Rvd Jeremy Morris, Master of Trinity HallUniversity of Cambridge

Content note: This article contains detailed discussion of sexual assault and harassment.

Students and alumni are escalating calls for the resignation of Trinity Hall Master, Dr Jeremy Morris, following allegations he mishandled multiple sexual assault complaints.

In an emotional letter released today, the mother of a student whose case was allegedly mishandled directly called on Morris to resign, telling him “you have failed in making the safeguarding of the young people under your care your most important priority.”

This comes after CUSU issued a statement on Wednesday, calling for Morris to step down from his “untenable” position, saying he had “demonstrated a total disregard for his duty of care to the students of Trinity Hall.”

Inside Trinity Hall, students are moving towards holding a referendum on the Master’s position, after an open meeting with the Senior Tutor and members of an internal panel set up to look into the allegations resolved few issues.

On Monday, an investigation by Tortoise Media claimed that in May 2018 Morris heard a sexual assault complaint against Acting Senior Tutor Dr. William O’Reilly, but allowed O’Reilly to remain in his post for five months without proper investigation or any ‘preventative’ action.


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The investigation also alleged that when multiple women reported being sexually assaulted by a male student at Trinity Hall in 2018, the case was mishandled and not revisited despite concerns raised by lawyers.

O’Reilly was allowed to oversee the womens’ complaint in his capacity as Acting Senior Tutor, despite the serious allegation against him. He denies all the allegations and “rejects any suggestion he behaved improperly”.

The mother who had penned the open letter to Morris, asked him “I wonder if you have ever asked yourself how you would feel if one of the complainants had been your own daughter.

“Could you look back on this case and draw the conclusion that everything had been done to protect her and to give her justice? I cannot help but think that in that scenario you would feel exactly the same as I do.”

She concludes that the college had failed her daughter, alongside “many young men and women, both current students and alumni.”

In full Master's statement on the reports

“We understand that any allegations of this kind at our College will be a matter of deep concern to everyone in our community, and we take them extremely seriously. There is no place for misconduct or inappropriate behaviour of any kind at Trinity Hall, and we are highly aware how important it is to deal with any issues which may arise in a clear and appropriate manner. The safety and welfare of students and staff at the College is a priority for us, and a natural expectation of anyone who comes to study and work here.

“As part of living up to these requirements – alongside the University of Cambridge and its ‘Breaking The Silence’ campaign – we are committed to a zero tolerance policy, providing the support and protection all our College members need in order to go about their daily work. Our students, staff and alumni need not only to be informed about our complaints policies, and where to seek help at difficult times, but also to trust the College’s procedures to handle any complaints fairly and correctly.

“The College will always seek to address any complaints it receives and to determine the most appropriate procedure under which to consider them, in conjunction, importantly, with the complainant’s own wishes. We have substantially revised our processes in the last two years, in the light both of experience and of changing sector guidance on the handling of complaints of harassment and misconduct. In addition to the College’s own procedures, this may include referring the matter to the University of Cambridge’s Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals (OSCCA). It should be recognised that, in line with sector guidance, any criminal process must take priority.

“For reasons of duty of care and confidentiality, we are unable to comment specifically about individual cases, even in a number of circumstances where the information is incorrect, misleading or requires a fuller detailed explanation.

“Nonetheless, we understand that any complaints, which are often highly sensitive and complex, require the highest possible standards in terms of explaining the processes and potential outcomes, in addition to clear and consistent communications with all concerned, and alongside providing pastoral or other appropriate support. Like many other Higher Education institutions which are facing similar issues, we are therefore obliged to ensure that we are constantly reviewing our processes in the light of our experience.

“For this reason, as outlined in November 2019, the Governing Body of the College has taken a decision to mount two procedural Reviews in 2020: one of Governance, to consider any improvements to the executive processes of the College, including matters of transparency and representation; and one of Disciplinary, Harassment and other associated processes to consider any deficiencies in its procedures and to give reassurance to students, staff and alumni that any specific claims or complaints we receive are thoroughly and carefully handled, in accordance with best practice. To ensure these Reviews are as robust and transparent as possible, the College will be engaging independent external experts. We will be making an announcement about the composition of the two Reviews following the next Governing Body meeting in February and will be making public the outcome of these Reviews in due course. The work will be undertaken during the Spring and Summer, with the work completed in time for presentation to the Governing Body in October 2020.

“We are aware that many of our students, staff and alumni have expressed important views on these topics in recent times, for which we are grateful, and hope that they will continue to engage with us in the future. We in turn are committed to listening and learning from previous instances of dealing with often challenging matters in the most rigorous manner possible.”

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The investigation has led to an outpouring of anger from Trinity Hall students and alumni.

According to Tortoise, in a letter to the Master following the investigation, one recent graduate wrote, “I don’t see how anyone who is so singularly responsible for so many destructive and morally destitute decisions can continue to hold a position of any authority in the college, let alone lead it.”

On Wednesday at an open meeting with Senior Tutor Dr Clare Jackson, Junior Bursar Glen Sharp, Fellow James Montgomery and Graduate Tutor Rachel Tolley, Trinity Hall students expressed their anger and dissatisfaction that the college were invoking confidentiality in response to many of their concerns.

This included refusing to answer how much the Master knew about O’Reilly and whether, as Tortoise allege, O’Reilly continued supervising students while under police investigation. O’Reilly claims he withdrew from all supervisory teaching duties during this time.

The meeting included one exchange where a Trinity Hall student told the panel, “you’re putting us in a position where, because you refuse to tell us whether these members have committed these breaches and, given how far and wide-reaching the people involved are, I am now in a position where I can’t trust anyone in college.”

In response Montgomery replied, “noted”. “Your feeling is not alone”, Jackson continued.

In a show of frustrations within the College, Jackson also described feeling “insulted” that as Senior Tutor, she too had to find out about the allegations through the media.

Following the open meeting, JCR committee minutes seen by Varsity noted a “general consensus” that Sharp should not sit on the panel as “he is too involved in matters”, and discussed holding a referendum on Morris’ position.


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On Tuesday, in a statement in response to the Tortoise investigation, Morris revealed “the Governing Body of the College has taken a decision to mount two procedural Reviews in 2020”, one of Governance and one of “Disciplinary, Harassment and other associated processes”.

The reviews will engage “independent external experts” and results are due for presentation to the Governing Body in October 2020.

Morris has not made any public statement regarding demands for his resignation, and his Twitter account has been deleted since Monday’s investigation.

The fallout from the Tortoise investigation has also gone beyond the college, with multiple open letters circulating calling for the college and wider University to take sexual misconduct seriously.

An open letter addressed to the heads of all Cambridge colleges from CUSU Women’s Campaign had been signed by over 370 students at the time of writing.

The letter calls on all colleges to recognise they are “inadequately equipped to handle cases of sexual misconduct” and “make a commitment to refer all cases of sexual misconduct to the Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals”, the University’s central disciplinary body.

Meanwhile more than 200 History students and alumni have signed a seperate open letter to express their “disappointment, shock, and anger” in an email sent by the Faculty on Wednesday.

The email asked students and staff to “refrain from discussing [...] with the press or on social media” matters regarding allegations against O’Reilly, a Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History.

The open letter demands the Faculty to apologise for and retract the email, and suspend O’Reilly from faculty teaching.

Although the Faculty have not responded publicly, Professor Alexandra Walsham, the Faculty Chair, apologised about the email to her undergraduate students in a seminar yesterday.

Outside of Cambridge, Labour MP Jess Phillips said on Twitter that when Parliament resumes she will “seek an opportunity to bring in these institutions to explain how this could happen.”

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