acknowledgement of guilty findings frees conspiracies and misinformation, hindering efforts to combat gender-based harm.

The article calls for universities to be proactive in disclosing successful disciplinary proceedings resulting in the removal of offenders. By publicly revealing such outcomes, universities can respond more effectively to critics and foster a culture of accountability. Transparency can help build trust within the university community and deter serial offenders from perpetrating similar acts elsewhere.

In conclusion, the article advocates for universities to adopt a policy of public naming in cases of severe gender-based harm. By disclosing the names of respondents found guilty and their offences (with anonymised details), universities can set the record straight, foster accountability, and work towards combating gender-based harm on campus.

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Picture: Twitter / TheTruthPanther

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