Lecturers: we’re also sexually harassed

Complaints about sexual harassment seem to come mostly from female students. They get all the sympathy and attention.  However, lecturers say they are being sexually harassed, too, by their students.  They are worried that their case is not given as much attention as their students.  Yet, they argue that they are at a greater risk because theirs is more difficult to prove.

Dr. Yau-Muhammed Damagun, a lecturer in the Accounting Department of the University of Abuja, said it was unfair not to recognise the stress lecturers pass through because of sexual harassment by their students.  He noted that lecturers also need help to cope in such situations.

He said: “Lecturers also pass through sexual harassment from students but that of lecturer-to-students is always in the news.

“In some cases, the incidents were very upsetting for the academics and they did not know where to turn. Some felt there was a perception that because they were academics, they were expected to cope with anything that was thrown at them.

“I wondered whether senior academics have more ‘coping mechanisms’ than those who are junior; but some very senior academics have some quite horrifying stories.”

Mr Alaezi Offia of the Department of Humanities, Abia State Polytechnic, said it was wrong to attribute sexual harassment to just one party, describing it as a two-way traffic.  However, he blamed students more for it than lecturers.

“This issue is a two-way traffic which takes place on the sides of both the lecturers and the female students.  But it is more on the side of the female students who feel they have more to gain when they trade sex for marks than the other way round,” he said.

The most common reason the lecturers interviewed said they got advances from the students was to rectify their poor performance in academic work.

[ad id=”403656″] Prof Francis Angrey of the Department of Modern Languages and Translation Studies, University of Calabar, said poor grades make students vulnerable and ready to offer their bodies.

“It is a terrible issue. I tell my students that those of them who run after lecturers to improve their grades do so because they are weak and it makes them vulnerable. I know some students on their own go to lecturers and offer one thing or the other, whether sex, for female students, or money. They just come to you and say ‘Please how did I perform?’ And from there they say they will give you anything you want so that you can change it for them. I advise them to go sit down and study. The time they spend doing other things and pursuing lecturers, if they sit down and read, they would have done several pages of their books,” he said.

Apart from grades, Dr Gbenga Abimbola of the Department of Mass Communication, Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba-Akoko (AAUA), Ondo State, said students harass lecturers to settle scores, or even because of romantic attraction.

“Female students who harass their male lecturers do it for different purposes, chief among which is to get academic favours through the back door. Such students are mentally weak and are not ready for any hard work but to seek cheap grades. Others do it because they are naturally attracted to their male lecturers. But those in this category are few. Some do it out of mischief in order to tarnish the reputation of their target victims.”


Sexual harassment methods

Sexual harassment against lecturers takes various modes.  While provocative dressing was identified by many lecturers as the most common method students use to attract their attention, it is now being used with a combination of many other tactics, including phone calls, amorous text messages, invitations to hotels, and unsolicited visits.

Mr Oluwadamilola Fapetu, a lecturer in the Department of Public Administration, Rufus Giwa Polytechnic Owo (RUGIPO) in Ondo State, will quit bachelorhood soon, and he hopes the marriage will stave off ‘attacks’ from his female students.

He has been invited by female students to hotels or hostels many times.

“On many occasions, students have seduced me for marks but what I always do is to let them know that their bodies should not be used as a means of exchange.

“I have been invited to hotels and even students’ houses to make me fall for them. But, by the special grace of God, I normally overcome such temptation,” he said.

Mr John Galadima of the Mass Communication Department, University of Jos, has also got many invites from female students.

He said: “Most female students just believe they can achieve anything with their body. I have experienced a lot of them who have difficulties in passing my course or attending classes.  All they do is they make sure they get your phone number and you will get strange calls and the caller will introduce herself as your student. The caller will be asking the description to where you live because they want to visit. When you refuse to welcome them to your house, they suggest you come to meet them in a hotel. Some will ask me to choose any location I want or will suggest an exclusive beer palour in town and so on.”

Dr Paul Omale, a lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, Benue State University (BSU), Makurdi, said the level of sexual harassment is usually higher after examinations.

“I don’t know where they get my number, but shortly after any examinations I usually receive many phone calls requesting my attention,” Omale said.

Until he became a victim, Mr Ayodele Alade of the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), Ikorodu, did not believe students could harass lecturers.

“Most of the harassment come from students and not lecturers. When I was a student, my lecturer corrected a student who sat in front for opening her legs wide without her panties on.  I did not believe the lecturer then until it happened to me as a lecturer. A girl wearing no panties opened her legs wide in the class at the Isolo Campus,” he said.

An Associate Professor of Political Science, Ekiti State University, Dr. Femi Omotoso, shared his three experiences of sexual harassment.

He said: “The harassment on their part is just too much; they expose sensitive parts of their bodies. They write answers on their laps inside exam hall, and some of them even hide answers written in some pieces of paper inside their private parts and it is improper for a male invigilator to check their bodies.

“Most of them will come around looking at you seductively, saying, ‘Oga, a n fo ju so, a n fara so‘ (Can’t you decode the message we are sending to you?) Some of them will say, ‘before I leave this university, I must have an affair with you’.

[ad id=”403656″] “I have two outstanding experiences of such. One of them sent a text message to me, saying, ‘Oga, I love you.’ When I saw the text, I called back to know the sender and, lo and behold, she happened to be my student. She said she was having a feeling for me.

“Another one said: ‘Oga, I know you are married but I wish to be your second wife.’ One of them, a married woman came to my office and jammed the door, saying ‘Oga, don’t you do faaji (enjoyment).’ On that day, I was shaking and jittery.

“I had to apply wisdom to ease her out because if I didn’t and she shouted, I knew I would be in trouble.”

