Sexism given a pass at universities

Sexism given a pass at universities

The Hellenic Society of Women Academics has a very well-justified bone to pick with the Education Ministry. Coming months after the #MeToo movement swept into Greece, blowing the lid off several high-profile sexual abuse cases in the arenas of sports and entertainment, and as claims of similar violations inside the academic community are being investigated, the ministry’s new draft law for universities fails woefully in one very important respect. It has failed in its description of disciplinary violations and measures to make a special distinction for the crimes of sexual harassment, gender-based harassment and violence, or violations of the principles of gender equality.

This failure permeates its rules for university educators and all other types of staff, but also for students. By failing to stipulate this distinction, the ministry allows universities to appear and act in a way that is even more backward than businesses, which are bound by sexual harassment and gender laws under articles 9 and 10 of Law 4808/21).

Moreover, as the female academics point out in their formal complaint against the draft law, given that these policies are one of the obligatory steps needed to apply for funding from the Horizon Europe program for 2022, universities are also at risk of losing much-needed resources, not to mention the harm this failure inflicts on the image of Greek universities vis-a-vis their European and international peers.

It is a well-known fact that the vast majority of complaints of sexual harassment and other such crimes don’t make it to the police or the courts

The devil’s advocate may say that there’s another point of view here that may act as a springboard for a bigger debate, and that is that the Education Ministry could claim such matters need to be regulated by the universities themselves and enshrined in their rulebooks. If it were to argue this, however, the ministry would look like it is shirking its responsibilities, because it is a well-known fact that the vast majority of complaints of sexual harassment and other such crimes don’t make it to the police or the courts.

Instead, they tend to be buried by the universities, which conduct their own investigations in-house, with great delays, so that the victims lose heart and the victimizers are discreetly given new jobs and responsibilities. And all is well – if you’re not the victim or a future victim of a university academic or staffer who knows that it is very unlikely they will ever have to account for their crimes.

Education Minister Niki Kerameus should have done better and still has the opportunity to add these clauses into the draft law. If anything, she should be pleased by the prospect of being able, for once, to pass important legislation that will meet with little if any resistance.

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