Oxford University students have published an open letter to senior University figures criticising their response to harassment allegations surrounding the death of student Charlotte Coursier.
Coursier, a postgraduate philosophy student at Teddy Hall, tragically committed suicide in June last year after a split with her boyfriend. The subsequent inquest also heard claims of her ongoing harassment from philosophy tutor Dr Jeffrey Ketland.
The 135 students who signed the letter attacked the way that the university dealt with the issue. The letter criticises the University for allowing Dr Ketland to remain in employment whilst the investigation of the allegations Coursier made in May 2013 was taking place. Dr Ketland is still employed by the university.
They pointed out that the alleged harasser had had “institutionally mediated contact with students since the university began its review.”
Dr Ketland has been teaching as a philosophy tutor at Pembroke College during this academic year.
It was also highlighted that the university had failed to provide adequate information to students who worked in Dr Ketland’s department. Graduate students in Philosophy, many of whom largely led the campaign for the open letter, were concerned that “the lack of comment [from the University] created a difficult atmosphere in the Philosophy Faculty.”
The letter also raised the concern that “some students now fear that harassment
charges are not taken seriously”.
Luke Brunning, a DPhil candidate in Philosophy, said that “many students felt unsafe to be around [Dr Ketland]”.
“The Department of Philosophy has held a meeting with graduate students to inform of the outcome of the inquest into Charlotte’s death and to discuss any questions arising.”
However students spearheading the campaign, Jacob Williamson and Rachel Fraser, said: “The University’s statement is potentially misleading. The meeting referred to did take place, but students were given no details not already in the public domain concerning any review or investigation undertaken by the University. Details of the coroner’s inquest were given to students during the meeting. The results of the coroner’s inquest were, at the time of the meeting, a matter of public record. No one representing the Department or University attended the inquest. All questions concerning particular cases were met with an insistence that no comment could be made.”
The letter also raised the concern that “some students now fear that harassment charges are not taken seriously”.
Luke Brunning, a DPhil candidate in Philosophy, said that “many students felt unsafe to be around [Dr Ketland]”.
Many students and faculty members were not fully, if at all, informed about the events. Some learnt of the situation from colleagues abroad, whilst others only discovered the truth when it was published in the Daily Mail.
“Something has gone seriously wrong when members of a University faculty are not aware when one of their graduate students commits suicide after reporting one of their colleagues for harassment,” said Brunning.
Jacob Williamson, who led the process behind the letter said that the written protest “began with an informal meeting of students in the Philosophy Faculty last Thursday evening. I guided a discussion and the desire to form a letter was clearly widespread.”
He said that the students had felt “obliged to act because of the lack of openness about this case and because we feel the University has not fulfilled its duty of care.”
The undersigned urged “the swift adoption of a suspension policy” in future cases of harassment reviews.
Sarah Pine, OUSU VP for Women, was a signatory of the letter. She said that “all students should have the right to live free from fear of abuse and sexual violence. Regardless of whether or not Ketland was guilty of anything, the University should have taken greater measures to protect students whilst they were investigating.”
Pine added that “the University has many options available for them to improve their current system”. She suggested that they could strengthen harassment policies to allow for anonymous complaints, train tutors to recognise behaviours that are abuses of power, train harassment advisors comprehensively, and prompt the counselling service to provide group sessions on relationship abuse.
She also called on students to “engage with groups like WomCam and It Happens Here who can highlight what constitutes abusive behaviour.”
The letter predominately was signed by graduate philosophy students, but included members of the OUSU Women’s Campaign, It Happens Here, and alumni of the University.
It was first published on the Feminist Philosopher’s blog on Wednesday morning.
“A University review concluded in October. Its purpose was to inform senior members of the University of the circumstances of Charlotte’s death and to advise on any future steps. The findings of the review remain confidential but University is continuing to consider the most appropriate action as a consequence.”
University College has revealed that there were five instances of sex-related harassment in the last academic year. Of these allegations, three were made against staff, whilst two were made against students. One staff member left the College’s employment as a result of the complaint.
