Former University of Tasmania vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen has been found to have engaged in inappropriate sexual misconduct with two women at a University of Adelaide function.
South Australian Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander released his findings from an investigation that arose after a complaint was made about Professor Rathjen’s conduct.
After the complaint was made and ICAC commenced its investigation in May, Professor Rathjen and University of Adelaide’s chancellor Kevin Scarce stepped down from their roles.
Mr Lander released the findings via statement and said he “rejected Professor Rathjen’s evidence in every respect” and had corroborated the version of events put forward by two women.
The complaint arose from the two women, whose identities have not been revealed, at a university function on April 11.
The investigation revealed the former vice-chancellor engaged in unwanted and unwelcome attention such as deliberately touching the women on the bottom, placing his hands around their waists while hugging them.
It also found Professor Rathjen kissed one of the women on the mouth on two occasions. The witnesses had described the acts as unwelcome and unwanted, which Mr Lander accepted as truth.
“I have found contrary to the evidence given by Professor Rathjen that his conduct was sexual in nature and advertised by him to the women as sexual,” Mr Lander said.
He said he rejected Professor Rathjen’s version of events as it appeared he [Rathjen] sought to minimise his involvement.
Mr Lander said he had decided not to release the full report to the public out of respect to the two women, who had both requested the report stay private.
University of Adelaide also asked for the report to stay private for the women’s sake.
After the function, a complaint was made by one of the women to her manager, who confronted Professor Rathjen about his conduct.
Professor Rathjen did not deny the conduct and offered to apologise if there had been a misunderstanding.
Mr Lander also questioned the advice of an independent solicitor, who had advised the university’s HR department that it didn’t need to record the complaint with the University Council.
“The solicitor’s advice was that the matter need not be referred to the Council of the University or its constituent committees of which there are two. I do not agree with that advice,” Mr Lander said.
“I think the University Council should have been advised because it was the body who employs the Vice-Chancellor. I think that the Senior Executive Review Committee which is the committee which has the responsibility of monitoring the vice-chancellor’s performance should also have been told.”
Mr Lander said he hoped the victims would not suffer further hurt through the statement and it was for that reason the report would not be made public. He said he would not comment further.