Cambridge University master resigns over handling of harassment case

The master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, has resigned over an allegation that he mishandled sexual harassment complaints in 2017, after an independent inquiry recommended the college initiate disciplinary action.

Jeremy Morris oversaw a sexual harassment case in 2019, in which Cambridge don Peter Hutchinson was readmitted to his college less than two years after he had been permanently excluded and banned from contacting students after an internal investigation.

Hutchinson, who had been accused of nearly a dozen incidents of inappropriate behaviour between 2014 e 2015, regained some college privileges in 2017 when he automatically became an emeritus professor after his retirement.

The college provoked widespread ire among staff and students when it defended its decision to restore Hutchinson’s access to the college for certain college events and to exercise his dining rights on grounds that the original decision to remove him had “not been agreed with Dr Hutchinson and was incorrect”.

Trinity Hall responded to the backlash by commissioning an independent inquiry led by Gemma White QC into the college’s handling of the allegations against Hutchinson.

White’s report, which is based on over 60 interviews and has not yet been published, recommended that the college consider initiating disciplinary action against Morris.

In un dichiarazione pubblicato online, the college said its governing body had accepted the recommendation for disciplinary action on a “prima facie” basis.

The statement added: “The master disputes this recommendation, noting in particular the inquiry’s recognition that a number of contributors had praised his personal support for those who have raised issues of sexual abuse in specific situations. tuttavia, he considers that it is in the best interests of the college for him to offer his resignation, given the difficulties of the last 18 mesi, to enable the search for a new master to begin.

“The college thanks Revd. canon Dr Jeremy Morris for his seven years of service to the college as its master and for his nine years as dean of chapel, and wishes him well for the future.”

In an update published on 5 Maggio, White recommended that the college establish a sexual misconduct working group that includes student and former student representatives before the publication of her report, to enable the group to launch a cultural survey and build a training programme.

UN letter signed by more than 150 current and former Trinity Hall students, fellows and staff in 2019 calling for Hutchinson’s removal had urged the college to “critically review” how it handles complaints of sexual misconduct and how it supports student victims.

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