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Students, scholars demand action to tackle sexual harassment in colleges

Updated: 2014-09-11 07:10
By Zhao Xinying (China Daily)

More than 250 college teachers, scholars and students have signed public letters calling for action to prevent sexual harassment in educational institutions.

The two letters say Xiamen University, which was rocked by harassment allegations during the summer, should set up procedures to combat the problem.

In addition, they urge the Ministry of Education to publish draft regulations providing protection from harassment.

The letters, which carry the signatures of 256 individuals from home and abroad, were sent to Xiamen University President Zhu Chongshi and Education Minister Yuan Guiren on Tuesday.

The students and teachers demand an investigation into the case of Wu Chunming, a male professor at Xiamen University who was accused of sexually harassing female students.

The claims were made by students on Sina Weibo in June and July and attracted widespread attention. Wu was suspended and the university promised to investigate the incident, but no findings have so far been released.

The letters say the ministry should take the opportunity to draw up a series of regulations. In addition, they suggest that Xiamen University should be the first college to set up a mechanism to prevent such a scandal from happening.

"Preventing harassment is important for ensuring equity in education, preventing powers from being abused, protecting teachers and students' rights and interests and eliminating gender discrimination," the letters say.

Under the proposed mechanism, an independent, third-party working group would be set up to improve teachers and students' understanding of sexual harassment, receive accusations of harassment and conduct investigations into such incidents.

The mechanism would take into account the importance of giving psychological guidance to victims.

Li Sipan, a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Macao, helped to draft the letters.

"China lacks a mechanism for handling sexual harassment incidents, which should include a definition of sexual harassment and advice on who to turn to for help," she said.

"We are writing the letters and making suggestions to make up for this."

Ke Qianting, an associate Chinese language professor at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong province, signed the letters to show her support for efforts to prevent sexual harassment on campus.

"I've been teaching courses and doing research on gender issues, and sometimes students ask me for help after they have been sexually harassed," Ke said. "There is little I can do because there isn't a mature mechanism to handle the incidents."

She said harassment in colleges not only harms victims, but is also a hazard to teachers as a whole.

"Sexual harassment of students is totally against teaching ethics, and people will lose respect for teachers and stop trusting them after such cases," she added.


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