Cover-up of sex­ual ha­rass­ment adds to of­fense

China Daily European Weekly - - Comment - The au­thor is a writer for China Youth Daily. The views do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of China Daily.

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.

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