Four Walter Sisulu University lecturers have been suspended in a sex-for-marks scandal that has rocked the institution. The scandal erupted when a BTech student in the South African University complained that she might not graduate in May. "I went to my supervisor to find out why he is not giving me marks for my project, (and) he said we will have to have sex first," the 23-year-old student said.
During exams in November last year. On her return to campus last month, she again approached him, but she claimed the lecturer again demanded that they have sex.
Attempts to resolve the matter through the student representative council three weeks ago failed, and she has since reported the matter to the office of the public protector.
The student alleges that the lecturer repeated his shocking demands in front of SRC members and an academic affairs representative. She said she was humiliated when, in the presence of fellow students, the lecturer told her again: "I want to have sex with you. It's that or no marks." She said: "I realised that this is normal practice for him to be so bold. For him to say that in the presence of the student leadership showed that he is used to victimising students and thinks it's the norm to exchange sex for marks."SRC president Ayanda Gantsho confirmed that he was at the meeting. He told the South African Sunday Times he was shocked when the lecturer went even further and agreed to put his demands in writing. He allegedly wrote a letter which reads: "Akapasi kuba ndifuna ukulala naye," meaning "She won't pass because I want to have sex with her." In another case, a student passed only after the lecturer was suspended.
The university's council chair man, Dr Somadoda Fikeni, admitted that there were gaps in policies which created problems when dealing with some disciplinary cases. Three institutions - the University of Transkei (Unitra), Border Technikon and Eastern Cape Technikon - merged to form the university, but their codes of conduct have yet to be merged into one.
"We have instructed the vice chancellor to deal with the policy issue as soon as possible," said Fikeni.
Among the suspended staff is a senior public management lecturer on the university's Zamukulungisa campus in Mthatha and three law faculty lecturers on the former Unitra campus.
Vice-chancellor Professor Marcus Balintulo confirmed the suspensions this week, adding that charges against another staff member had been dropped owing to a lack of evidence. He said the suspensions were handed down between November last year and this week.
Balintulo said: "There is a standoff at the university, with students asserting their rights to be protected from victimisation, while staff feel that they are being portrayed as predators.
"There's a lot of anger around this, but we have to act and follow due process."
Students boycotted classes on Tuesday after they spotted a suspended lecturer on campus.
Balintulo then called a meeting with student representatives and the unions on Wednesday.
The next day, staff members pledged support for their colleague, which led to students boycotting classes.