Dr Geoff Parks, Senior Tutor at Jesus College, admitted that "we don't always get things right first time", pledging to review the initial harassment reporting guidelines in line with advice from sexual abuse experts, college officers and student representativesPeter church/wikimedia commons

CN: This article contains discussion of harassment and sexual assault.

Jesus has apologised for the ‘evident distress’ caused by its' initial Covid-19 guidelines, after a petition, which criticised the College for ‘put[ting] all students at risk,’ amassed nearly 1300 signatures in less than 48 hours.

The guidance stated that students could face disciplinary action if they reported instances of harassment or assault, when Covid-19 guidelines were breached in the process, on the grounds that these violations “could not conceivably be ignored.” 

Students at Jesus College received an email yesterday afternoon (13/11) from the College's Senior Tutor, Dr Geoff Parks, acknowledging the ‘depth of feeling about the guidance we have published on harassment and abuse allegations during the pandemic'. Parks continued to say that the College is ‘sorry for the evident distress this has caused.’

 ‘We don’t always get things right first time,’ Parks wrote, and promised to review the guidelines after seeking advice from sexual abuse experts, College Officers and student representatives. He maintained that the College’s ‘primary concern is always for the safety and welfare of students.

Loud and Clear member, Marina McCready, told Varsity that “This response from the Senior Tutor is promising - I am especially glad that they will be consulting experts this time.” She added, nonetheless: “I have to raise an eyebrow at the apology ‘for the evident distress this has caused’, a classic method of avoiding properly apologising and avoiding responsibility.”

A separate open letter, which has been signed by students, alumni and organisations of both Jesus College and the University over 500 times, criticised the policy which ‘creates an environment where students...are afraid to seek college support in case anything they say is construed as cause to take disciplinary action against them.’ 


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Initial Jesus Covid-19 guidelines risk disciplinary action for those reporting harassment

The letter calls for the statement to be retracted; for the College to  guarantee no disciplinary action when reporting harassment, ‘following the example of Churchill, Sidney Sussex and Newnham colleges,’ and; clarification ‘that students accessing other support and welfare services will be able to do so without fearing disciplinary action.’

The petition also raised concerns about ‘inadequate’ communication, stating that there was a need for the College to be ‘open and honest with us about how those systems [and guidelines] operate rather than refusing to engage in a dialogue with students about their concerns.’ 

The College had previously said in a statement that they will not “refuse to begin, nor abandon, any investigation [...] because the context in which it occurred was an unauthorised gathering.”

The Cambridge Student Union Women’s Campaign has also expressed ‘solidarity’ with students at Jesus and highlighted that ‘students so often do not speak up about their experiences because of fears that their institutions will treat them with contempt when doing so,’ and noted that the College’s policy ‘contribute[s] to existing silences.’