Statement of clarification re Dr Peter Hutchinson
The safety and welfare of everyone at Trinity Hall is of paramount importance, and we take any claims of inappropriate behaviour very seriously. We are committed to providing an environment at the College in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
Over the past few days, students, alumni and others have raised a number of concerns about stories reported in the press regarding Emeritus Fellow Dr Peter Hutchinson.
We have listened carefully to the concerns raised and, in the circumstances, we wanted to take the opportunity to outline the position in greater detail and ensure a better understanding of events.
For clarity, Dr Hutchinson does not teach at the College and has not done so since 2015, following complaints of verbal sexual harassment. All parties regarded his withdrawal from teaching as a satisfactory resolution to the complaints in 2015. He also will not attend events at which students may be present.
It appears that recent confusion may have stemmed from a misunderstanding surrounding an invitation to a Lecture extended erroneously to Dr Hutchinson by the College in 2017, and a subsequent statement from the College that he had withdrawn permanently as a result. The events in question were examined fully by an independent review ordered by the Governing Body, concluded in 2018, whose recommendations have been accepted by the College.
We take responsibility for the initial error around the invitation, and the subsequent 2017 announcement, as well as for any upset caused to students and alumni for the manner in which the conclusion of the review has been communicated.
Today our processes are informed by the review’s recommendations. We have entirely overhauled the College’s internal procedures regarding harassment and other welfare- and disciplinary-related matters. We have also sought guidance from the University of Cambridge’s new Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals. Trinity Hall Fellows and staff involved in handling such matters receive specialist advice and training as well as regular continuous professional development in best practice with regard to all aspects of the student experience.
The College will continue to work with its students and staff to review and improve its procedures.
Any reported instance of harassment, whether past or current, will be taken very seriously and appropriate action taken.
Further detail about the sequence of events appears below.
- 2015: Following complaints of verbal sexual harassment from ten Trinity Hall students, Dr Hutchinson withdrew permanently from any further undergraduate or postgraduate teaching and from attending any social events at which students might be present. This outcome was agreed as a satisfactory resolution of the complaints by all involved.
- November 2017: An invitation was, in error, extended to Dr Hutchinson by the College to attend its annual Milestones Lecture, a public event open to students. Dr Hutchinson’s attendance at the Lecture was reported and appeared to go against the terms of the agreement reached in 2015.
- December 2017: An internal College statement issued by the Master indicated that, owing to his attendance at the Lecture, Dr Hutchinson was withdrawing permanently from the College. Dr Hutchinson, however, had not agreed to a permanent withdrawal as he had been invited (albeit erroneously) by the College.
- Given the discrepancy, the Governing Body committed itself to a full independent review of the matter as a whole, dating from receipt of the student complaints in 2015 to the announcement regarding Dr Hutchinson’s permanent withdrawal in December 2017.
- June 2018: The formal independent review was completed. It confirmed that the College had broadly handled the complaints well in 2015 and resolved the matter appropriately. It also made several recommendations regarding future procedures to handle and resolve complaints, which the College has since adopted.
- 2019: In order to provide clarity following the misunderstanding around the attendance at the Lecture, and following legal advice from Counsel, a formal agreement was reached between the College and Dr Hutchinson which sets out which College events Dr Hutchinson may attend. The decision to accept the agreement was taken by a majority vote in the Governing Body, whose members took the decision after significant debate. The decision was, we acknowledge, divisive and difficult for many colleagues.
- For absolute clarity, Dr Hutchinson has not been readmitted to teach at the College. He will not attend events at which students may be present, and he will only attend alumni events by prior agreement with the College.
As Master of Trinity Hall, I take ultimate responsibility for the welfare of all staff and students and welcome you to make contact with me directly should you wish to discuss this issue.
The Revd Canon Dr Jeremy Morris, MA, DPhil, FRHistS