An Auckland university has “unreservedly” apologised for how it handled claims of sexual harassment made by a former academic against their colleague.
In 2020, a Stuff report revealed that Dr Marisa Paterson, now a politician in Australia, had laid a complaint against AUT’s pro vice chancellor Max Abbott about alleged stalking and harassment.
Despite Paterson providing extensive evidence of Abbott’s behaviour, AUT refused to investigate for almost a year. Eventually, a major review was then ordered by the university into its own culture.
In a statement issued via the Human Rights Commission, Paterson said the decision to lodge a formal complaint at the time was made in desperation. “The independent report that was commissioned by AUT and this apology, are public recognition that I did not experience the appropriate or adequate response to the harm I experienced,” she said.
“In addition to the sexual harassment, the harm that is imposed on an individual to fight an institution for an adequate response, in public, is significant. I have suffered long-term distress and implications from what I experienced and what I had to do to seek justice and resolution.”
In its apology, AUT acknowledged its investigation into Paterson’s complaint was “not adequate” and communication throughout the process “failed to recognise and reflect the very sensitive and serious nature” of the issues.
“We would also like to recognise your courage in coming forward, and to thank you for providing the opportunity for AUT to learn from this and initiate a process of culture change which we are confident will improve the experience of people learning and working in the university,” the statement said.