More students express concern over conduct of UT investigation

Following the publication of allegations last week, more students have come forward with objections to how the original investigation was handled

A disclaimer on these series on pieces can be found here.

Last week, Trinity News reported allegations made against the UT deputy editor, in which students alleged that confidential details were leaked.

The allegations were in relation to an article published on September 7 of last year, entitled “Phil, Hist Accused of Perpetuating Culture of Harassment and Bullying”. This article contained anonymous testimonies from students involved in these societies who had experienced harassment and bullying.

Students speaking to Trinity News last week alleged their confidential testimonies were leaked.

Since the publication of these allegations, more students have approached Trinity News to express other concerns as to how the original investigation was handled.

One student, who was interviewed for the piece, explained how they became involved: “The way I got involved was someone in the year above me who had just spoken about their experience and other rumours they heard [the deputy editor] referenced me on. They knew I had this minimum weird, maximum bad experience with an older person in the [debating society] when I was a fresher. They prompted me to talk to [the deputy editor] because it seemed relevant, and that was fair enough.”

“When I was interviewed, one of the most unprofessional things was actually that [an individual]’s name was brought up to me, I was asked about stories about that,” they continued. “Mostly, I was just allowed to chat, and I don’t think the original conversation was that harmful. I walked away, I didn’t feel like I had catharsis or anything, but I was happy enough at that point in time to share what I had shared.”

The student expressed some concern for the clarity of the original interview, however. They said that, unlike what other students had said, it was explicit to them what was on or off the record throughout the course of their interview. They said: “The original interview was kind of unclear at times; I wasn’t necessarily prompted or I wasn’t really clear what [the deputy editor] wanted out of my interview or what I was saying. I was trying to tell a story, that was true, about my experience.”

They added: “I was explicitly told that anything in the video-chat was on the record. I was given a pretty good idea of what was on the record. I didn’t have these casual interactions with [the deputy editor], and because we were not in contact through text [post interview], I don’t think there was any point where I was unsure what was on or off the record.”

They explained that following the interview, they had “no direct communication” with the deputy editor.

“If she wanted access to the messages, which she got, she spoke to the older student who originally referred me on, and that student would talk to me,” they explained. “So there was no real direct communication at this point.”

This student, however, expressed concern about the extent to which their statements had been used in the original article. They said: “I was under the impression the whole way after that they had other first year students, it was implicit to me that I wasn’t the only one, and I wasn’t going to be obviously identifiable; that I was going to be one of quite a lot of stories which were going to be showcased in this particular article. And I wasn’t. This isn’t true.”

“If you read this article, they say there are lots of first years who have suffered, and then they have one current first year,” they explained.

This student emphasised how they believe certain aspects of their story were taken out of context: “I think that while the quotes from me in the article are direct quotes, I feel as though there is an element to which they were taken out of context; or context is deliberately skewed.”

Another student who came forward to Trinity News also expressed concern over alleged missing context: “One of the flaws in [the deputy editor’s] article is that it really glosses over just how brutal women can be. Make it a problem where men are just abusive; that is not the case.”

“It’s not just ‘oh there’s older women in the [debating society] who stay silent; it’s not just ‘oh there’s younger women who are hurt and abused and there’s older men who prey on younger women’,” they explained.

Those interviewed expressed a serious concern relating to the alleged list supposedly kept and repeated by the deputy editor during confidential interviews.

The student explained how the deputy editor would ask about what they “knew” about a particular member in the society.

“It became really obvious she was keeping a list,” this student explained. “It became obvious who was going and speaking to the deputy editor based on the names on that list.”

Another student added: “About half-way through the investigation, I was hearing kind of dodgy stuff, a lot of the time from men who had been interviewed. I was told that there seemed to be a list of men that she was taking names from and asking people about.”

“A friend of mine was interviewed to talk about the norms … [They] stated that there were times [the deputy editor] was just like ‘have you heard anything about this person or that person’.”

They explained: “These weren’t, as far as I’m aware, women who spoke to her; these were men in the building. And not necessarily men who there had been stories about.”

A student interviewed said: “I know both the people who were interviewed for the original article; [the deputy editor] never once mentioned that both of those men were socially ostracised, one of those men being on committee when he did those things, was kicked out of the committee. That was never mentioned.”

Responding to these allegations in a statement to Trinity News, the deputy editor said: “The University Times’s article was the first to bring to light the culture of bullying and harassment in the Hist and the Phil. If the suggestion is that the article didn’t go far enough, then The University Times would be eager to investigate further.”

“Similarly, The University Times would welcome reporting from Trinity News on this issue or internal investigations by the societies in question about the culture of bullying and harassment, neither of which have happened to date,” the statement continued.

The deputy editor did not say if these were the opinions of the University Times editorial team in general. As she is running in sabbatical elections, the journalist is meant to have stepped back from her role as deputy editor.

