Cambridge college head steps back after hundreds of students accuse staff of ‘mishandling’ sexual misconduct cases

Dr Jeremy Morris, master of Trinity Hall College, temporarily withdraws from role amid allegations

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Sunday 23 February 2020 12:51
Comments
Trinity Hall College in Cambridge
Trinity Hall College in Cambridge

The head of a Cambridge college has stepped back from his duties after hundreds of students accused senior staff of mishandling multiple sexual misconduct complaints.

Jeremy Morris, the master of Trinity Hall, has agreed to temporarily withdraw from his role while the college considers its response to allegations of rape and sexual assault from students.

More than 600 current and former students have signed a letter raising concerns about how complaints of sexual misconduct are dealt with by “conflicted members of staff” at the University of Cambridge.

The letter, by Cambridge University Students’ Union Women’s Campaign, says colleges are “inadequately equipped” to tackle the issues and they should instead introduce a centralised, independent system.

It came after an investigation by Tortoise Media revealed that three female students told academic staff in 2018 they had been raped and sexually assaulted by a male student.

Two of the women made formal complaints through the college against the same man, who denied the allegations.

William O’Reilly, a Trinity Hall fellow, has also stepped back from teaching and supervision work after being criticised for his role in overseeing the disciplinary process triggered by the women’s complaints.

The Tortoise Media investigation claimed that Mr O’Reilly allegedly had a close relationship with the accused student and gave evidence to the panel which cleared the student of wrongdoing.

Nearly 300 students have signed another letter to the university’s history faculty criticising its response to the allegations over Mr O’Reilly’s conduct.

In a statement, Trinity Hall College said a panel of “unconflicted fellows” will issue an interim report next month on how it should respond to the issues raised by the report.

On Friday evening, it said: “The Rev Canon Dr Jeremy Morris has today agreed to voluntarily step back from duties as Master of Trinity Hall, pending the college’s further consideration of recent events.

“This will be until the college, in accordance with its ordinances and the time frames available to it, can consult further.

“Dr William O’Reilly has also agreed to withdraw from his college duties, including teaching and supervision, on a voluntary basis, as of today, pending the college’s further consideration of recent events.”

A spokesperson for Mr O’Reilly said: “Dr O’Reilly believes he acted with integrity and followed appropriate safeguarding advice throughout the various internal processes at Trinity Hall.

“He rejects any suggestion that he behaved improperly and is appalled that what should have been confidential procedures have been made public.”

It comes after academic Peter Hutchinson quit teaching at Trinity Hall College in 2015 following a string of allegations against him in 2014 and 2015 which sparked an internal investigation into his conduct.

It emerged this week that Mr Hutchinson self-published an erotic novel about a fictional group of students at an Oxbridge college the year that complaints of sexual harassment were made against him.

Additional reporting by PA

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in