The system aimed to make Cambridge a "place where everyone can feel safe"Lucas Maddalena

Content note: This article contains detailed discussion of disciplinary procedures and sexual and physical misconduct

Pro-Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope, in an email to students sent yesterday (26/05), clarified the University’s actions and position regarding the Report+Support website that was launched earlier this week, as part of the University’s new ‘Change the Culture’ initiative.

The new system was launched last week (17/05) with the aim of making the University of Cambridge a “place where everyone can feel safe and thrive.” The site enables students and staff to report abuse, discrimination or misconduct, either formally or anonymously.

The site was taken down on Tuesday (25/05) due to a content “error”, which raised concerns over the system’s impact on free speech. The error lay in the site’s explanation of everyday microaggressions such as “raising eyebrows” or “put downs” which Toope said “go beyond the approved policy framework and would undermine its impact.”

Toope noted in his email that “the misstep created the impression that we might be unduly constraining freedom of expression”. He also stated that the news coverage concerning the new system’s impact on freedom of speech has given the “wrong impression” of what the University is trying to achieve.

He added that the “Change the Culture initiative remains in place and the reporting tool will be reinstated after a review.” Toope reassured students that the “University will continue to tackle the real and significant issues of poor behaviour across the University” but will also “unequivocally support freedom of expression and the right to hold a wide range of views on the issues of our time.”

Loud and Clear, a Cambridge group encouraging gender equality and the addressing of sexual harassment and assault, have issued a statement on the new system, stating that they are “extremely concerned” with its removal.

The group have called on Stephen Toope “not to prioritise the reactionary politics of ‘free speech advocates’ at the expense of those who have experienced harassment or discrimination”.

While unavailable, the site displays a message encouraging students to report instances of misconduct to their College or faculty.

Loud and Clear have also called for the website to be put back up “as soon as possible”, and want alternative support to be put in place in the meantime. They noted that the system facilitated “access to pastoral support”, and that this has now been “cut off.”


Mountain View

Cambridge Report+Support website temporarily removed over content ‘error’

They added that they “strongly object” to the media’s representation of microaggressions, and note that whilst some actions may be “seemingly small”, they can be very harmful and have large impacts on individuals.

Meanwhile, the Cambridge SU LGBT+ Campaign also released a statement this morning (27/05). The Campaign is “disheartened by the recent news,” and voiced concern that the temporary removal of the site “overlooked the importance of this tool for minority groups [...] in favour of appeasing reactionary ‘free speech’ advocates.”

Responding to the concerns of academics that the original guidelines may impair their teaching, the LGBT+ Campaign argues: “If people are not able to report inappropriate behaviour, the environment may become hostile and they may be less likely to express themselves, which would result in a lack of freedom of expression for minority students.”

The Campaign drew particular attention to the importance of the website’s original clause that encouraged transgender and non-binary students to report instances of misgendering, noting that the “removal of mechanisms to protect transgender people in particular is symptomatic of a broader cultural backlash against trans rights.”

The statement added that in its original format, prior to its removal earlier this week, the site provided “a mechanism for marginalised groups to challenge discriminatory behaviour in a safer and more anonymous way.”