“This is the first time anyone has questioned the veracity of what was reported in The University Times’s article, which was published in September,” the deputy editor added.  “It is also worth noting that none of what was reported came as a surprise to anyone involved in the societies. In fact, the President of the Phil acknowledged on the record that there was an issue with misogyny in societies, including the Phil itself.”

“With respect to the allegations surrounding the nature of how some interviews were conducted, normal reporting processes are being presented as if they constitute journalistic misconduct.”

The deputy editor concluded: “This is wholly false and defamatory.”

Students continued to express concern over the nature of this alleged “list”. One student noted: “It was as if [the deputy editor] had opened up the list of rules about what you are and are not supposed to do during confidential investigations, and made a bingo card out of how many she could violate.”

Another student said: “It’s almost vile really; the fact that she had a list and she was running around asking people what have you heard about this person, because I think that’s the act of defamation here.”

They continued: “The GMB is very small; I can probably name most of the people on that list just because I’ve talked to my friends, my friends have talked to me, I have received texts from [the deputy editor] about who is and isn’t on the list.”

“[The deputy editor] should not have been going to interviews and asking people those names; but by the time I worked out what was going on, it was too late. The article was out,” they explained.

Another student interviewed added: “I don’t think it was necessary. I think an anonymous story means that she was never going to be able to do a ‘take down’ article of any one individual, legally it wasn’t possible.”

“I don’t think there was any merit in finding out [these names],” they continued. “At some point, it doesn’t really matter when you’re writing a story about a culture.”

“I don’t think it was necessary; and I think the prompting with men’s names was almost to try and get a certain narrative.”

Students who spoke to Trinity News over the last week emphasised how they believed the article was “written backwards”. One student said: “[It was] as if she started with an idea in her head about how sexual assualt and harassment works in the GMB and then chose stories that fit that narrative.”

“There were more stories than just the two mentioned in the article … it doesn’t start and end with that,” they explained.

They added: “Lots of stories were shared where I don’t think they were given the full nuance that they deserved.”

“I think [the deputy editor]’s bias really filtered into the article,” another student noted. “It was very one-dimensional.”

One student expressed concern as to how their story was handled: “I was not warned how my story would be used in the article, or of the fact that it was then quoted by the Editorial Board after. The way they took about a third of the piece which was my story, which was not communicated with me that would be the case, was quite distressing at the time.”

“I was not given any notice about when this was going to be released,” they explained. “I had no confirmation from [the deputy editor]. I didn’t get warned.”

“It very much ruined that day when I was having it; because it is distressing having that kind of thing out there,” they added.

Students who spoke to Trinity News about these allegations expressed concern for the deputy editor’s campaign to become editor.

One said: “I have serious concerns about [the deputy editor] running unopposed for UT editor.”

They explained: “If you don’t know how to keep sources confidential, because it’s not just the parties, it’s the way the interviews progressed and no one was told what was on or off the record; the fact we were receiving texts from her as if she was one of our friends and was just trying to catch up; the fact we were never given access to our interviews; the fact that she was compiling a list of names and asking people in those interviews; the fact that those lists of names existed in the first place; the fact that people were made aware of what names were and weren’t on the list, even if they didn’t have any connection to the person in question.”

“You really do wonder how seriously she was taking this,” they continued. “You really do wonder just how qualified she is, because if the University Times editor is a person who oversees everything and the only person who can grant anonymity, why should that power be entrusted into someone who doesn’t know what anonymity is or how to protect it? It just baffles me.”

Another student said: “I think [my anonymity] was not protected; and it could have been. I think more steps could have been taken to make me actively anonymous, instead of just pulling my name.”

They continued: “I think we’re talking about not only one of the biggest publications on campus, but one which is paid; a position which is paid for by students.”

“I think the kind of people who have been screwed over by this are students who trusted someone to treat their stories with respect, trust that they would be used to tell an important but nuanced story about what it is like in the GMB and what can be done to change.”

“Their stories have been treated like loose pieces change and social currency for [the deputy editor] to get laughs at parties,” they continued. “That is not someone I want reporting on the conduct of this university for the next year, certainly not someone I want being paid by my money.”

The deputy editor has continuously denied allegations, stating that they are “wholly false and defamatory”.

The deputy editor is currently running unopposed for the position of UT editor.

Campaigning for sabbatical officer elections will continue until March 3. Voting will run from March 1 to 3. Students have until noon on March 1 to register to vote. The next hustings event is on Thursday (February 24) at 7pm, hosted by Trinity News and the University Times.

On 26 July 2022, a statement was redacted from the above piece which relating to the intelligence of the journalist in question. Trinity News understands how this statement may have been interpreted, and regrets any upset caused.

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the Editor-in-Chief of the 69th volume Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister student of English Literature and Philosophy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.