A Head of a Department attached to the Sri Palee Campus of the University of Colombo, against whom allegations of sexual harassment had been levelled by two newly recruited female lecturers, has been suspended, official sources said.
The Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) noted that although they had not been officially informed yet, they were aware of the allegations and the fact that there had been some problems involving the reported lecturer.
Secretary of the FUTA, Dr. Shayama Banneheka said FUTA was not aware whether the lecturer in question was in fact and indeed the President of the Teachers’ Union in the Campus, but did not rule out that possibility.
“Representatives from the teachers’ unions must attend FUTA meetings. No one from the said teachers’ union attended the Executive Committee of the FUTA on March 04. We know that he has been temporarily removed from his post. Regardless of whether he is the president of the teachers’ union or not, if there is any wrongdoing, the FUTA will not interfere. Instead, we will support the inquiry procedure and help with the proper justice procedure,” he added. Meanwhile, the Citizens for a Secure Sri Lanka (CSSL) called for a hotline to be set up within the University system in order for lecturers and undergraduates who face sexual harassment to report such incidents.
The CSSL observed that there was an urgent social need to prevent the very high prevalence of incidents of workplace related sexual harassment within the State education and University services system, adding that the University system should conduct a research into the matter with the view of resolving the matter with the mechanisms established in the Universities. Writing to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Colombo, in a letter also copied to the University Grants Commission and women’s rights groups, Co-Convener of the CSSL, S.A. Priyadharshani Ariyaratne alleged that even though three weeks had elapsed since allegations of sexual harassment had been levelled no comprehensive investigation had been initiated by the authorities.
However, authorities of Higher Education Ministry said appropriate action had been taken and the lecturer had been suspended.