MU has published new guidelines and will hold a workshop about sexual harassment and how to deal with it. In a recent interview, Vice-rector for Student and Alumni Affairs Simona Koryčánková spoke about the University’s activities meant to prevent sexual harassment and how MU will respond to any cases.
Sexual harassment is a very serious form of inappropriate behaviour. How does Masaryk University approach this issue?
Such behaviour is not tolerated at Masaryk University. The University applies basic principles for handling cases of sexual harassment, which include offering assistance, protecting victims, avoiding bias, and maintaining objectivity and confidentiality. Masaryk University also provides counselling to victims, witnesses, and those accused of sexual harassment.
Has Masaryk University drawn up guidelines for dealing with cases of sexual harassment?
Yes. We have created publicly available guidelines for dealing with sexual harassment at MU. They include examples of inappropriate behaviour and ways to deal with it, including what to do in such situations. It establishes a new process for resolving such cases. Now, trained contact people are available for anyone, whether student or employee, who has experienced sexual harassment at MU, to contact. At every faculty, there is one male and one female contact person. Students’ Advisory Services and the Students’ Chamber of the Academic Senate also have contact people available. The complainant can choose whether to get in touch with a man or a woman and whether to get in touch with someone from their own faculty or from elsewhere. Masaryk University offers psychological counselling and also works with outside organizations specializing in sexual harassment.
Moreover, an interactive workshop about sexual harassment titled Respect on Campus will be held at MU in late May and early June.
The workshop is organized by the Pedagogical Competence Development Centre (CERPEK) in collaboration with Students’ Advisory Services. Its goal is to provide employees information about preventive mechanisms and instruments for dealing with sexual harassment, bullying, and violence in university settings. Participants will also learn about what constitutes sexual harassment and violence committed both by university employees and students. They will also learn what to do if they witness unacceptable behaviour, how to treat victims and perpetrators, and who to turn to for help.
Where can MU students and employees get information about the possibilities for reporting sexual harassment?
They can find information about this issue on the Students’ Advisory Services website (https://www.muni.cz/en/students/sexual-harassment) as well as on the website of some faculties.
How are reports of sexual harassment handled? Is it a confidential process?
The contact person, with the consent of the complainant, fills out a reporting form, which is then submitted to the investigator, who is me at the moment. The job of the investigator is to investigate—to secure evidence and determine the scope of the problem. In the process, the victim must be protected, bias avoided, and objectivity maintained to prevent secondary victimization and so on. Therefore, all people involved in dealing with sexual harassment cases are bound by confidentiality. The investigator’s findings are then passed on to a decision-maker. This is usually a faculty dean or the head of an economic unit, who may in serious cases cut ties with an employee or take disciplinary action against students.
Is Masaryk University preparing other measures for preventing sexual harassment?
In the future, we want to minimize risks related to sexual harassment. Therefore, we are holding the workshop Respect on Campus, and we will continue to educate the MU community about such issues. In the future, we plan to continue promoting this issue, implement preventive measures, and provide training about inappropriate behaviour, perhaps in the form of a communication campaign. We take this matter seriously because sexual violence has no place in the 21st century. We want victims to know that they always have someone to turn to and that we will take every case seriously.