Auckland University student's 'sex in Bali' offer to lecturer 'not harassment', says lawyer

A University of Auckland student who propositioned her lecturer has been suspended after being found guilty of sexual harassment. Photo / Chris Skelton
A University of Auckland student who propositioned her lecturer has been suspended after being found guilty of sexual harassment. Photo / Chris Skelton

The case of a university student who propositioned her lecturer for sex and was found guilty of harassment was an "extreme outcome" that could set a precedent, a leading employment lawyer says.

A 30-year-old woman was suspended from the University of Auckland after sending her lecturer an email asking: "Would you like to have sex in Bali?", the Herald on Sunday revealed yesterday.

She is not allowed back at university until next year, a punishment for not complying with the disciplinary process triggered by the teacher's sexual harassment complaint.

The woman said she sent only one email which, while risque, was very straightforward, polite and non-threatening in its approach.

Employment lawyer Susan Hornsby-Geluk said that usually a sexual harassment ruling required more than a one-off proposition.

"You would expect she had made multiple advances and was rejected, but notwithstanding that, kept pressuring," Ms Hornsby-Geluk said.

"If it was just one email request, that would seem to be a fairly harsh outcome. For that to be described as sexual harassment is opening up the floodgates, I would have thought."

She said the kind of situation described happened fairly often, but a ruling like that meant anyone making an approach risked being accused of sexual harassment.

"It does seem extreme. It would be quite significant."

The woman sent the letter in March, a few weeks into her course. It said: "It's rather forward of me but I wondered if you and your wife are the open, experimental type?

"Bali Indonesia rendevous [sic] in July if you are interested. I've made a booking for a week here before I go diving in the komodo islands :) I'd like to spend the week getting to know you intimately."

She told her lecturer that if her attention was unwanted he should ignore her message. "No need to compute a rejection letter! And I would never expect you to be unfair, I'm happy to wait until after the exam."

Soon after receiving the email, the lecturer forwarded it to his boss. An investigation was launched and the student was found guilty by the university proctor of sexual harassment.

An email seen by the Herald on Sunday confirmed the decision and outlined the student's right to review.

A university spokeswoman confirmed "a university student has been investigated in relation to an allegation of sexual harassment this year". She would not discuss the outcome.

The student said she intended to appeal against her suspension.

- NZ Herald

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