Dismissal of professors is justifiedTwo arts education professors at Kongju National University who were fined in court for harassing students returned to work after three months on probation. The victims and witnesses who testified that they had seen sexual harassment in their classes were among their students.
Yet the university endorsed the professors’ lectures and continued to subject students to their classes. Kongju is a state university and yet had been ignorant of basic common awareness and regulations on sexual abuses and protection.
Under the guidelines on sexual harassment and abuse, which all education institutions must adhere to, if the offender and victim attend the same educational institution, they must remain segregated. The statute is enforced to protect victims from recurring incidents. Yet the university defied that educational ordinance, citing the rights of the professors, and it belatedly removed and dismissed those lecturers only after strong protests.
In cases of unwelcome sexual advances or assault on university campuses by a professor toward a student, the latter is inevitably considered the weaker party. University administrators must, therefore, put the rights and interests of students above those of the school’s professors. They must be attentive toward students to protect them from further damage as well as any form of discrimination regarding grades and job placement.
Kongju University should, first of all, have separated the accused teachers from the students so that they could safely attend school without fear. Under public office law, public officials charged in criminal cases cannot be restored to office. Dismissal decisions are justified in those cases.
The Education Ministry should also strengthen the enforcement of sexual harassment and crime prevention regulations at education institutions so that these unfortunate incidents do not recur. Laws and regulations must protect victims of sexual crime from further damage. They also must be designed to help the victims adjust back to normal life without any discrimination.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 13, Page 30
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