At least three members of the college, including the Master, have stepped back from their positionsN Chadwick

Content Note: This article contains detailed discussion of sexual harassment and assault and disciplinary proceedings concerning these issues.

Pressure has been mounting on Trinity Hall since last week’s publication of an investigation by Tortoise Media into alleged mishandling of sexual assault complaints by senior members of college staff. In the latest development, an open letter has been published urging the college to “restore faith in its policies and structures”.

Signed by more than 210 current and former students of Trinity Hall, the letter is addressed to the College’s Governing Body and says it is intended to “voice our concerns and demand reform in light of the alleged misconduct and mismanagement outlined in [the] Tortoise Media article.”

“We have suffered a serious loss of trust in the senior management of the college, due to the institutional failings of procedure and mishandling of complaints,” the signatories continue.

Recap The Tortoise Investigation

On 18 February Tortoise Media published a lengthy article detailing the disciplinary process which followed reports by multiple women of sexual assault by another student. The article outlines how the Acting Senior Tutor in charge of overseeing the process, Dr William O’Reilly, was said to have a ‘close relationship’ with the student against whom the complaints were made, ‘D’. According to the Tortoise investigation ‘D’ had specifically requested to have Dr O’Reilly as his personal tutor in 2017 and both were part of the same secretive dining club.

To consider whether disciplinary action should be taken, a ‘Junior Member’s Committee’ (JMC) was convened, made up of three academics and chaired by the college’s Vice Master, Nick Bampos. During these proceedings, ‘D’ called O’Reilly as a witness. The Senior Tutor used his time in front of the JMC to accuse Dr Nicholas Guyatt, then an academic at Trinity Hall and the tutor supporting those making the complaints, of having unfairly guided and encouraged the women in formally reporting their assaults to the college.

The JMC ultimately concluded that it couldn't “on the balance of probabilities, conclude whether these acts happened”, but suspended and initiated an investigation into Guyatt, who was exonerated in 2019 by an external lawyer called in to establish the facts. Despite this, Guyatt’s pose at Trinity Hall was not renewed and he has since moved to Jesus College.

Tortoise also revealed that two months before the disciplinary proceedings on this case began, O’Reilly himself had been accused of sexual assault by another student at the college. While O’Reilly was not made aware of the complaint against him until October 2018, at which point he voluntarily attended a police interview after which no further action was taken, Trinity Hall’s master, the Revd Canon Dr Jeremy Morris had known about the allegation for a prior five months. During this time he allowed O’Reilly to remain in his post as Acting Senior Tutor, refraining from investigating the allegation or taking any ‘preventative’ action.

During this time, O’Reilly continued to oversee the disciplinary proceedings concerning the case against ‘D’.

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Within days of the Tortoise article’s publication, CUSU demanded the Revd Canon Dr Jeremy Morris’s resignation as Master of Trinity Hall and University Councillor.

This was reiterated in an open letter by the CUSU Women’s Campaign which called for all colleges to recognise that they “are inadequately equipped to handle cases of sexual misconduct” and to commit to a “centralised disciplinary procedure for cases of sexual misconduct” based on the findings and recommendations of the Office of Student Conduct, Complaints, and Appeals (OSCCA). It has been signed by more than 840 current and former students.

Last Friday, Trinity Hall announced that both Morris and Dr William O’Reilly had agreed to temporarily withdraw from their respective positions duties within the College, “pending [its] further consideration of recent events.”

O’Reilly was the Acting Senior Tutor at Trinity Hall who oversaw the disciplinary procedure at the centre of the Tortoise article and who has also been accused of sexual assault by a student.

This was followed by Morris’s temporary withdrawal from his position on the University Council and the resignation of Vice Master and Acting Master Dr Nick Bampos on Tuesday. Bampos, who chaired the committee tasked with adjudicating upon the 2018 case covered by Tortoise, explained that he was “mindful of the current issues surrounding the College which will require careful leadership to resolve.”

