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Wits fires third 'sex pest'

06 September 2013 - 03:03 By POPPY LOUW

The dismissal of a third lecturer for sexual harassment at the University of the Witwatersrand has come as no surprise to students.

Politics professor Rupert Taylor yesterday became the third Wits lecturer to be fired after being found guilty of sexually harassing female students.

Repeated efforts to reach Taylor for comment yesterday were unsuccessful. He did not answer his cellphone or respond to a text message.

Wits vice-chancellor and principal Adam Habib said the university had adopted a "zero tolerance" policy towards sexual harassment.

"We are confident that these dismissals will send a strong signal that the university will act decisively on all matters related to sexual harassment," said Habib.

A student who did not want to be named said Taylor's "inappropriate" conduct with students had been "common knowledge" for years within the department.

"When the initial story broke last year, we all knew it was he but he was going about his duties unfazed by everything," she said.

In April, The Times reported that Taylor had been accused of making sexual advances to students by SMS and on social networks.

A post-graduate student yesterday alleged he had tried to do the same to her while she was consulting him by e-mail but she "put an end to it before it even began".

"He told me I did not only have to stick to e-mail - that is when he gave me his BBM pin and cellphone number for WhatsApp. I told him in my capacity as a student and his as a lecturer, it would be inappropriate and he never tried it again."

The student's friend alleged that Taylor had invited her on Facebook and sent her "raunchy" inbox messages. Though offended, she said she did not know to whom to complain.

"What is happening is really sad because he is a brilliant lecturer and knows politics so well. This has tarnished his reputation."

The university on Wednesday released a report compiled by a committee of legal specialists in which it recommended that communication between lecturers and their students by text messages and on social networks be prohibited.

Wits made headlines in March following a Sunday Times exposé of senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu who was accused of having molested 10 female students.

An investigation was launched into Wa Mamatu and three other lecturers, including Taylor.

Wa Mamatu and media studies lecturer Last Moyo were found guilty of sexual harassment and became the first casualties of the investigation on July 31.

Both men reportedly vehemently denied the allegations and Wa Mamatu is said to be challenging his dismissal through the CCMA.

Wits spokesman Shirona Patel said the investigation of the activities of a fourth lecturer was continuing.