Council for Higher Education creates sexual harassment watchdog post

Sigal Mordoch, an assistant to the deputy head of the CHE, will be responsible for dealing with issues relating to sexual harassment.

January 16, 2018 19:37
2 minute read.
Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment victim [Illustrative]. (photo credit: INIMAGE)

For the first time, the Council for Higher Education appointed someone to be responsible for preventing sexual harassment, CHE representatives told the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women.

Sigal Mordoch, an assistant to the deputy head of the CHE, will be responsible for dealing with issues relating to sexual harassment.

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The committee on Monday held its third annual meeting on sexual harassment in institutes of higher education, following up on reports from 106 out of 152 colleges and universities to the panel, which received a total of 146 official complaints, and heard 72 rumors and unofficial complaints, in the last year.

Out of those that submitted reports, 50 institutes of higher education said that there were no complaints or rumors of sexual harassment in the last year, and 19 reported receiving only one complaint.

Omri Golan, an attorney in the CHE legal office, said that last month, following past years’ committee meetings, the council “decided to appoint a worker to take care of preventing sexual harassment in institutes of higher education. We receive a copy of the annual reports, review them and analyze them and check if there are specific problems that need to be taken care of, and turn to the institutes when needed.”

MK Aida Touma-Sliman, chairwoman of the Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women, said this was a record number of reports.

“There’s no doubt that the number of reports does not reflect the reality on campuses, but that’s part of the picture in all of Israeli society,” Touma- Sliman said. “Society still doesn’t help and doesn’t allow women to say, ‘I was assaulted, I was harassed.’ Many are still afraid to speak, and with good reason.”

Touma-Sliman criticized some of the reports for saying that the population group that studies at their college doesn’t experience sexual harassment, and they only submitted the report because the law says they have to.

“That is an unacceptable claim, and we reject it. If only there was a population group that is not plagued with sexual harassment. We’d all be happy if that were so, but that’s not the situation,” she said.

The committee’s legal adviser, Anat Maimon, said that in 40% of the institutes that submitted reports, the people responsible for receiving sexual harassment complaints did not receive sufficient training, of at least 18 hours, as established by law.

Inbar Hochberg, deputy chairwoman of the National Union of Israeli Students, presented a plan to reform the way campuses respond to sexual harassment, calling for every institution to establish an office to deal with the issue, in which there will be the person responsible for it, a student representative, and a psychologist or social worker. In addition, she said campuses should have disciplinary courts with three judges, at least one coming from outside the campus, along with a student representative if the complainant is a student. She also called to publicize the name of those found guilty of harassment, while protecting the anonymity of the complainant.

Touma-Sliman supported Hochberg’s proposal and called for schools to adopt it.

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