Orchard Withdraws from Pembroke Governing Body

Image Description: the main entrance to Pembroke College.

Pembroke College have announced that following an Al Jazeera piece that accused him of sexual harassment and misconduct, Andy Orchard has voluntarily withdrawn from the Governing Body.

In an email sent to the JCR yesterday morning, the President of the JCR and Gender Equalities Rep assured fellow students that “safeguarding checks have been conducted and measures have been put in place within Pembroke as a result of these allegations”.

The email confirmed that Pembroke College had not assigned Orchard to teach any undergraduates or graduates, and that the College did not intend to assign Orchard to students, undergraduate or graduate, going forward.

The email also stated that Professor Orchard had voluntarily resigned from the Governing Body of the College, which includes any decision making committees that he had sat on. The email tells students that while Professor Orchard will continue to have access to his office, its location means that there is no need for him to have any contact with staff or students when using it.

Furthermore, the JCR email stated that the Professor had been asked to refrain from involvement in College activities, giving the example of the “3 Common Rooms talks”.

It also warned students that because Professor Orchard is employed by the English Faculty, Pembroke College cannot stop the Faculty appointing Orchard as a tutor. However, students were told that to the best of the JCR’s knowledge, he had been replaced as a tutor where he would have been tutoring Pembroke students.

This comes in the wake of an Al Jazeera investigation, which alleges that Professor Orchard acted inappropriately during his time at Cambridge University, Toronto University, and at Oxford University.

Pembroke College confirmed to The Oxford Student that Professor Orchard has voluntarily taken leave of absence from his duties as Professorial Fellow and Trustee of the College with immediate effect. He will not, for the foreseeable future, attend social or academic functions, and all access to his office for research purposes will be by arrangement and take place without contact with students.

Furthermore, in an email sent to Pembroke students from the Pembroke Master this afternoon, the Master told students:

“I have met with JCR and MCR representatives to listen to their serious concerns and have also received a number of similar messages from members of our community.”

The Master of Pembroke goes on to elaborate on the College’s decision-making process, and highlights to students that Professor Orchard is not employed by the College to teach undergraduates, or as a College graduate adviser or supervisor. He also states that Professor Orchard denies all allegations, and that there have been no complaints to the Pembroke Governing Body.

“Above all, I want to reassure you that Pembroke takes all allegations of harassment extremely seriously. I also need to make it clear that, as yet, there has been no complaint made to the Governing Body.  Professor Orchard denies the allegations, and all the allegations that we are aware of appear to relate to periods of employment before he joined Oxford University in 2013. He joined Pembroke at the same time, and there is no allegation that relates to students at the College.”

“As Master, I have to consider very carefully the responsibilities of the College and the powers available to us.  As a consequence, my focus has been on ensuring appropriate steps are taken to safeguard the welfare of all members of our community.  To that end, I have explained to student representatives and others that Professor Orchard is not employed or engaged by Pembroke to teach undergraduates, nor does he act as a College graduate adviser or supervisor and there is no plan for him to be so.  He has no direct contact with students as a consequence of his role in College. His lecturing and teaching at faculty level is organised by the English faculty.”

“Yesterday I spoke with Professor Orchard and he agreed that it would be appropriate for him to voluntarily take leave of absence from his duties as Professorial Fellow and Trustee of the College with immediate effect.  For the foreseeable future he will not attend College for social or academic functions and any access to his College room to collect research materials will be by arrangement and without contact with students.  He will not attend meetings of the Governing Body or its committees.”

The Board of the English Faculty have also confirmed after an open letter was sent by English students that Professor Orchard is not currently undertaking teaching of students at undergraduate or Masters level by mutual agreement. The Faculty also said that they were in “individual discussion with research students about their supervision arrangements”, as Professor Orchard has been engaged with a research project since 2013.

The Faculty also told students that they were in the process of setting up a meeting with student representatives, the purpose of which “will be to make sure our Faculty’s opposition to sexual harassment is as strongly embedded in the culture as it can be.”

A panel will be convened, led by the Director of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion, Dr Nicholas Perkins, to conduct a review on harassment procedures.

The response continues:

“Conversations are ongoing, and we are committed to making sure that we can all learn and teach in a safe environment. We welcome your active engagement in these conversations.”

This article was updated to include more up-to-date information. 

Image Credit: Alexander Smolianitski via Creative Commons