A recent investigation by Al Jazeera has unveiled sexual misconduct allegations against two Oxford professors, Andy Orchard and Peter Thompson. The investigation, Degrees of Abuse, seeks to unearth how some of the best universities in the UK — Oxford, Cambridge, Glasgow, and Warwick — deal, or more accurately, fail to deal with sexual misconduct and drunken behaviour complaints. Students at the University of Oxford have responded to these allegations by calling on the University to take investigative action. To become a signatory or access the Open Letter to the University, click on the link here.
Several women have spoken out about how these professors “abused their position of authority with sexist and drunken behaviour” (Al Jazeera). Many of these sexual misconduct allegations follow from years prior.
According to multiple accounts, both professors have held drunken meetings with students in pubs. Prof. Orchard is said to have abused his position of power by engaging in a sexual relationship with his student, while Prof. Thompson reputedly made sexist comments and was “physically over-familiar with female students” (Al Jazeera).
Previous students of Prof. Orchard report being harassed at his former institutions before Oxford; regardless, the professor has yet to face repercussions for his actions at any of these universities.
Critically, the investigation reveals the University of Oxford’s hesitancy to deal with serious sexual misconduct allegations. Initial complaints brought forth against Prof. Thompson by other faculty members were dismissed. It took a subsequent complaint the following year, filed by a group of students and several more faculty members, on the grounds of sexual harassment and alcoholism for the University to take action. However, the University has yet to be transparent about the exact nature of the measures it is pursuing.
It must be noted that this is not the first time Oxford has dismissed sexual misconduct allegations filed by its students. A post-graduate student who previously submitted a sexual assault complaint to Balliol College had her claim shelved without an investigation.
The University has responded to Al Jazeera’s report commenting that it takes “all allegations of sexual harassment very seriously, along with the wellbeing of staff and students”.