The long-running dispute between Christ Church and its former Dean may have reached a settlement last term, but the College is facing public scrutiny once again. The Christ Church Junior Censor has stepped down from safeguarding duties after a complainant found him to have liked tweets containing erotic images.
The College was alerted to this on March 30th by ‘Gilo’ – whose surname Cherwell has withheld at his request – after the Junior Censor followed him on Twitter. Gilo is a writer and CSA survivor. Gilo contacted the Christ Church governing body, the Bishop of Oxford, and Chancellor and Vice Chancellor of the University, raising concerns over the Junior Censor’s safeguarding responsibilities.
A mathematics professor, McGerty’s responsibilities included granting students permission to have parties, and overseeing non-academic discipline. Private Eye reported that McGerty told colleagues he was stepping back to avoid “becoming a distraction” as the College undertakes an independent safeguarding review. The review is being conducted by Ineqe Safeguarding Group.
Gilo highlighted that Christ Church’s safeguarding policies state that members of staff with welfare responsibilities for students should have demonstrated the “appropriate qualities to perform such a role”. In an email conversation with the Bishop’s Chaplain, Gilo explained that he was concerned that students “might think twice about presenting [welfare] issues to a man who promotes [explicit content] on social media”.
He told Cherwell that it was “hypocritical” of Christ Church to give McGerty welfare responsibilities in light of the controversies which have engulfed the College in recent years.
‘Liking’ a tweet on Twitter saves the post to one’s profile, and may lead to a tweet getting recommended to one’s followers. Gilo told Cherwell he was alerted to the images by a friend shortly after McGerty followed him on Twitter. McGerty has since changed his Twitter handle.
Eight minutes after Gilo alerted the College, he received a “sinister” anonymous email from ‘Wolf Man’ reading: “There is something seriously wrong with you. Please get some help and stop wasting peoples time. It’s desperately sad that you have nothing better to do. Seriously? Do something better with your life.”
When approached for comment, a representative from Christ Church told Cherwell: “Christ Church received a complaint about a series of pictures that Professor Kevin McGerty ‘liked’ on a personal Twitter page unconnected to the College during a period before he took office as Junior Censor.”
“An external investigator was immediately appointed by Christ Church. The investigator did not find ‘liking’ the images raised any significant safeguarding questions of a primary nature.”
“On receipt of the complaint Professor McGerty volunteered to step back from his role as safeguarding lead, to avoid becoming a distraction at a time when Christ Church is engaged in an independent review of safeguarding across the joint foundation.”
His safeguarding role has been taken up by Clare Hayns, College Chaplain. Professor McGerty continues as Junior Censor.”
“A further complaint, concerning an email from an individual identifying themselves as ‘Wolf Man’ could not be investigated any further because the complainant was unable to provide the requested information.”
A representative from the Conference of Colleges said, “the Chair and Deputy Chair of Conference, and the Chair of the Conference Legal Panel, were contacted during the vacation by the complainant, and they undertook to seek assurances from Christ Church that the matter was being dealt with appropriately. These assurances were received.”
The University of Oxford and Kevin McGerty have been approached for comment.
Image credit: Sonia Shuster