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Students denounce sexual harassment by professors at Thessaloniki University

The rector of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University (TAU), announced on Monday that he had informed prosecuting authorities about media reports in which three former students accused two retired professors of sexual harassment.

“I have formally requested the intervention of Justice, in order for any such case concerning the University to be investigated in depth and the perpetrators held accountable and punished,” the rector, professor Nikos Papaioannou told state-run news agency amna.

Papaioannou added that no official or unofficial complaint has been filed at the university.

Two of the former students revealed in a closed Facebook forum of TAU alumni that they had been sexually assaulted by a now retired professor from the university’s Philosophy Department.

The unnamed women, then 20 and 22, said the unnamed professor performed lewd acts against them during meetings in his office to discuss their grades.

One of the women said she revealed the attack to a young male professor who said he believed her but could not intervene “because he was only a lecturer,” according to local media Parallaximag that spoke with the victim. The woman said that the TAU rector contacted her.

The third woman said she was sexually harassed by a “well-known” professor in the Geology Department of the same university who kept failing her in his class. The former student alerted the then head of the department, only to be told that other female students had tried to file complaints against him without succeeding.

She eventually suspended her studies and returned in 2016 when the professor in question had retired.

Parallaxi revealed further that an internal investigation was launched against the specific professor in 2013 following an anonymous complain. However, due to the anonymity the investigation concluded without result and was archived.

The accusations come following the courageous revelations by former Olympic gold medalist Sofia Bekatorou who accused a senior official of the Hellenic Sailing Federation of sexually abused her at the age of 21. Four other athletes have so far come out and spoke about being sexually harassed by sports officials.

Meanwhile, former students of TAU are mobilizing and have been reportedly in contact with the aim to make a collective complaint with evidence to support their cause, even if the two professors are retirees.
In a statement the Department of Archaeology at TAU is reportedly calling on students to denounce similar experiences. ‘Don’t be afraid to denounce eponymous,” the statement said among others.

Bekatorou’s revelations opened the can of worms with an issue that is still taboo in the mainly conservative society.

PS I believe that the Greek #MeToo movement is just in the beginning and we are going to hear more about sexual abuse and harassment not only in sports and universities but also in other sectors of public life. Already, there several anonymous posts on social media by victims of sexual abuse and harassment by the neighbor, the teacher, the tutor, the uncle… On Sunday alone, I read five of them on Twitter. The painful experiences torturing the victims for years can be finally told even with delay.

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