Harassment on campus: Jordan Dean ousted after exposé

Published October 31st, 2012 - 03:17 GMT
A still from the anti-harassment video
A still from the anti-harassment video

A war of education is taking place in Jordan and it comes down to the most basic of questions: does the prestige of a university top the rights of an individual professor?

The case of Rula Quawas, Dean of the Faculty of Foreign languages, has exposed the University of Jordan as siding with the former.

Professor Quawas was dismissed from her post last month, just half way through her two year contract, when she allowed her students to produce an anti-sexual harassment video. 

Just months after the video, produced by students of her Feminist Theory class, hit the web, Quawas was stripped of her position with no explanation. 

The short film - which shows female students holding up signs of the abusive words directed towards them on campus - caused a stir after it was uploaded to YouTube earlier this year. 

The comments range from “juicy bottom” to “made to suck on” and are all phrases that girls at the university have heard from their male peers.

After word of the video reached bloggers and local press, the University's Vice President reportedly called Quawas demanding an explanation and expressing concerns that the film could damage the university's reputation. Quawas was quick to defend the students’ work and sent a letter to the University's President, Dr. Ikhleif Tarawneh, explaining that the film was a class project but she received no response. 

In September Quawas learned from the press that she had been stripped of her post. 

Quawas' dismissal has now proved more controversial than the video itself, with social media sites awash with support for the professor. Former colleague, Eileen Lundy, said: "The actions of the present administration of UJ bring shame upon the university and diminish it in the eyes of educators everywhere."

The Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) for the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) has also offered its support to the ousted Dean. In a letter to Dr. Tarawneh last week, MESA's President Fred Donner, called the dismissal 'a serious violation of academic freedom'. 

Donner called on the University's President  "to ensure that not only the norms of academic freedom, but also the basic human dignity of all students and faculty on the University of Jordan campus, will henceforth be respected and protected."

As support for Quawas grows, it remains to be seen if the university will reverse their decision or act on the issues exposed in her students’ controversial film and own up to a problem of harassment on their campus.

 

Should Professor Quawas be reinstated as Dean? Do you think the University of Jordan has a problem with sexual harassment? And, if so, what could be done to deal with it? Leave us your comments below!


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