Cambridge University academic resigns after Trinity Hall row

Dr Peter Hutchinson

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Dr Peter Hutchinson stopped teaching after an internal investigation in 2015

A Cambridge academic accused of sexually harassing 10 students has resigned, two weeks after his college confirmed that he remained in his post.

Dr Peter Hutchinson stopped teaching at Trinity Hall in 2015, following an internal inquiry into the allegations.

But a row erupted after he attended a lecture in 2017, after which Trinity Hall said, as an emeritus professor, he could still attend college events.

Dr Hutchinson said he had now resigned in the “best interests of the college”.

The former lecturer in modern and medieval languages said the resignation was also in the interests of his “health and family”.

Trinity Hall says it will now “review its decision-making processes” and how cases of “harassment and other disciplinary issues” are handled.

‘Withdrawing permanently’

In 2015, following complaints of sexual harassment from 10 Trinity Hall students, Dr Hutchinson agreed to stop teaching and from attending “any social events at which students might be present”.

However, in November 2017 he went to a lecture at the college to which he had been invited.

The following month Trinity Hall said Dr Hutchinson was “withdrawing permanently from the college” as a result.

However, legal documents obtained by the BBC show that was not agreed by Dr Hutchinson and he had threatened to sue Trinity Hall.

After the BBC contacted Trinity Hall, it later confirmed this was because he had been invited “in error” to the lecture at the time.

Last month the college sought to further clarify the situation, saying that because the former lecturer had become an emeritus fellow upon his retirement, he would continue to attend certain college events and to exercise his dining rights.

He was entitled to emeritus status, which includes special privileges such as the right to have free meals in college, because he had taught there for more than 25 years.

The decision saw more than 1,300 students, alumni and academics at Trinity Hall and Cambridge University sign an open letter calling for Dr Hutchinson to be banned.

The BBC understands former students had also asked to be removed from alumni-databases, withdrawn donations, lobbied sponsors and sent in torn-up degree certificates.

Cleodie Rickard, 23, a complainant who graduated in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies in 2018, called the college’s handling of the case “wholly insufficient, offensive and negligent”.

‘Listened carefully’

BBC News has spoken to three staff members who said they left the college with “serious concerns” over the decision to allow Dr Hutchinson to keep his post.

The BBC understands one resigned, one chose not to remain affiliated with Trinity Hall and another cited the handling of Dr Hutchinson’s case for not renewing their job.

“We sent the message that appeasing one retired male insider was worth more than keeping our word to the student body who had trusted us,” one academic said.

In a statement, the Master of Trinity Hall, Dr Jeremy Morris, said: “Dr Peter Hutchinson has resigned from his post as emeritus fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge with immediate effect. The college has accepted his resignation.

“We have listened carefully to concerns raised about how the situation with Dr Hutchinson was handled procedurally and how decisions made by the governing body were communicated.”

He said “the safety and welfare of everyone at Trinity Hall is, and has always been, of paramount importance”.

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