“Under the circumstances I do not feel that the best interests of the College will be served with me in the role,” he continued.

Trinity Hall’s Governing Body will meet in the week of 2nd March “to elect a new Vice Master to assume the duties of Acting Master in accordance with College Statutes and Ordinances, pending further investigation of events.”

At the present moment, it is not clear how long Morris and O’Reilly will be stepping back from their various posts for. With regards to their respective college duties, Trinity Hall stated that “[t]his will be until the College, in accordance with its Ordinances and the time frames available to it, can consult further.”


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Mountain View

More resignations at Tit Hall following Tortoise investigation

On Monday, students and staff at the History Faculty were notified by Faculty Chair Professor Alexandra Walsham that O’Reilly had “voluntarily stepped back from his Faculty teaching,” and that the field-trips to Central Europe he runs as part of his Part II papers for undergraduate students had been cancelled.

The History Faculty will be meeting with student representatives next Monday to discuss an open letter signed by more than 300 current and former students, which demanded the suspension of O’Reilly from his teaching duties in the Faculty “pending further investigation of the allegations against him, in the interests of the safety of students and staff.”

The letter criticises the Faculty Chair for asking students to “refrain from discussing the matter with the press or on social media” the details of the Tortoise Media article, and argued that the Faculty was “actively contributing to a broader culture of silence and fear, where both students and staff alike are discouraged from speaking out about sexual abuse and misconduct.”

Commenting on Walsham’s subsequent apology and announcement of a meeting with student representatives, undergraduate representative Owen Dowling told Varsity that he will be pushing for an open meeting “where students can express their concerns [...] and ensure that all future responses to this situation are transparent, accountable, and put the welfare of students and staff first.”

In an open letter to Morris which was published by Varsity, the parent of a student whose complaint of sexual assault was allegedly mishandled by Trinity Hall called on the Master to resign for his failure to “[make] the safeguarding of the young people under your care your most important priority.”

A separate statement by the three former students whose sexual assault cases were the subject of the Tortoise Media investigation demanded the replacement of the College’s current leadership with “fellows without conflicts of interest” and an “external, independent, and transparent investigation” into both the “specific cases raised by the article and [...] the wider culture and management of the College.”

Last Tuesday, Morris announced that Trinity Hall’s Governing Body will review policies and procedures on governance, “to consider any improvements to the executive processes of the College” and “Disciplinary, Harassment, and other associated processes to [...] 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.”

The following evening, Trinity Hall announced at an open meeting between senior staff and students that it had set up a panel of “unconflicted Fellows” to investigate the issues raised in the Tortoise Media article and report its interim findings to the Governing Body in the first week of March.

Students at the open meeting, however, expressed concerns about the membership of this panel, particularly the involvement of Junior Bursar Glen Sharp.

The JCR committee later agreed in a meeting that Sharp should not “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 open letter from students published this week demands that the College takes “six essential steps” to restore this trust, each of which was discussed and approved at an open meeting attended by more than 80 students on Monday. These demands include an externally-led investigation into “both the events specified in the Tortoise Media article and historical cases of alleged sexual misconduct at the College.”

The letter specifies that such an investigation “must be executed by a body independent of the University with expertise in sexual misconduct cases and procedures,” and that Drs Morris and O’Reilly resign from their current positions within Trinity Hall and be replaced by “people completely unrelated to the matters raised in the Tortoise Media article” in the event that they are found by this proposed panel to have “mishandled their duties.”

It also demands that “the findings of any external investigation [...] be made available to the Trinity Hall membership, to ensure full transparency and accountability,” and that minuted discussions of “any matters related to these events” at meetings of the College’s Governing Body be made publicly disclosable.

The letter also calls for Trinity Hall to reform its disciplinary policies and procedures for cases of alleged sexual misconduct and in the meantime, refer all cases to the OSCCA. It states that these reforms should follow the recommendations of the proposed independent investigators and the CUSU Women’s Campaign, which recently released its own list of demands.

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