The Staff and Students of the University of Ibadan, UI in Oyo State have been advised to familiarise themselves with the various laws guarding against sexual harassment in the school.
The Vice-Chancellor, VC of the University, Professor Idowu Olayinka said ignorance would not be taken as an excuse for anybody found wanting by the law.
Professor Olayinka spoke on the background of trending media investigation on sexual assault and sex-for-grade scandals in some West African universities.
Speaking on the efforts put in place by the institution to prevent sexual harassment by either the students or the staff of the institution, Professor Olayinka stated 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.
Olayinka said: “There are two major structures in place. We have the Gender Mainstreaming Policy and also Gender Harassment Policy which was developed when Professor Odejide was the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic). In fact, she insisted that the two bodies should not be merged, that the Sexual Harassment Policy should be separate from the Gender Policy.”
He explained that policy documents guiding the operations of the centres which had been in operation in the last 15 years were recently reviewed to capture recent peculiarities in the area of sexual harassment.
“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,” the VC stated.
He appealed to both students and staff to take advantage of the centres and the policy being operated to make sure that they do not suffer in silence, adding that a member of 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.
“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. 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 was 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,” he asserted.
Recalling a recent case of a post-graduate student who tutored at a Centre in the University, Professor Olayinka disclosed that there was a report against the post-graduate student, he was made to appear before the disciplinary committee to defend himself but the committee was not satisfied with his explanation and he was expelled.
“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 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,” Professor Olayinka concluded.