Named or nameless: University ethics, confidentiality and sexual harassment


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This paper focusses on our concerns about revelations about sexual harassment in universities and the inadequate responses whereby some universities seem more concerned about their own reputations than the care and protection of their students. Seldom do cases go to criminal court, instead they mostly fall within employment relations policies where the use of non-disclosure agreements are double edged, such that some perpetrators remain nameless even if the person offended against wants details made public. Of course if the staff member does not resign or take retirement prior to potential dismissal, but remains in the institution, the grapevine still works. Universities too often become complicit in cover-ups at the expense of further potential victims of sexual misconduct. It has been with much dismay that we found that despite extensive training and writing about ethics some senior professors in philosophy fields have been accused and found wanting, disabusing us of the virtue assumption. Despite these recent instances where perpetrators have been named and been publicised in the media, we found that this is not in fact new, so not only does the paper look to the past, but also extensively it uses contemporary accounts, reports and documents from USA, UK, South America, Australia, and New Zealand. These seem to be the tip of the iceberg, so our hope is that all students and staff in universities (and in fact all institutions where there are inherent power imbalances) will not only feel safe, but that they will be safe as universities become genuinely ethical institutions. Copyright © 2021 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2422-2433
JournalEducational Philosophy and Theory
Issue number14
Early online date03 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


Besley, T., Jackson, L., & Peters, M. A. (2022). Named or nameless: University ethics, confidentiality and sexual harassment. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 54(14), 2422-2433. doi: 10.1080/00131857.2021.1952865


  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual assault
  • Ethics
  • Moral education
  • Virtue assumption
  • Confidentiality
  • #MeToo
  • Title IX
  • Human rights


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