the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption has found Adelaide University’s former vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen groped staff.
the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption has found Adelaide University’s former vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen groped staff.

Uni’s former vice-chancellor groped staff

Former Adelaide University vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen hugged and kissed two employees in conduct that was "entirely inappropriate", Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander has found.

Prof Rathjen also lied to then Chancellor Kevin Scarce to protect his position, Mr Lander said.

Mr Lander on Wednesday issued a public statement but honoured the requests of the two women involved in the case by not issuing the full report from his inquiry into maladministration at Adelaide University.

"The vice-chancellor engaged in conduct that was entirely inappropriate by treating the women with egregious disrespect," Mr Lander said.

"It was all the worse having regard to his position within the university and the two women's relative positions in the university."

 

ICAC Commissioner Bruce Lander. Picture: AAP Image/David Mariuz
ICAC Commissioner Bruce Lander. Picture: AAP Image/David Mariuz

 

Mr Lander said the two women has suffered great embarrassment and humiliation.

"It may be because of the brevity of this statement compared with the report, that the seriousness of the conduct will not be understood," he said.

"However, that is better than the victims suffering further hurt.

" … I have rejected the vice-Chancellor's evidence in every respect where he sought to disagree with the account given by the two women or to minimise his conduct," he said.

"I have found contrary to the evidence given by Prof Rathjen that his conduct was sexual in nature and advertised by him to the women as sexual."

Mr Lander found Rear Admiral Scarce had been commissioned by the university to confront Prof Rathjen.

"The university also accepted that the conduct was 'repugnant to the university's values of

honesty, respect and fairness as those terms are defined in the university's code of conduct'," he said.

 

Former University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor Peter Rathjen.
Former University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor Peter Rathjen.

 

Mr Rathjen first took leave in May and then resigned from his post on July 20.

Mr Lander announced he was holding an inquiry on May 7.

He said while it was not his normal practice, he acted because there was intense speculation about the university which "will continue and potentially lead to an unnecessary negative impact on the university's operations".

He stressed he was not investigating allegations corruption. His investigation was into potential issues of serious or systemic misconduct and maladministration.

Mr Lander is due to retire from the post at the end of the month, with former Supreme Court Justice Ann Vanstone appointed to replace him.

 

The Honourable Catherine Branson is Adelaide University’s new chancellor. Picture: Matt Turner.
The Honourable Catherine Branson is Adelaide University’s new chancellor. Picture: Matt Turner.

 

Prof Rathjen, who was appointed vice-chancellor in January 2018, pushed a strategic direction for the university to be focused internationally.

He travelled to promote the strategy, including attending university events in Shanghai and then Hong Kong in March 2019.

The university is now being run by Prof Mike Brooks, who has said the university faces a major financial shortfall of $250 million over two years because of coronavirus restrictions affecting international students. Staff have since voted to accept a temporary pay cut to save jobs.

The university does not publish remuneration of individual staff. However, its 2019 annual report listed one member of the senior executive earning over $1 million.

Rear Admiral Scarce brought forward his retirement to May 4.

The university appointed former Federal Court judge Catherine Branson as its new chancellor.

Originally published as Adelaide Uni's former vice-chancellor groped staff: ICAC



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