Cover-up of sexual harassment adds to offense
Schools enhance their reputations by addressing the problem forcefully and openly
League not only confirmed the case on social media account but also announced that the university was dismissing the teacher from his post. The rapid and decisive response to the student’s complaint by the university authorities won much public approval.
Over the years, a number of sexual harassment and sexual assault cases on campuses have been exposed, sounding alarms about the extent of the problem. Unfortunately, some schools have been reluctant to deal with the offenses and have failed to act swiftly, adding psychological harm to the victims.
Moreover, the slow response of school authorities means that evidence is often lost and offenders are not held to account. That the student at Jilin Agricultural Science and Technology University bravely revealed what had happened helped the university authorities investigate and take appropriate action. Often, victims opt for silence in these cases because of various factors such as shame, psychological barriers or fear of consequences.
The truth is that a weak response only feeds offenders’ arrogance and encourages them in their crimes or misbehavior while aggravating the trauma of the victims. Some colleges have tried to gloss over such incidents, even proposing private settlements, out of concern for their reputations. But covering things up does more harm than good.
On that score, Jilin Agricultural Science and Technology University has set a good example. It demonstrated that handling sexual harassment with decisiveness and seriousness is not such a difficult thing to do. Neither does it bring disgrace — in fact, quite the opposite.
Yet, thanks to a lack of enforcement authority, colleges can only hold offenders accountable to Party discipline and school regulations. The jury is still out on how to punish offenders for sexual misconduct such as groping or verbal harassment.
The bottom line is that teachers should not seek relations with students or sexually harass them in any way. In its Opinion on Establishing a Long-term Mechanism to Improve College Teachers’ Morality, the Ministry of Education said that teachers should not develop improper relationships with students. But the definition of an improper relationship needs to be clarified to be enforced.
There is indeed a lot we could and should do to remove the threat of sexual harassment on campus. Concerted efforts from educational administrative departments at various levels are needed.