Be bold to report cases of sexual harassment, dean tells UNN students

 Be bold to report cases of sexual harassment, dean tells UNN students

Prof. Edwin Omeje

The Dean of Student Affairs, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Prof. Edwin Omeje has urged students of the institution to shun cowardice and take bold steps to report all cases of sexual harassment and indiscipline to appropriate authorities in the university.

Prof. Omeje made this statement at a seminar held at the Princess Alexandria Auditorium on Tuesday, 6th December.

The seminar titled “Minimizing Sexual Harassment in Our Campuses” with the theme “Let’s kick the menace out of our campus” witnessed the presence and intellectual inputs of the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Charles. A. Igwe; the University Registrar, Dr. Ngozi Nnebedum; Director of Service Commission (SERVICOM), Prof. Sabinus Ofoefule; erstwhile Dean of Pharmaceutical Sciences Faculty, Prof. Patience Osadebe; the Convener of the seminar, Dr. Ngozi Osadebe and other prominent figures within the ranks and files of the university.

In the opening speech by the convener, Dr. Ngozi Osadebe, she elucidated the dangers of sexual harassment and their prevalence in Nigerian tertiary institutions, notably the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She opined that sexual harassment could become a thing of the past if the laws regulating conduct within institutions can take their full course on the culprits of the crime.

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In a keynote address by the patron of the seminar, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Arinze. C Igwe who was represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, administration; Prof. Pat. Okpoko, asserted that sexual harassment on campus or anywhere is peculiar to both genders as against the popular notion that females are the major victims. He therefore opined that the moment a lady wears a skimpy dress to the sexual excitement of a man, she has sexually harassed the man in obscurity.

He also emphasized the need for modesty in dressing stressing that it is a major catalyst to combating sexual harassment.

In a survey delivered by Dr. Elizabeth Babarinde from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics titled ‘Findings on the Survey of Information to Minimize Sexual Harassment,’ she reported that the female gender dominated the accumulated cases of sexual harassment, accounting for 60%, while males accounted for 37.6%. Among respondents, students represented 71%, and staff accounted for 25%.

She further reported that among student respondents, first-year students constituted 41.7%, penultimate-year students comprised 31%, and others were below 27%. Regarding age groups, students aged between 20 to 23 accounted for the highest percentage, at 33.3%.

Dr. Babarinde concluded from the survey that within the university’s faculties, the Arts Faculty reported the highest cases of sexual harassment, accounting for 38.9%.

Following the survey was a lecture delivered by Prof. Ola Onuoha from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics titled ‘Factors that Promote Sexual Harassment on Campus.’

In her lecture, she listed the factors as lack of awareness among new students, poverty, power imbalances such as gender inequality, avarice, harmful cultural norms, desperation by students to pass exams, indecent dressing, cohabitation by students of opposite genders, inadequate security, and more.

She made a clear distinction between flirtation and sexual harassment, highlighting that the former does not cause bodily harm or post-traumatic effects, while the latter does.

Furthermore, the Director of Service Commissar (SERVICOM) and former Dean of Student Affairs, Prof. Sabinus Ofoefule, in his lecture titled ‘University’s Policies Towards Sexual Harassment,’ implored students to speak out if they are being sexually harassed.

He stressed that the long arms of the law would catch up with the culprits, as nobody is above the law. Additionally, he emphasized that combating sexual harassment is the sole mandate of SERVICOM.

He also called on students to report to the appropriate authorities in school on noticing early signs or acts of sexual harassment.

The Dean of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Prof. Patience Osadebe, in a lecture titled ‘Bystanding Procedures in Minimizing Sexual Harassment,’ emphasized that students, acting as third parties or bystanders in cases of sexual harassment, should swiftly report to appropriate authorities. This action helps to avoid risking themselves as accomplices in such high-profile cases.

The Registrar of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Dr. Ngozi Nnebedum, delivered the final lecture titled ‘The Role of the University in Minimizing Sexual Harassment.’ She assured students that the university would not treat cases of sexual indiscipline brought either from the students or the staff with kid gloves. Additionally, she highlighted the university’s laws against indecent dressing and sexual misconduct, citing the ‘Sexual Misconduct Policy’ of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

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A short play by students also conveyed an advocacy message on the need to end the menace. Following this, the Dean of the Student Affairs Department, Prof. Edwin Omeje, made closing remarks, urging students to muster the courage to report cases of sexual harassment.

He added that students should study very hard to avoid leaving themselves vulnerable to sexual harassment, especially from staff.

He also thanked the students for their rapt attention and steadfastness until the end of the seminar, urging them to be at the vanguard of the movement against sexual indiscipline in the university and beyond.

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