Sexual harassment scandal might not be isolated, student body reports

The Student Union of Latvia has received signals of possible sexual violence also in other institutions of higher education, said Alens Aleksandrs Čerņa, President-elect of the Student Union, who will take office on April 9, commenting on reports of alleged sexual harassment at Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music (JVLMA).

The Student Union has introduced a “need for help!” section on its website, where it is possible to report violations in higher education institutions anonymously or openly, Čerņa said. In this section, the Student Union asks students to report violations characterized by unethical actions, as a result of which the victim is discriminated against, physically harassed, or otherwise humiliated, as a result of which he or she does not feel safe in the study environment, as well as such actions in the study process from the institution of higher education or personnel, which do not conform to regulatory enactments. Čerņa said these reports will help address issues more broadly and provide support to a specific university student authority.

He said the Students' Union had received two reports since the help section was released.

The President-elect of the Student Union also emphasized that after the JVLMA case it cannot be excluded that similar situations have not occurred in other higher education establishments.

Representative of the Ombudsman's Office Ruta Siliņa also expressed a similar position in the Latvian Television morning newscast on March 13 – it cannot be said that such cases do not occur in other educational institutions.

“There was a message that students' self-governments do not report such cases in other institutions of higher education, however, we would not like to trust the feeling immediately – the feeling that it does not happen elsewhere,” Siliņa said.

Therefore, according to Čerņa, the situation of sexual violence in higher education institutions needs to be addressed more broadly: “And we need to encourage that it is also viewed on a larger scale, the need for these ethical norms is being raised, encouraging training towards providing a safe environment for the student to feel safe in a higher education institution.”

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