University investigating sexual abuse claim

University refrains from commenting on claimed sexual abuse by lecturer however it confirms that the case is being investigated according to procedures determined by the sexual harassment policy

The University of Malta today said that the sexual abuse claim by a law student reported by the media on Monday was under investigation.

Last week, a female law student wrote to the Board of the Faculty of Laws accusing a lecturer of sexually abusing her.

In a statement issued this morning, the University explained that “it is against University policy to comment on individual cases,” however it confirmed that the case was being investigated according to procedures determined by the sexual harassment policy.

The University stressed that it “takes any report of sexual harassment and sexual abuse seriously and investigates these rigorously. To this effect, the University Council had designed strict regulations that are to be followed in cases of such investigations.”

The law student claimed she is reporting the case now “to ensure this does not affect her results” and according to in-Nazzjon, the student presented medical certificates showing that this episode has caused her psychological harm.

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The Faculty Board is reported to have referred the case to the Pro-Rector responsible for Students and Institutional Affairs, Prof. Mary Anne Lauri, who is abroad. Prof Lauri is yet to comment on the report or confirm whether the issue has been reported to the police.

The university’s policy stipulates “two routes may be provided for parties involved in a sexual harassment complaint; an informal and a formal route. Wherever possible, the parties involved would be encouraged to resolve the complaint in an informal manner.”

If a complainant wishes to proceed to use the informal procedures, the appointed advisors “shall meet with the complainant and listen carefully and supportively to his/her account.”

Complainants must provide a written account giving details of the alleged sexual harassment, including dates, times, places, names of individuals involved in the incident, names of any witnesses and any other relevant information.

Within thirty working days the investigation must be concluded and both the complainant and respondent interviewed.

“The options for resolution shall be of a voluntary or informal nature and shall not include the power of formal administrative action such as discipline. If resolution is achieved as a result of this informal process, a written copy of the resolution shall be signed by the complainant and the respondent,” the policy states.

If the formal procedures are followed, “three arbitrators would be chosen from a list of arbitrators appointed by the Rector” and submit a report determining whether the complaint is “justified in a just and fair way.”

The complainant and respondent are then given the report and allowed to appeal before “any formal disciplinary action decided upon by the designated University authorities shall be recorded and dispensed and/or acted upon.”