Whilst the majority of allegations were made by students, one was submitted by a staff member.The report, released on the 14th of October last year by the Pro-Dean for Welfare Dr Andrew Gregory, detailed that not one of the complaints were brought to any of the College’s four harassment advisers. Just three out of the five cases were resolved.
No other colleges who submitted responses to Freedom of Information requests made by the Oxford Student reported bullying and harassment figures as high as Univ.
The Master of the College, Sir Ivor Crewe, stated “The College is committed to its equality duty and takes any complaint of harassment by a member of the college, students and staff alike, very seriously.”
He added that “Univ has put in place specific training on harassment and briefing that has raised awareness in the College of issues about equality at the workplace. We believe that this accounts for Univ’s higher rate of reporting, which is rigorously recorded by the College.”
Regent’s Park JCR will change the name of its LGBTQ officer to ‘Sexuality and Gender Officer’ after a successful motion in a recent meeting.
Will Tomsett, LGBTQ Officer, told the meeting that he felt that “the current name excludes many gender issues which people might feel are not being catered for.”
“By making this change, there will appear to be fewer stigmas in seeking the LGBTQ Officer. Changing the name will increase the scope of people who can talk to them,” he said.
JCR members were receptive to the proposal, with some suggesting that the change of name would make the position sound less politically charged. Some JCR members pointed out that the change would make the new name longer than the current five-letter “LGBTQ”.
However, supporters of the motion said this was simply another reason to have a “more all-encompassing name”.
Most college JCRs have an LGBTQ Officer, but Regent’s is believed to be one of the first to alter the name of the position.
Suggestions that the name of the officer be shortened to the ‘Queer Officer’ were unsuccessful because JCR members believed this would be exclusionary.
Tomsett said he felt the change to “Sexuality and Gender Officer” was “necessary”.
“The term LGBTQ excludes a lot of non-heterosexual people, such as pansexual, asexual or intersex individuals, and places a lot of stigma around going to see the LGBTQ Officer for heterosexuals, so I felt a change in the terminology was necessary.”
He also claimed the motion would include heterosexual people with “non-normative” sexualities, such as those “on the BDSM ‘scene’ or fetishists, who often are not given enough information about safe sexual practice, as no one is assigned to represent them.”
“So the suggestion was made to change the name of the officer to include anyone who wishes to discuss sexuality and/or gender, without necessarily needing to put labels on to people seeking support which they may feel uncomfortable self-identifying as,” he added.
Somerville has been hit by a third vomit scandal in six months after “worrisome reports about the behaviour at Half-way Hall”.
Sick was found at locations around the college, including residential buildings. Some members of the JCR’s Executive Committee received fines of £10 each, while cleaning costs are being split equally between JCR members who attended halfway hall.
In an email, JCR President Rachel Dickenson called for those responsible to come forward and receive a “reasonable” fine.
“I regret to inform you that the Decanal Office received many worrisome reports about the behaviour at Half-way Hall, as well as the aftermath, from the Lodge, the Catering Department and Housekeeping. Vomit was found in hall, in the adjacent corridors and in the Terrace, as well as in several other residential buildings around college,” she said.
“This has incurred a substantial additional cleaning cost which means that it falls to us to foot the bill. Currently, the Entz team and I have each been fined but this still leaves a large proportion of the total cost, which at the moment we plan to divide equally amongst those who attended Half-way hall.
“In the interests of being fair to friends and fellow students, may I please encourage anybody who was sick to contact me. This will remain strictly confidential and any names given will not be passed on. Any fine given to you will be reasonable and will hopefully reduce the fine we seem to have no choice but to impose on other students,” she added.
Somerville frequently suffers from vomit-induced sagas. In October of last year, members of the housekeeping staff were greeted with “horrific remnants” of “sick all over the bathrooms of FAH, so much so that one toilet was blocked”.
This was followed by a similar incident in November, when scouts were again met with pools of vomit after a Halloween party continued until 2am. At the time, one student branded college authorities “meanies” and claimed the party was simply an attempt to “showcase our magnificent costumes”.
