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Malaysian student lodges report over sexual harassment involving associate professor

11:10 | 17/07/2020

A Universiti Malaya student has recently lodged a police report over what she claimed was inaction by the university authorities over the alleged sexual harassment of her by an associate professor.

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malaysian student lodges report over sexual harassment involving associate professor
Seeking justice: The victim showing the report she lodged against the lecturer on Wednesday.

A Universiti Malaya (UM) female student, who said she had failed to get a satisfactory answer from the university following her report on allegations of sexual harassment against a lecturer, has lodged a police report.

The third-year student, who declined to be identified, said she decided to lodge the report at the Pantai police station on July 15 after going to the Integrity Unit of the university but did not get a satisfactory answer, reported The Star.

The student, who only wanted to be identified as "Ching', urged the police to investigate saying that there were no details of the internal probe conducted by the university into the incident a year ago or on the action taken.

The victim claimed that she was sexually harassed by a senior lecturer in his office on June 3, 2019.

Among the alleged actions are “using his right hand to pat half the left side of my hip” and “gripped my forearm and upper arm”.

Her allegations were included in the police report which also said that on July 1 last year, she lodged a formal complaint to the Integrity Unit because no relevant action had been taken regarding her case.

She claimed she had not received any information since Oct 30 and decided to visit the unit.

malaysian student lodges report over sexual harassment involving associate professor
The case has been lodged to the police for further investigation. Photo: Azneal Ishak/Malaysiakini

Universiti Malaya Student Union (Umsu) president Muhammad Haziq Azfar Ishak, who accompanied the alleged victim, said from the meeting with the Integrity Unit, Umsu was informed that the investigation had concluded and the verdict was given last month, the same month the lecturer retired.

“We were told that it was confidential and could not be disclosed,” said Muhammad Haziq, who was present with a few others at the police station, including Academic Staff Association of UM president Dr Aznijar Ahmad Yasid and University of Malaya Association of New Youth representative Yap Wen Qing.

“The union had been informed that the unit requires the victim to provide an additional letter to receive more information regarding the progress of this case.

“The union is of the opinion that the mechanism does not reflect transparency and that the unit should review the current procedures,” he said.

He urged the UM administration to initiate more radical preventive measures to ensure a safe place for students on campus.

Universiti Malaya has taken disciplinary action against a senior lecturer following a sexual harassment complaint filed by a student last year.

malaysian student lodges report over sexual harassment involving associate professor
Universiti Malaya UM vice-chancellor Abdul Rahim Hashim only disclosed that a lecturer has been suspended after a student lodged a police report yesterday. Photo: Hasnoor Hussain/The Malaysian Insight

From the side of the UM, in a statement released on July 16, Vice-Chancellor Datuk Abdul Rahim Hashim said they have taken immediate action against the suspect.

Although the university had suspended him, they did not announce it because the university was obligated to safeguard the confidentiality and privacy of the parties involved.

In a recent statement, vice-chancellor Abdul Rahim Hashim revealed that UM had penalised the professor but did not detail what the punishment was citing privacy concerns.

“Referring to media reports about the sexual harassment case, UM would like to stress that the following action was taken - investigations were carried out immediately after the complaint was received, the perpetrator was suspended from work, the perpetrator was brought before a disciplinary committee, and the perpetrator was punished as per the Disciplinary Rules for Statutory Bodies,” he said.

“However, we would like to clarify that university authorities are bound by operating procedures that stipulate the university must maintain the confidentiality and privacy of all parties involved,” he added.

Abdul Rahim said this in response to a recent police report lodged by the victim, claiming she had failed to get a satisfactory answer from the university pertaining to the sexual harassment complaint filed on July 1 last year.

UM student lodges police report over sexual harassment claim. Video: Star

Expressing regret over the alleged incident, Abdul Rahim said they will take the necessary action to alleviate the student’s emotional burden.

“UM takes such matters seriously. We have implemented various programmes and initiatives to prevent sexual harassment on campus.

“UM is committed to strengthening such initiatives and programmes to ensure effective management (of such cases)” he said, cited The Star.

When contacted by Malaysiakini news agency, UM officials cited the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 as the reason why they could not reveal the nature of the punishment meted out but did not point to a specific section of the act.

Under the Statutory Bodies (Discipline and Surcharge) Act 2000, the list of punishments that a disciplinary committee can impose includes issuing a warning, a fine, forfeiture of emoluments, deferment of salary movement, reduction of salary, reduction in rank and dismissal.

malaysian student lodges report over sexual harassment involving associate professor
Sexual harassment is a serious issue in the academic environment. Photo: Malaysiakini

University of Malaya (UM) is a public research university located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is one of the top 60 universities in the world. It is also the oldest university in Malaysia and is the highest-ranking Malaysian institution of higher education according to two international ranking agencies (Times Higher Education and QS World University Rankings in 2019). The university has graduated three prime ministers of Malaysia, and other political, business, and cultural figures of national prominence

malaysian student lodges report over sexual harassment involving associate professor
The Universiti Malaya (UM). Photo: Star

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Tony Nguyen

Star, Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insight