Dr Peter Hutchinson, a don in Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, has been readmitted as a fellow emeritus less two years after it was announced that he had been permanently removed.
An internal investigation of Dr. Hutchinson’s conduct took was instigated by the college in 2015 after over nearly a dozen complaints over “inappropriate” incidents between 2014 and 2015. Following the investigation Dr Hutchinson quit his position teaching modern and medieval languages. Having been found to have sexually harassed 10 students, Trinity Hall announced in 2017 that Dr Hutchinson was permanently banned from Trinity Hall and contact with students after breaching sanctions imposed on him after the initial complaints. A spokesperson at the time said “We can confirm Dr Hutchinson has withdrawn permanently from any further involvement with college affairs, including from his role on the finance committee. He will not be present in college at any time in the future”
However, the college has now announced that it will afford Dr Hutchinson his rights as a fellow emeritus in his retirement. Confusion first arose following Dr Hutchinson’s attendance of a lecture in 2017. A statement on the Trinity Hall website reads “The following statement has been agreed following extensive discussion and legal advice: I. Dr Hutchinson’s name was mistakenly removed from the online list of Emeritus Fellows in 2017 but has now been reinstated… VI. In line with the rights and privileges afforded to emeritus fellows of the college, Dr Hutchinson will continue to attend certain college events and to exercise his dining rights, but will not attend events primarily aimed at students or alumni except by agreement with the college”. BBC News has reported that “the college had been advised Dr Hutchinson could threaten legal action and there were internal concerns about the impartiality of the process”.
Several former students have waived their right to anonymity to speak out about the decision. Sophie Newbury, who graduated from Trinity Hall with a degree in German and Russian in 2018, has described the decision as “a slap in the face” to complainants who had “worked up the courage to speak out.” Speaking to BBC News, Newbury alleged that Dr Hutchinson had offered to give her a “big kiss” on her birthday, made comments about her clothing, asked a group of students if they would “sleep [their] way to the top” at a film night in his home.
In a statement, Trinity Hall said: “Given the extensive and confidential nature of the consultation, it would not be appropriate to comment further on that”. Speaking to BBC News, Dr Hutchinson said that there had been “No legal finding of harassment”, and emphasised that it had been an internal, college investigation.