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SK: Teacher ousted from Helsinki school for harassment facing similar accusations at Tampere University

The news weekly Suomen Kuvalehti reports that the accused teacher is the same individual who faced allegations of sexual harassment at the Kallio Upper Secondary School of Performing Arts in Helsinki

Tampereen yliopisto
Image: Jani Aarnio / Yle

Former drama and theatre students of Tampere University have accused their former teacher of sexual harassment. According to Suomen Kuvalehti, the students compiled an account of harassment incidents that allegedly took place at the start of the 2000s.

Students said there were times they thought the teacher acted inappropriately. For example, a student recounted an incident in which the teacher allegedly told his students during a lesson to act out a simulated rape. Two students related their experiences using their own names.

Students alleged the then-acting theater and drama studies professor Panu Rajala did not act upon requests by students to intervene.

In his defence, Rajala said in an interview that one cannot get by with an impeccable record in the theatre business, but acknowledged that he may have belittled some of the problems students brought forward.

”Studying in the theatre industry is no Sunday school, where everything is done by exact rules. It is utterly impossible to control that everything is correct according to guidelines set in place after the fact,” explained Rajala in an interview with Yle.

”I knew that a few students criticised certain aspects of the teaching, but the examples put forward felt so minuscule that I had no chance of getting involved,” said Rajala.

From Tampere to Kallio

The previous Tampere university teacher who stands accused is the same teacher who went on to work at Kallio Upper Secondary School of Performing Arts in Helsinki.

Students from the Kallio school came forward last year, recounting sexual harassment which spanned years. The students of Tampere university now say that if Rajala had interfered in harassment in the early 2000s, the harassment which took place in Helsinki could have been prevented.

After the spring term of 2001 the teacher moved from Tampere university to the Kallio upper secondary school where he continued to teach up until late 2017.

Rajala took a leave of absence in 2002 and later gave up his position at the university.

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