A lecturer in a privately-owned higher institution in Ondo State (names withheld) said he has since overcome the shock of getting suggestive text messages from students.

“In the school where I lecture, female students send me amorous text messages. The first day I received it, I was shocked that this could happen there; but when it became frequent, it did not matter to me again,” he said.

But he was shocked when a student touched him.

He said: “There was a day a female student, who missed a test I conducted, came to my office at about 6.30 pm, begging that I should assist her.  My policy was that any student who fails to appear for my test would not have an opportunity for a make-up test because I always tell them ahead of time.

“When I told her that there was nothing I could do, she moved closer to me wrapped her hands around my shoulder and I shouted ‘What!’ I walked her out of my office that day because her action was very shocking.

“In my school, many of the students are children of influential people and you need to be very careful so that you will not be at the receiving end of the episode, and you need to think about the interest of the proprietor who wants to make money by having as many students as possible.”

A lecturer in the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, Dr Bisi Olawuyi, said girls sexually assault lecturers when they believe they can get what they need.

He recounted his experience with a girl begging for assistance over her poor results.

“I am the co-ordinator of the Distance Learning programme in the department. The young girl came in and started begging me to help her over her poor performance. But I told her that I couldn’t help. She persisted, saying ‘I know you can help me.’ She went on her knees and burst into tears. Unfortunately, I can’t help students in such ways.

“Anyway, students don’t harass lecturers if they don’t put themselves in position of power. I have always told them also that if they do what is needful, lecturers can’t harass them.”


Avoiding the trap

Though many lecturers interviewed said they had been harassed, none admitted to have fallen for the temptation.

To overcome temptation, Fapetu said lecturers must be principled.

“As a lecturer you must be a man of principle and stand on it to the letter, no matter the situation. I normally send out any student who dresses indecently to my class because those that dress in that manner are on a mission and that mission is to seduce their lecturers,” said the RUGIPO lecturer.

Dr Abimbola also advised lecturers to set boundaries that would prevent them from falling a victim of sexual harassment from students.

Abimbola did so when he taught in a higher institution in Benin.

“I was living on campus and was much younger. This female student used to come to the office asking lots of questions but I had to stop her from disturbing me. Not relenting, she found her way to my residence one evening. I was in my room when my flat mate came to inform me that I had a guest. I came out and found she was the one. I only asked who she came to visit and she said it was me. I hurriedly reminded her about my privacy and banged my door on her. That was the end of her overtures to me.

“Lecturers who are harassed should know it is a natural and common thing in any human setting. They should learn to set boundaries, both physical and emotional, to avoid a situation that will make it extremely difficult or inevitable to resist the test”.

Omale of BSU said he has kept safe by refusing to meet with students outside his office and advises others to do same.

“I insist that whatever discussion should be held in my office on campus.This way, I have been able to wade off those who want to harass me sexually for marks,” he said.

On his part, Dr Omotoso said in order not to fall victim of sexual harassment, he speaks openly against it in the classroom; ensures he does not stay alone in his office and dismisses such students the moment they send him signals.

“Some of the measures I take to tackle this menace include opening the door to my office and ensuring somebody is always with me while in the office. I also use some strategies to disengage them from office when they are unwilling to leave. If you are in Christ, you will always escape them and when you always speak against it in the class, they will respect you,” he said.

Dr Canice Okoli of the Faculty of Education, UNILAG, said marking scripts promptly could help avoid attacks.

“My advice to lecturers is that, as much as you can, do your job right. Mark their scripts and submit to the authorities so that even if they come, there is nothing you can do anymore. Even when the students have been told that, some of them would still come and beg as if you can perform magic.”

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Consequences of yielding

Lecturers who are not principled enough to resist sexual advances by students usually get embarrassed.

Galadima of UNIJOS warned of the shame of exposure by the students when he said: “When you fall into their trap and they get the favour they are looking for from you, they will expose you before other students by being boastful of having influence over one lecturer or the other. I have never fallen into their trap, and I will never.  There is no two ways to passing my course; you have to read well. You will only get the mark and grade you deserve; and that applies to male and female students.”

Angrey of UNICAL fingered greed as the principal factor that makes lecturers give in to sexual harassment, and said such people should be sent away.

“It is a matter of greed for lecturers who succumb to such temptations. In the Faculty of Arts when I was Dean, I said if any lecturer is caught, he is going,” he said.


Resolving sexual

harassment on campus

Dr Damagun is advocating a change in the way authorities handle sexual harassment issues so both parties can feel protected in the course of carrying out their legal obligations in the school environment.

He suggested that managements of tertiary institutions should mount programmes to address the issue for both workers and students.

He said universities should establish workshops for students to raise awareness of the problem and help prevent harassment, in addition to offering training that would help staff deal with – and stop – unacceptable behaviour when it arose.

“Universities need to recognise that harassment by students is going on. We shouldn’t just be sweeping it under the carpet. Some of the lecturers do not want to say many of the happenings because many students threaten them. I have also passed and witnessed many which I do not want to mention. But I think urgent steps needs to be taken,” he said.

Ray Njoku, who teaches in the Public Administration Department of Abia State Polytechnic, urged parents to raise their wards well so they do not offer sex to lecturers for marks.

“It takes a decadent student from a decadent background to offer sex for marks and it also take a decadent lecturer from a decadent background to allow that because it takes two to tango. The parents should bring up their children in a godly manner so that the thought of offering sex for marks will not cross their minds. Students should be in school, buy their textbooks, study to write and pass their exams and stop moving from one club to the other which makes them ill-prepared to study for their exams. Because it is possible for them to read, write and pass their exams without debasing themselves,” he said.

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