Common rooms across the University have pledged their support for the Exeter hall boycott this week.
At the time of writing, eight JCRs and St Cross SRC (Student Representative Committee) had passed motions in solidarity with Exeter.
The motions come after a request for support was issued on the Exeter Hallternatives Facebook page. A suggested JCR motion, posted on the page, states that the JCR in question will “call on Exeter College to shoulder more of the burden for hall running costs”.
It adds that the JCR will “express support of Exeter JCR and MCR in their struggles”.
Jesus and Balliol have expressed their support by donating money and food to the CTCC campaign.
A motion passed at a GM at Balliol on Sunday means that the JCR will donate £50. Xavier Cohen, first year PPE student and proposer of the motion, commented: “The motion was there to not only declare Balliol’s support, but also to provide real material solidarity with the financially-struggling CTCC.
“This should allow activists in Exeter JCR to buy kitchen equipment and food for the hungry revolutionaries. Even though there’s reason to support the motion out of self-interest, as the outcome of the battels in Exeter College will set a precedent that could affect all other JCRs directly, altruism was in the air at Sunday’s GM.”
A motion of solidarity was also passed unanimously by Jesus, despite the traditional rivalry between the Turl Street colleges. The JCR will be donating the equivalent of one week’s welfare budget to Exeter, in the form of food. Suggestions were made at the GM that this be in the form of fish and loaves of bread.
Jesus JCR President, Leo Gebbie, said it is “fantastic to see Jesus students putting aside our differences with Exeter in order to support their hall boycott”.
He added: “Whilst we’ve done this formally in terms of stating our support for the Exeter cause, we also hope that donating a welfare hamper should help to raise the morale of Exonians and provide them with the energy to continue their lobbying”.
Richard Collett-White, Exeter JCR president, expressed his gratitude for the University-wide support. He commented: “The JCR is delighted that students from across the university are standing by us in our struggle for a more affordable catering system at Exeter.”
“This strengthens the campaign by drawing ever more attention to our undesirable situation – and student living costs more broadly,” he added.
Navjeev Singh, JCR President at St Peter’s, said: “We support Exeter JCR’s movement and believe that they are doing the right thing by acting towards the improvement of the standard of living of the JCR members. We also believe in JCRs supporting each other, especially in cases where certain JCRs are subject to what seems like really unfair catering charges.
“I will liaise with the Exeter JCR President to see if we could assist them in any way. Personally, I applaud the initiative of communal cooking that is taking place within Exeter JCR and think it is an amazing way to boost JCR spirit.”
The Exeter boycott has now entered its third week. An open meeting between students, the Rector and Deputy Bursar took place on Tuesday afternoon.
Over 300 staff and students at St Anne’s have signed a petition demanding the living wage for all college employees.
This comes in the lead up to when the university’s Personnel Committee will meet in Wellington Square to make an important decision on the living wage on Thursday morning.
Several Oxford colleges already pay the living wage to their employees, which stands at £7.45 in Oxford and £8.55 in London. The living wage is calculated to cover basic living costs but to still leave enough money for recipients to participate meaningfully in society.
Hannah Duncan, who is helping organise the St Anne’s petition, said: “At St Anne’s, we want to indicate to the college that paying scouts a living wage is more important than having champagne before every formal dinner.”
George Gillett, who is also organising the petition, stated: “Currently staff have no option to raise concerns about pay and working conditions, and the College has repeatedly ignored our requests to distribute surveys to scouts.”
In expensive areas such as Oxford and London, many feel the minimum wage doesn’t allow for a satisfactory living condition.
George went on to say: “I hope that the success of this petition will demonstrate how important it is to pay staff a living wage, and put pressure on the College to respond.”
The petition has gained support from 90 per cent of those in St Anne’s, including an SCR Economics tutor.
However, not everyone was overjoyed by the idea. One student at St Anne’s said: “Why should I sign the petition? My scout spends more time moaning and smoking than doing any work.”
