University

“Flemish universities nonetheless have a feudal construction”

The Tongeren Criminal Court on Thursday sentenced a former KU Leuven professor to 54 months in prison for raping a student. However, the exact role of the university and its rector in the aftermath of the case raises questions. Known since 2016, the Kuleuven would have waited until 2018 to take action.

On Sunday the Flemish Minister of Justice Zuhal Demir (N-VA) claimed she was going block a subsidy of 1.4 million euros destined for the Catholic University of Leuven, the KU Leuven, until light is shed on the darkness the precise role of the institution and its rector in the follow-up to the case of the rape of a student by a professor. L’university herself stated that she had stayed discreetly at the request of the judiciaryand now intend to impose a disciplinary sanction on the professor.

The facts are from 2016, when Luc Sels was not yet rector of the university. The teacher referred Has raped a student at a congress in Barcelona. At the time in question was also the university professor the student’s sponsor, which was then developing at the Faculty of Psychology and Pedagogical Sciences of the Louvan Institution. He had suggested that his student accompany him to a congress in Barcelona where he was to give a lecture, arguing that the theme of the colloquium was linked to that of the young woman’s memoirs.

When he got there, he found out that the professor had not rented a room in the congress hotel, but an AirBnB with a single room. The man finally offered to sleep on the sofa in another room. During the stay, the Limburger also wanted to buy lingerie and a handbag for the student. The latter had been woken up one night by her teacher, who had entered her bed half-naked. The next day, he had previously attempted to get her to drink while touching her sexually assaulting her. The man had also tried to convince the young woman to get a joint tattoo that read in English: “What happens in Barcelona, ​​stays in Barcelona”.

Stay in psychiatry

When they returned to Belgium, the professor specifically told her that it was not in her interest to say that she had been to Spain with him, nor that she had met him there. He also signed several letters of recommendation for him for a doctorate abroad, in particularly distant countries. After the attack the student has done several stays in psychiatry and has attempted suicide several times.

Last Thursday, the Tongres Criminal Court sentenced the former professor to 54 months in prison. “The facts bear witness to thata pathological disposition and an apparent lack of respect for the victimfor whom these facts were special traumatic“, indicates the motivation of the court.

The case is now legally closed, but the reaction or lack of reaction on the part of the university raises questions, according to the victim’s relatives. Several Flemish daily newspapers (the Mediahuis newspapers) announced this weekend that they had found out the agency of the universityand the Dean of the Faculty of Psychology and Education (on which this professor was dependent). drew attention to the student’s story as early as 2016. Apart from an interview with the professor, there would have been no reaction. It should be noted that no complaint was made to the police either.

It was only in March 2018 that the case returned to the university when the young girl’s parents, after learning of the incidents, contacted Luc Sels, who has since become rector, to bring the matter to his attention. There is a new contact with the arbitration board and the young girl finally files a complaint on the advice of this board. Whereas the pedagogy teacher is then officially suspected of rapeit will take time several months before the university put him on “not active”.in September 2018, and in the meantime even allowed him to accept an award on behalf of the teaching team.

“Deafening Silence”

That Minister Zuhal Demir says in a press release, not being able to accept “the deafening silence of the current Rectorate”., from which she would not have received a reply this weekend. It therefore intends to retain, pending clarification, a subsidy from the agencies under its jurisdiction, which was planned for work related to the 600th anniversary of KU Leuven. “The subsidies will be entered into the Flemish budget, but the cooperation agreement on their allocation has yet to be submitted to the government,” the spokesman says. The minister therefore simply decided “not to bring it before the government for the time being”. for the minister, “People who knew what happened and remained silent have no place in science”justifies them.

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Asked by De Morgen, Dirk Van Damme, a former education expert at the OECD, is hardly surprised. ” Flemish universities still have a feudal structure : a very hierarchical system where teachers are omnipotent. This organizational culture should be much more horizontal and evaluations should be carried out more in teams. »

The KU Leuven reacted soberly on Sunday evening and explained the procedure introduced. According to the university, the faculty confidant who became aware of the story in 2016 then moved on Try to have direct contact with the student, which until then had gone through an intermediary and remained anonymous. “Once the victim was ready, There was a formal report in 2018 and the university then acted in concert with the police and judiciary‘ the institution defended. “The judiciary has specifically asked the university not to do anything that could alert the suspect and jeopardize the judicial investigation and the process.” The university claims that it was only in September 2018, with the approval of the courts, that it was able to take immediate action block the professor’s access to university buildings and students.

“Now that KULeuven has the information from the judicial investigation (the conviction has been handed down, editor’s note), the university will immediately initiate and complete its own disciplinary proceedings“, which should lead to a sanction (dismissal or otherwise) in 3 to 6 months, summarizes the institution. The latter adds that she wants to critically question her handling of cases of abuse, with a commission of experts set up “last week” working on a clear decision-making process for reports. (With Belga)

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