The Master of a prestigious Cambridge college has apologised to two students whose complaints of anti-Semitic abuse were inadequately handled.
Professor Jane Stapleton, Master of Christ’s College, Cambridge, said on Thursday that the College now “accepts that racist and anti-Semitic conduct occurred and has apologised to the students who reported it”. She also announced changes to the College’s complaint-handling procedures.
The two students had reported suffering racist and anti-Semitic abuse in August last year while at a College party organised by two sports clubs. The College’s initial investigation failed to identify any individual perpetrator but disciplined two students for swearing and physical aggression, and restricted the societies’ social activity.
However, the complainants were left unhappy with the findings and with how the process had been conducted and communicated, and after months of further review, a contrite College statement was issued on Thursday summarising the problems and issuing a new disciplinary code.
“The Master inadvertently gave the seriously misleading impression that the reporting students’ account of anti-Semitic abuse had been rejected by the College,” it read, highlighting one of several problems. “This caused considerable hurt and dismay to the reporting students and others in the Jewish community.”
After meetings with representatives from the Board of Deputies, the Community Security Trust and the Jewish Leadership Council, who were unhappy with the way the initial investigation had been conducted, the College agreed to an independent review of its handling of the complaint.
This review revealed “significant deficiencies in College procedures,” according to Stapleton, who said: “Complainants were not invited to the College to be interviewed, the College did not explain to them how the process worked and they were not told why it had not been possible to charge any student with the anti-Semitism alleged.”
She said: “In response the College is overhauling its entire complaints, training, investigation, record-keeping and disciplinary machinery with the assistance of external legal experts.
“The Jewish community can be reassured that if there were to be a similar incident in the future the College would address it robustly. A new concept of group responsibility will be recognised in College procedures to deal effectively with cases where wrongdoers fail to take responsibility.”
One of the students, Shlomo Roiter-Jesner, said: “We are satisfied that Christ’s is now comfortable giving credence to our story, admitting that anti-Semitic conduct occurred and taking decisive steps to improve their disciplinary system.”
Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “I am grateful to the Master of Christ’s College for recognising the deficiencies of the College’s structures for dealing with complaints of racist abuse, for commissioning an independent report and indicating her willingness to accept the recommendations.
“It is important that victims of racist abuse have confidence that their complaints will be robustly investigated and dealt with.”