Staff whistleblowers slammed

“Several staff members, who encourage students to report their experiences of sexual harassment, have been victimised by the university.”

This was the damning assessment of the treatment of staff members who attempted to blow the whistle on sexual harassment at Wits, as detailed in a report released last week.

The report revealed that Wits staff members felt “sidelined, marginalised” and “silenced” by the university.
These staff members have indicated that they felt like “unprotected whistle-blowers.”

The perpetrators of sexual harassment often accused whistleblowers of participating in a “conspiracy” against them.

“Staff members who have attempted to assist with sexual harassment in the past, have experienced humiliation and silencing by roleplayers, and in some cases been actively labelled by fellow staff-members for causing trouble,” read the report.

According to the report, the “roleplayers” at Wits include the Legal Office, the Employment Relations Office, the Transformation Office, the sexual harassment advisor, Campus Control, Campus Health and university management.

Some staff members interviewed in the report complained that the university did not take a “proactive stance” on sexual harassment and did not deal with the issue.

“For example, in one case, a staff member has reported that a contract worker in partnership with the university has, on numerous occasions, aggressively targeted female staff,” read the report.

“Although this has been reported, to date nothing has been done from the university’s side, and as a result, there has been a high turnover rate of female staff in that department, who simply cannot work under such conditions.”

The report notes that ordinary staff members were at the “coalface” of sexual harassment as students being victimised are more likely to turn to them for help.

Because of this, staff should be constantly trained and supported in their dealing with student complaints of harassment.

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