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Saturday 15 August, 2020

UWI appoints Sexual Harassment Advisors

Students and/or staff who are sexually harassed while at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, (UWI) will now have the aid of eight newly appointed Sexual Harassment Advisors (SHAs) with the option of filing a formal complaint to the Campus Registrar. 

The university said the eight SHAs have now been assigned to guide and, where necessary, take further action on acts of sexual harassment, pursuant to the university’s sexual harassment policy.

Vice President of the UWI Guild of Students, Tariq Ali, shared the memo and circular to students via social media and encouraged those who think they have been persecuted to come forward.

“Know your rights as students and speak up. Sexual Harassment is something not to be taken lightly. We the Guild of Students will not stand for any student being sexually harassed or attacked. It does not matter what background you come from, wrong is wrong,” he said.

The policy, which was adopted by the University Financial and General Purposes Committee in May 2016, adopts a ‘zero tolerance towards sexual harassment in the oversight of its students, staff’ and anyone else who interacts with the university.

The SHAs will be able to provide confidential consultations to students and staff, to receive and treat with sexual harassment complaints and to refer these complaints to the Campus Registrar if formal action is needed.

The document outlines sexual harassment as a “form of misconduct which includes sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other similar verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature or based on sex, including same sex, whether it is recurrent behaviour of a single incident…made by any person who knows or ought to have known that such behaviour is unwanted by the person to whom the conduct if directed”.

The university added that this conduct would have had the effect of interfering with the victim’s personal safety, work or academic performance, or creating a hostile environment for the victim.

Persons may also discuss matters of harassment without identifying the persons involved, including themselves.

Additionally, the university stated that SHAs may not disclose confidential information without the written permission of the complainant.

“Any member of the university community may make an allegation of sexual harassment to a SHA or directly to the Campus Registrar, stating that he or she believes that sexual harassment has occurred, either against himself or herself, or with respect to another member of the community,” the statement said.

The complaint must be filed within 12 months of the incident’s occurrence, and the SHA is mandated to action the complaint within 10 days. If there is no action within this time, the complainant will be able to request a formal hearing.

Additionally, anyone who makes a false claim of sexual harassment will be subject to disciplinary action. 


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