Dr Jeremy Morris is Trinity Hall's Master, and Dr William O'Reilly is one of the College's History FellowsN Chadwick

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

Trinity Hall Master Rvd Jeremy Morris and Fellow Dr William O’Reilly have agreed to temporarily withdraw from their college duties, “pending the College’s further consideration of recent events,” according to a statement released by the College last night.

The College’s announcement follows mounting calls for their resignation from students and alumni over allegations they mishandled multiple sexual assault complaints.

On Monday, an investigation by Tortoise Media revealed O’Reilly oversaw a disciplinary process involving multiple women’s reports of being sexually assaulted by a male student, who O’Reilly allegedly had a “close relationship” with, during his time as Acting Senior Tutor at the College in 2018, whilst himself facing an allegation that he sexually assaulted a different male student.

O’Reilly denies all the allegations and “rejects any suggestion he behaved improperly”. He attended a voluntary interview with the police in October 2018 but was never arrested or charged and no further action was taken by the police.

According to Tortoise, Morris did not inform O’Reilly of the allegation against him for five months, during which he reportedly did not investigate or take any “preventative” action against the then-Acting Senior Tutor, instead allowing him to remain in his post.

It is unclear how and whether O’Reilly’s withdrawal from college duties relates to his faculty duties, which include lecturing on two papers for Part I of the History Tripos and convening two Part II papers.

Varsity understands that O’Reilly has postponed his scheduled undergraduate teaching until further notice and that exam modifications are being considered as a way to compensate for cancelled teaching hours. Any classes that do take place would not be held at Trinity Hall.

The Faculty has yet to formally clarify if O’Reilly’s classes will resume, or whether the field-trips to Vienna that O’Reilly runs as part of his Part II papers will be taking place this year.

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 length of time O’Reilly and Morris will be stepping down from their respective posts for is as of yet also unclear. According to the statement, “[t]his will be until the College, in accordance with its Ordinances and the time frames available to it, can consult further.”

On Wednesday, Trinity Hall Senior Senior Tutor Dr Clare Jackson, Junior Bursar Glen Sharp, Graduate Tutor Dr Rachel Tolley, and Professor James Montgomery held an open meeting for Trinity Hall students to address their concerns. They also announced the formation of a panel of “unconflicted Fellows” to investigate the issues raised in the Tortoise article.

The panel is due to present its interim findings to the College’s Governing Body in the first week of March.

At the open meeting, students expressed their anger at the college leadership for failing to respond satisfactorily to their questions and instead invoking issues of confidentiality.

Questions included the degree to which Morris knew about the allegation against O’Reilly and whether, as Tortoise contend, O’Reilly continued supervising students while he was being investigated by the police. O’Reilly says he withdrew from all supervisory teaching duties during this time.


Mountain View

History Faculty calls for students’ silence following Trinity Hall allegations

They further addressed how the College had selected the membership of the investigatory panel, especially with regards to Sharp, and whether the College disputed any of the factual claims in Tortoise’s investigation.

The following day, the JCR committee agreed in a meeting Sharp “should not sit on [the] panel,” as he was “too involved” in the College’s past mishandling of the complaints, according to meeting minutes seen by Varsity. The committee also discussed holding a referendum on Morris’s position as Master of Trinity Hall.

The College’s statement did not directly address students’ concerns about its selection of Sharp to sit on the “panel set up [...] to coordinate its response to the issues raised” in the Tortoise article.

In a statement posted on their Facebook page on Wednesday, CUSU “unreservedly” condemned “Trinity Hall’s complete failure to adequately deal with complaints of sexual misconduct and support survivors” and Morris’s “total disregard for his duty of care to the students of Trinity Hall.”

Calling for his resignation as Master of Trinity Hall and University Councillor, CUSU stated allowing Morris to continue serving in either of his positions would be “an insult to students at Trinity Hall and completely undermine the University’s commitment to tackling sexual misconduct.”

These demands have also been reiterated in an open letter by the CUSU Women’s Campaign, which was signed by more than 500 current and former students within the first day of its publication.

The letter slammed Trinity Hall’s leadership for “clos[ing] ranks to protect senior members of staff, and attempt[ing] to stifle student complaints and staff who supported them.”

It added that “there is no reason to believe that Trinity Hall is worse equipped than any other college to handle these cases,” and urged all colleges to commit to referring “all cases of sexual misconduct to the Office of Student Conduct, Complaints, and Appeals (OSCCA)” and “upholding OSCCA’s findings and recommendations,” instead of handling complaints internally.

In an open letter directly addressed to Morris which was released on Varsity, the mother of a student whose case was allegedly mishandled by Morris joined the calls for his resignation, as he had “failed in making the safeguarding of the young people under [his] care [his] most important priority.”

A second open letter was also signed by more than 250 students and alumni at the History Faculty, criticising Faculty Chair Professor Alexandra Walsham for asking students to “refrain from discussing [...] with the press or on social media” matters regarding allegations against O’Reilly, a Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History.

It demanded that Walsham apologise for and retract the email, and suspend O’Reilly from his teaching duties at the Faculty.

Walsham reportedly apologised about the email to her undergraduate students in a seminar, but the History Faculty has not publicly commented on the open letter or its demands.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the following organisations provide support and resources: