The university itself stated on Sunday that it had remained discreet at the request of the judiciary and now wants to impose a disciplinary sanction on the professor. The facts are from 2016, when Luc Sels was not yet rector of the university. The professor in question, who raped a student he was sponsoring during a congress in Barcelona, was sentenced to prison last week.
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 dailies (the Mediahuis newspapers) announced this weekend that they had learned that the university’s conciliation service, as well as the dean of the faculty of psychology and pedagogy (on which this professor depended) had been made aware of the story of the student from 2016. There would have been no reaction beyond an interview with the professor. 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. While the pedagogy professor will then be officially suspected of rape, it will still be a few months before the university will retire him in September 2018, and in the meantime even allow him to receive an award in the name of the teaching team.
Minister Zuhal Demir asserted in a press release that she could not accept “the deafening silence of the current rectorate,” from which she received no 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 are included in the Flemish budget, but the cooperation agreement for their allocation has yet to be handed over to the government,” says the spokesman. The minister therefore simply decided “not to bring it before the government for the time being”. For the minister, “people who knew what had happened and remained silent have no place in the academic world,” she explains.
The KU Leuven reacted soberly on Sunday evening and explained the procedure introduced. According to the university, the faculty representative who became aware of the story in 2016 then continued to try to get in direct contact with the student, who had remained anonymous until then. “As soon as the victim was ready, there was a formal complaint in 2018, and the university then acted in consultation with the police and the judiciary,” the institution defends. “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 it was only in September 2018, with the approval of the courts, that it was able to take action and immediately block the professor’s access to university buildings and students.
“Now that the information from the KU Leuven judicial investigation is available (the conviction has been passed, editor’s note), the university will immediately continue and complete its own disciplinary proceedings”, resulting in a sanction (dismissal or other) in 3 should lead to 6 months, summarizes the institution. The latter adds that she wants to critically question the way she deals with cases of abuse, and that a commission of experts set up “last week” is working on a clear decision-making process for reports.