Cambridge students unable to report harassment without being disciplined for breaking COVID-19 rules

Dom Lee reports on the open letter sent by students to the University after an statement announcing disciplinary action against those harassed while in breach of safety guidelines.

Dominic Lee
25th November 2020
Students at Cambridge University received an email stating that they could face disciplinary action when reporting harassment or assault if COVID-19 regulations were broken in the incident

Dr Geoff Parks, Senior Tutor at Jesus College, stated in the email that he could not guarantee that students would not be investigated for breaking COVID-19 regulations when reporting harassment or abuse if it took place at an event which broke guidelines.

In protest to the College’s statement, students published an open letter addressed to Sonita Alleyne, Master of Jesus College, which detailed students’ frustration.

"There is a serious and worrying problem in the college's attitude towards the student body"

The letter demanded that the college publicly retracted the statement and guarantee that students reporting harms will face no disciplinary action. They also asked for reassurance that students accessing other support and welfare services will be able to do so without fear.

The open letter, which has over 300 signatures, argued that the statement: "shows a serious and worrying problem in the college’s attitude towards the student body, especially given how all of this was communicated to students."

The letter reads: "Your position, as expressed in the statement, puts all students at risk, but worryingly and particularly creates an environment where students experiencing serious racial, sexual and homophobic abuse are afraid to seek college support".

Jesus College also reminded students that in extreme cases of COVID-19 restriction breaches or in the case of repeat offenders, students may be evicted from their College accommodation - a measure put in place in September.

Regarding this matter, the open letter stated: "given your stated willingness to use all manner of disciplinary measures up to and including eviction, students are acutely aware that seeking to use college welfare systems or harassment policies could result in extremely serious negative consequences."

Marginalised students who are most likely to be harassed and need college support are also those who are likely to be worst affected by potential disciplinary action."

Featured image: Wikipedia

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