UAB suspends second professor in a week over abuse allegations
Teacher suspended for "abuse of authority" after PhD student reported sexual harassment and seven others denounced workplace harassment
Just two days after a physics professor was convicted of sexually harassing a PhD student at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), another professor has been suspended without pay over more abuse claims.
The new case is of a professor of Hispanic philology from the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, and he has had his work and salary suspended for fourteen months for "using his status as a public employee to obtain an undue benefit and for abuse of authority in the exercise of a position," as the university put it.
Public broadcaster TV3 and newspaper Ara claim that a PhD student reported the professor for sexual harassment, and that seven others had also done so for workplace harassment and sexual abuse, while UAB has not confirmed this.
Wednesday saw hundreds of students protest at UAB's handling of the first sexual harassment case, that of the physics professor, demanding "safer classrooms" and accusing the Dean's office of a "cover-up."
According to online newspaper eldiaro.es, the Court of Barcelona convicted the physics professor of sexual harassment in the field of public service, giving him a one-and-a-half-year suspended prison sentence, a nine-year teaching ban, and prohibiting him from approaching or communicating with the victim.
The Hispanic philology teacher's complaint file closed on February 17, but the procedure allowed for a 30-day period to present appeals. Once this stage is passed, the sanction will come into effect next Monday, March 20.
According to published press reports, a student filed the original complaint more than a year ago. Reports also claim that in the last five years, the professor directed the theses of fourteen students, ten of whom had to leave him because they could not stand the situation.
Be more proactive
The Catalan university minister, Joaquim Nadal, urged authorities from the education sector to "be more proactive and rapidly act. We have to get the rotten apple out of the basket," he said during an interview with Ràdio Estel radio station.
"Once a [sexual harassment] case has been reported, we should immediately preventively sanction and remove the attacker from the victim's life," he added before saying that "this is the only way to move out the problems."
"We cannot be waiting for weeks and months, as sometimes it feels like since the first complaint is filed and until the first reaction, a lot of time passes," Joaquim Nadal said.
Legal process complicates actions
The secretary general of UAB, Esther Zapater, agreed with Nadal regarding the need to have "more restrictive measures implemented" once a sexual harassment complaint is filed. However, she warned of the legal difficulties as it is not possible.
"It would have meant making all the process useless," she said regarding the physics professor. "We [at UAB] have to learn from all these processes. Everything should be much easier and more efficient," she added.
"We had to wait once the judicial case ended so everything could be proved," the decision to suspend him "is a precautionary measure that he can appeal," Zapater said.