Below is the text of an open letter sent today. For the full letter, including all addressees and signatories, click here: Openletterconcerningrecentharassmentallegations.
We the undersigned are writing to express concern and dismay at the findings of the inquest into the tragic death of Charlotte Coursier. It is now known that allegations of harassment were reported to the University and police in May 2013, and that the police issued a warning under the Harassment Act. It is also known that the University has since conducted a review which concluded in October. Charlotte’s alleged harasser, Dr Jeffrey Ketland, remains an employee of the University, and has had institutionally mediated contact with students since the University began its review.
Our concerns are twofold. We worry about the lack of information communicated to students. We further worry about the decision to keep Dr Ketland in institutionally mediated contact with students after the review began.
We understand that those conducting the review must avoid being prejudicial. We also accept that privacy and due process must be respected. But the lack of comment has created a difficult atmosphere in the Philosophy Faculty. Some students now fear that harassment charges are not taken seriously. Others were upset to only learn of the situation in the national press. We understand that University staff are contractually obliged to abide by University policy and British law (“codes”). But if the relevant codes could be reformed to allow for more openness, we urge that the appropriate reforms are made.
Secondly, it is strongly in the interests of students not to be placed at undue risk of harassment. It seems to us that when harassment allegations are made against a member of staff, the University should limit their institutionally mediated contact with students whilst a review occurs. We think that this is required by the University’s duty of care towards its students. We understand that this duty could have been met by the University codes of practice, which allow for suspending staff with pay during a review process. We refer to University Statute XII: Part D, 19 (4) and section 8.2 of the Staff handbook (Academic-related staff). Yet after the review began, Dr Ketland continued to have institutionally mediated contact with students. In future reviews of harassment allegations, we strongly urge the swift adoption of such a suspension policy.