In response to this, Hannah Duncan said: “As we can see here, the success of this petition should not be just based on getting Living Wage for St Anne’s staff, but also on increasing student awareness that without the scouts, the cooks, the porters and the cleaners our time at Oxford would not be possible.”
Finally, she said: “Mansfield is one of the poorest colleges in Oxford yet is has already decided to endorse the living wage. This sets an example to all other Oxford colleges that they should do the same.”
“The meeting on Thursday will hopefully move us closer towards a University whose colleges all endorse the living wage.”
The campaign is providing free cookies at the meeting, which will be held at 10.30 AM in Wellington Square.
Exeter College has a received a £1.1 million donation from Goldman Sachs.
According to the college, the vast majority of the donation will be used to provide needs-tested bursaries.
Exeter’s Rector, Frances Cairncross, stated: “The very welcome gift from Goldman Sachs is tied specifically by the donor to relieving student hardship. It will be added to our endowment and will allow us, under our spending rules, to use just over £30,000 a year to help students in financial need.”
Not everyone was so delighted with the way Exeter is using the donation. An Exeter hall boycott Twitter account called “The Bursar’s Reply” tweeted: “Also, @ExeterCollegeOx has just been given £1 million by Goldman Sachs. Is this going towards reducing the catering charge? Nope.”
Rector Cairncross responded: “We already subsidise the costs of student meals, but our priority in the College is to spend our scarce funds on tuition and hardship.”
Others were merely perplexed. Matt Stokes, an Exeter undergraduate, tweeted in response to the donation: “Fo’ real? What for? I thought we already had enough encouragement to sell our souls.”
This continues a trend of Goldman Sachs generosity towards Oxford. In previous years, the investment bank has given money to both Christ Church and Balliol.
The money came from the ‘Goldman Sachs Gives’ program. The company described it as a “a donor-advised fund, from which current and retired senior employees can recommend grants to qualified non-profit organisations”.
It claims to have given out in excess of $700 million since 2010.
St Catz is taking to the small screen this week as it features in the new independently produced British spy drama Chokepoint.
The show was shot in locations around College, such as the SCR and the Bernard Sunley Building. The full pilot episode was released online last Saturday.
Director SG Smith said the Bernard Sunley Building was a good location due to its “idiosyncratic architecture.
“[It] was a good fit with the overall aesthetic of the show – it had the ‘60s look and feel I wanted and can be menacing from the right angles, very cinematic,” he said.
“We also shot at New College in the Bursar’s office and cloisters, in the Radcliffe Science Library, Material Sciences buildings, and several other campuses.”
When asked about his experience filming at St Catz, Smith said: “The Bursar James Bennett was very accommodating from the start and enabled us to shoot pretty much wherever we wanted.
“We had a great time shooting at Catz but sadly several scenes we shot there, including a big chess match did not make it into the final show when the running time had to be cut,” he added.
Chokepoint centers on a group of student “hacktivists” at Oxford University. According to a description of the show, it sees cultures colliding “in the treacherous world of industrial espionage.”
“A burnt-out old school spy attempts to turn a bunch of reluctant young cyber truants into an effective counter intelligence unit, while thwarting sinister forces determined to settle old scores.”
However, it appears not that many St Catz students are aware of the new TV show. Vice-President of St Catz JCR, Ashleigh Ainsley, said: “I actually had no clue this was happening in College.”
“There was no impact upon the students of Catz during the filming that I was aware of and we were not told of any filming.”
He did express some concerns about the potential tourism the TV show might attract to the college. “I am quite ambivalent if we are on TV, although I wouldn’t want us to become a college that attracts anything other than Arne Jacobson tourists. It may cause disruption to people’s lives as is the case with Christ Church and other tourist-popular colleges.”
It appears, though, that the underground film community in the UK has responded positively.
Tim Radar, voice and bass of the band Off the Radar, tweeted, “#Chokepoint TV series looks awesome.”
Self-described filmmaker, musician, and writer from Manchester, UK, Brian Ellwood, commented: “Well done. Excellent production, great photography, pace, acting and script! Got to grab an audience.”
For this week only, the full pilot episode can be viewed online.