Recent cases of sexual harassment in the Portuguese universities have put on a war footing studentswho demand immediate measures to put an end to what they describe as “fear and impunity” in the classrooms. Several surveys conducted at the country’s leading universities in recent months have revealed hundreds of testimonials of students who report situations of abuse of power by the teachers. These abuses include, in addition to cases of sexual harassment, other acts of racism, homophobia and discrimination.
The latest complaints have come to light this week in the Lisbon Technical Institute (IST)through a study conducted by the same institution and published in the journal Saturday. The report reveals that, of the almost 2,000 male and female students surveyed, close to a hundred claim to have suffered sexual harassment in classrooms, while more than 300 confess to having been victims of some other type of psychological violence. Some figures that have led the IST management, which depends on the University of Lisbon (UL), to send a statement showing “zero tolerance towards aggressive, exclusive or discriminatory attitudes” and encouraging students who have suffered situations of this type to tell their story.
fear and helplessness
The scandal at the IST is not the only one that has affected the University of Lisbon. In early April, the Newspaper published that more than thirty professors from the Faculty of Law –10% of the total– they had been pointed out by about 50 students, who gave their testimony through an open form for 11 days at the end of March. Half of these complaints referred to sexual harassment and are added to other processes previously opened in the same faculty, including the one that involved a veteran professor who sent inappropriate messages her students late at night through social networks.
A situation that is not going to change for now, according to Érica Rodrigues, a UL student and member of the Anti-Harassment Movement, created in January of this year to denounce the abuse of power by teachers. Rodrigues assures that the teachers’ impunity has been common in the university environment and regrets the lack of communication channels that allow students to file complaints without fear of reprisals. “There are no complaint mechanisms or anyone who can assist us, guaranteeing our anonymity and that our testimony is properly treated & rdquor ;. The student maintains that there is a Feelings of impotence by affected students. “We cannot do anything because we know that the institution will always protect the professor & rdquor ;.
Most of the Portuguese universities have a pedagogical cabinet and some of them with the figure of the student advocate, which is responsible for collecting all kinds of complaints, from the academic to the personal sphere. In response to the demands of the students, the UL School of Law has opened a new service that will be dedicated exclusively to the care and accompaniment of victims of harassment who need to deal with their case. The team, made up of lawyers and psychologists, will act with complete independence and confidentiality, according to the faculty itself.
In the case of the IST, those responsible for the center have assured through a statement that “all means of action on ethical issues have been reinforced”, although they do not give more details on specific measures. The institution insists that all reported cases entail the opening of an investigation or a disciplinary process. Other universities, such as the one in Minho, in the north of the country, have recently launched Psychological attention for the victims, after cases of sexual harassment of female students by university staff came to light.
Despite the reactions of the educational centers, the students insist that the measures taken so far are insufficient. The opening of a disciplinary process against one of the professors of the Faculty of Law of the UL, who denounced alleged pressure from other professors so that the students did not tell their cases publicly, has put more doubts about the will of the institution to solve the problem. “They have managed to open a process against him. If this happens with a teacher, with the students the reaction can be worse & rdquor ;, assures Rodrigues. This newspaper has tried to contact the faculty, without obtaining a response at the close of this edition.
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