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‘Sleazy’ University Vice-chancellor Sexually Harassed Colleagues

‘Sleazy’ university vice-chancellor sexually harassed colleagues

An investigation by South Australia’s corruption watchdog found a ‘sleazy’ university vice-chancellor sexually harassed his colleagues.

The investigation found Peter Rathjen engaged in “egregious disrespect” while vice-chancellor of the University of Adelaide

But to many in South Australia’s academic sector, the findings are not surprising.

‘Sleazy’ university vice-chancellor sexually harassed colleagues

Last week, SA’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, Bruce Lander, released a statement about Rathjen’s “serious misconduct”.

Lander’s full 170-page findings will remain secret to protect the women involved, however, they reportedly include “further issues”.

His 12-page summary is still damning.

It details how on 11 April last year, after a function in Sydney, Rathjen deliberately touched one colleague’s bottom.

He also hugged her and kissed her on the mouth twice.

Furthermore, on the same night, he put his hands on another colleague’s waist “at the top of her bottom” and later put his hands around her waist.

The incidents left one of the women so traumatised she left the university.


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Previous allegations against university vice-chancellor

As it turns out, Rathjen has a history of sexual misconduct.

Rumours published online referred to an investigation into his conduct at the University of Melbourne where he previously worked.

However, when questioned by the University of Adelaide’s chancellor about the rumours, Rathjen told him there was nothing he needed to know.

“Plainly that was untrue,” Lander’s report states.

The truth is the University of Melbourne has been investigating a “very serious” allegation of sexual harassment or abuse of a student by Rathjen.

Lander says Rathjen “lied” again when the chancellor asked him about the persistent rumours, claiming there was no truth to them.

Lander writes in his report:

“I have found the vice-chancellor lied to the chancellor on three occasions.

“He lied in his evidence to me.

“I have found that he has lied when it suited him to do so.”

Rathjen resigned soon after giving evidence to the ICAC investigation, receiving a payout from the university.


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Social media criticism

After his appointment in 2018, Rathjen became a well-known mover and shaker in Adelaide, and a deal-maker.

People described him as “media savvy” and “charming”.

However, in private, people in the academic world described him as “sleazy”.

The release of the ICAC statement prompted a number of people to take to social media to question the university’s handling of the complaints.

They also expressed anger at the payout to Rathjen while staff face pay cuts and job losses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

University apologises to victims

New chancellor Catherine Branson told a press conference she has apologised to the victims.

“We are committed to maintaining and strengthening a culture and environment which allows students and staff to thrive, an environment in which individuals feel respected, safe, valued and welcome.

“I firmly believe that our values and culture must be led from the very top.”

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