Oxford University insists sexual harassment claims are 'alarmist'

A lawyer has called for the university to instigate similar policies to Ivy League schools in the USA

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The Independent Online

A student has reportedly filed a complaint against the University of Oxford claiming that she was sexually harassed by a male professor.

Ann Olivarius, a lawyer, told The Sunday Times she is representing the student in the proceedings. It is alleged that the student had sexual intercourse with a professor on a number of occasions before coming to see the relationship as sexual harassment.

Ms Olivarius has called on the university to take steps to prevent professors from having sexual relationships with students. She said: “In the US it is considered off-limits for a professor to have a relationship with a student. Why does Oxford not put down such limits?

“Harassment and even rape seem to exist at epidemic levels and people are not reporting it at Oxford. We have a case where a woman… was pitifully harassed by a guy who has slept with several students.

“There seem to be a number of academics who have done this. The men involved are all about 50 and not particularly attractive. This girl is young and beautiful.”

A spokesperson for the university rejected Ms Olivarius’ allegation that sexual harassment is at “epidemic levels”. They told The Independent: “There is no evidence of a widespread problem of sexual harassment at Oxford University. The University always takes allegations about harassment extremely seriously when instances arise.

“However, using alarmist language to inflate the scale of the problem does not help those students who do need support in making complaints.”

They said that Oxford University staff are strongly advised against forming any close or intimate relationships with students and warned that such behaviour could result in disciplinary action. “The University is clear such relationships can create great difficulties through the power imbalance between the staff member and the student.”

A number of Ivy League schools in the US prohibit sexual relationships between students and staff. Yale University banned such relationships in 2010, whilst Harvard University implemented a similar policy in February of this year.

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