Make Universities Safe Again by Ayelet Kessel, Israel – photo essay –

It all started one morning, when one of my friends saw a sign posted on a board at a university building. The sign (pictured below) was a small, A4 sized white paper sheet, that contained this message:

“In a complaint of sexual harassment that was filed by a Ph.D student and a research assistant against a senior member of faculty staff, the disciplinary court, followed by the appeal court, found him guilty of sexual harassment and has sentenced him to a punishment of reprimand.”

Of course, it didn’t really start that morning. It started when the said Ph.D student, a woman that works and studies in my university, was sexually harassed and filed a complaint against her professor and employer. But for us, that was the last straw. We decided to organize a protest in order to show our support for this student, and our disagreement with the insulting punishment that the disciplinary court has decided was appropriate in this case (A reprimand? for real? That is not an appropriate punishment anywhere after kindergarten).

The next Tuesday, we stood together, 300 women and men, students and members of faculty, in protest of this violation of our rights to safety. 300 women and men that came out to the street to say that they will not compromise their rights for anyone’s tenure!

After the protest was reported in several media outlets, we were invited to join an open session of the student council, in order to speak about the matter that was so important to us. Our biggest goal was, and still is, changing the official procedure of dealing with sexual harassment at the university. We demanded fair punishment, and more than that- we asked that the people judging the suspect will not be members of the faculty itself, we asked that his name will be published with the decision of their sentence, and most of all, we asked that students will be able to participate in a process that is so important to our own lives on campus.

It is a long way, and we are still at the beginning, but things are moving forward. And if they do change, we will forever know that we had at least a small part in creating this change.

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