Bergen Summer Research School
BSRS Keynote

Challenging patriarchy on campus

The dilemmas and complexities of tackling Gender-Based Harm in universities

Woman hiding behind curtan

Main content

Jackie Dugard
Associate Professor, School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

In 2012, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) was publicly exposed in the newspapers for failing to act against a number of ‘sex pest’ lecturers. In frustration, some of the victims told their story to the media in the hope that something would finally be done to protect them and hold the perpetrators accountable. The Wits response to the media outing was swift.

To deal with the immediate problem of the men who had been complained about, it fast-tracked a series of disciplinary processes using outside counsel (this process resulted in four academics, including a Head of School, being dismissed or resigning), and it appointed an Independent Inquiry to examine the systemic problems and to make systemic recommendations regarding the way forward.

The Independent Inquiry’s main finding was that, although there were policies and structures in place to deal with sexual harassment, the system was too fragmented, decentralised and under-resourced to be effective. The main recommendation was the need for an independent, appropriately staffed and resourced office to deal holistically with Gender-Based Harm (GBH) on campus.

Drawing on Dr. Dugard’s experiences as the director of the new Gender Equity Office (GEO) (February 2014 to December 2016), this lecture will explore the faultline issues and challenges of attempting to tackle GBH at Wits and will reflect on the broader struggle against GBH at universities.

Jackie Dugard, with a background in social sciences and law, is a human rights activist and scholar and is Associate Professor in the School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

The keynote is open to all