The Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof Idowu Olayinka has called on both the staff and students of the institution to familiarize themselves with the various laws guiding against sexual harassment in the school saying ignorance will not be taken as an excuse for anybody found wanting by the law.
The VC spoke on the background of trending media investigation on sexual assault and sex-for-grade scandals in some West African Universities at the quarterly media chat organized by the UI-owned campus radio, Diamond 101.1FM.
Speaking on the efforts put in place by the institution to prevent sexual harassment by either the students or the staffs of the institution, Prof Olayinka noted that two related but different bodies had been in place to check such excesses and give room for students to report cases of sexual harassment to the school authority.
He said, two policy documents guiding the operations of the centres named Gender Mainstreaming Policy and Gender Harassment Policy which had been operating in the last 15 years were recently reviewed to capture recent peculiarities in the areas of sexual harassment.
He appealed to both the students and staffs to take advantage of the centres and the policy been operated to make sure that they don’t suffer in silence, adding that staff in one of the Centres in the institution was recently expelled after failing to give satisfactory defence to an allegation of sexual harassment levelled against him.
Olayinka said “There are two major structures in place. We have the Gender Mainstreaming Office. In fact, last night I called the Vocal Person, Prof. Ayelagbe, we discussed especially on the news that broke on two Universities in Africa – Lagos and Legon.
“So we have Gender Mainstreaming Policy and also Gender Harassment Policy which was developed when Prof. Odejide was the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic). In fact, she insisted that two bodies should not be merged, that the Sexual Harassment Policy should be separate from Gender Policy.
“So there are structures in place. UI has zero-tolerance for sexual harassment. So, students have the opportunity to report. Because if a report is not made it will be difficult to bring anybody to book.
“My own position is that we are not going to rewrite any new law because of a particular issue. We can learn from experience. And if there is existing law and someone has flouted, then you should be seen to be implementing the law. Otherwise, you won’t be sending the right signal.
“So, if any member of staff is accused, he or she will be given a fair hearing. Then, if found guilty, we have to look at the books because if my daughter or wife is here, I won’t want her to be harassed. That is the issue.
“If anyone flouts the regulation that is put in place, he or she should be made to face the music. There are also instances where male lecturers will also be harassed. Even though most of the times, female students are at the receiving end. We have zero-tolerance for harassment.
“Recently, there was one, a post-graduate student who tutors at a Centre. He was expelled a few months ago when there was a report. He appeared before the disciplinary committee to defend himself but we were not satisfied with his explanation.
“The students have the opportunity to blow the whistle. They may not be able to open up to me because I am a man but we have a Gender Mainstreaming Office which is manned by a female lecturer so that they can always confide in her. That is why the Head of the place, the Gender Vocal Person is a woman so that they can report to her.
“If it is an allegation, the person is presumed to be innocent, he or she will be given the opportunity to make a defence. If the committee is not convinced, we will apply the appropriate sanction. There is always an opportunity for the person to appeal to the Governing Council. The disciplinary committee is not the final arbiter, it is the Council because all of us are employed by the Council. But as a matter of policy, we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment.”