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Trinity Hall sexual harassment scandal opens up discussion about policy reform

Controversial readmission of Dr Hutchinson stokes debate

In the wake of the Hutchinson row, academics and students are calling for reform of Cambridge's collegiate system to improve policies concerning sexual misconduct.

Allegations were first made against Dr Hutchinson in 2005, and then again in 2015. In December 2017, he was ejected from the college after breaching pre-existing sanctions regarding his contact with students. The college's senior tutor said: he "will not be present in college at any time in the future." It was announced yesterday that he would be readmitted.

Over 150 students and staff at Trinity Hall have signed an open letter pleading for Hutchinson's removal. The letter also calls on the college to review its handling of complaints about sexual misconduct and their support system for student sexual harassment victims.

One former student, who had made allegations against him, said the decision was an insult and undermined the safety and security of female students. She said:

“I am absolutely outraged and insulted… after a four-year process to get him removed, the forces of power and patronage win out over empty commitments to zero tolerance and support and safety for students of the college.”

In a similar vein, human rights barrister and junior research fellow Charlotte Proudman said Hutchinson's readmission represented a “slap in the face for survivors of sexual harassment… Women students are not safe in their own colleges."

This view was also echoed by Dr Tiffany Page, a member of the 1752 Group, which rails against sexual harassment by staff at Cambridge. She agrees that the onus should be on the colleges:

“The spotlight needs to be shined on Cambridge colleges, which have so far managed to escape investigation into their treatment of students and accountability for preventing sexual misconduct."

The University of Cambridge stressed that this is a collegiate matter and that the central university is not involved. It remains to be seen whether Trinity Hall will be held to account for their controversial decision. It is likely that pressure on the colleges in general to effect change will continue to mount.