Jesus College warns they may punish students reporting harassment for breaking Covid rules

The College claims: ‘No one is entitled, without reasonable justification, to break them’


Jesus College has warned students that they may be investigated for breaking Covid regulations if reporting a case of harassment or abuse which has violated the College’s Covid-19 restrictions.

This comes as part of a longer statement on the College’s approach to allegations of harassment and abuse related to Covid-19 regulation violations. 

The announcement has caused concern for students who are worried that the threat of discipline may prevent students from coming forward about their experiences of harassment and abuse at the College. 

Jesus College says they will “treat all allegations of harassment and abuse with the utmost seriousness” and encourage students to come forward with reports, assuring students that they “will not refuse to begin, nor abandon, any investigation into alleged harassment or abuse because the context in which it occurred was an unauthorised gathering. Neither the investigations, nor any subsequent actions that might be taken against anyone found to have committed harassment or abuse will be in any way diminished for the same reason.”

However, the statement also tells students that “the College cannot give an absolute undertaking that, if the context of their alleged harassment or abuse was a non-Covid-19-regulation-compliant event, those making a complaint of harassment or abuse will not be investigated for possible Covid-19 regulation violations.” 

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Excerpt from the statement from Jesus College, Cambridge

This means that students coming forward with reports of harassment and abuse may face disciplinary measures for breaking Covid-19 rules, which currently say that, for the majority of people, you must only meet members of other households outside for recreation or exercise at a two metre distance. 

The College goes on to say that whilst it may “overlook a minor, inadvertent breach of these regulations, other possible violations could not conceivably be ignored.” They remind students that the regulations are “necessary to ensure the protection of the health and safety of all members of our community”, and claim that “no one is entitled, without reasonable justification, to break them.”

The statement finishes by saying: “Consistent with this is the College’s general policy to shy away from draconian sanctions (including eviction) save in the most extreme cases. When discharging their role, the Dean of College will be particularly aware of the need to protect and respect those making complaints of harassment or abuse, and not to act in such a way that could undermine the integrity of the College’s vital systems of protection against harassment and abuse.”

Yet, students at Jesus College have told The Cambridge Tab that they’re concerned about what this means for the safety and well-being of students. Speaking to The Cambridge Tab, a Jesus College student said: “The Master talks about us being a community in all her emails but I don’t think that a college which suggests students could face disciplinary action, and even be evicted for trying to seek support after being harassed or assaulted can really call itself a community. 

“The college administration clearly doesn’t care about student welfare, safety, or security and just sees us as a source of rent. It’s easier and cheaper to threaten [us] than treat [us] with care or respect.”

The College’s stance on discipline is also opposed by Cambridge SU, who have repeatedly advised colleges to take a “compassionate and community-centred approach to the enforcement of Covid-19 disciplinary guidelines”, and are bringing a motion on this topic to the next Student Council next week, which can be read here

Chloe Newbold, the SU’s Women and Non-Binary officer, told The Cambridge Tab: “This statement is symptomatic of the ways in which punitive Covid-19 disciplinary enforcement within the colleges is having a detrimental impact upon the most vulnerable students. 

“Declaring that those reporting harassment that occurs during breaches of guidelines will be subject to disciplinary action contributes to fears that victims will be treated with contempt when speaking up about their experiences. 

“It is imperative that both Jesus, and every other college, guarantees that disciplinary measures will not be taken against students who may wish to make a complaint.”

An open letter has since been launched by students at the College to campaign against the policy.

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