In light of Al Jazeera’s investigation on the decades-long sexual predation and harassment by Professor Andy Orchard, the Advisory Board of the Society for Medievalist Feminist Scholarship stands in solidarity and gratitude with the people who shared their stories. We are appalled by the long history of this abusive behavior and the institutional protection that has allowed Professor Orchard to continue using his position of power to intimidate and endanger students and colleagues.
As an intersectional feminist organization, we are committed to gender and racial justice, and urge Professor Orchard’s current employer, University of Oxford, to take action to support students, past and present, whose lives have been permanently and adversely affected by Professor Orchard’s behavior.
It is imperative that the University of Oxford acknowledge and seek to repair the harm Professor Orchard has perpetrated against students and colleagues alike through his abuse of professional and institutional power. We call on them
1) to conduct a thorough, transparent investigation of Professor Orchard’s conduct (consistent with its Harassment Policy, Annexe A, Paragraph 36 a-f) while employed by the University of Oxford; this includes establishing whether Professor Orchard’s history of harassment was known to the University of Oxford when he was employed by the University;
2) if it was, to hold to account those individuals who appointed him;
3) to review the University’s terms and procedures which regulate the recruitment, appointment, and retention of staff;
4) to revisit their own policies and procedures regarding harassment, in order to ensure that the ongoing failures that enabled Professor Orchard’s misconduct are rectified so that students and colleagues do not suffer similar abuse in the future;
5) to articulate their plan for redressing the harm that Oxford’s students and staff have experienced due to Professor Orchard’s conduct and to Oxford’s own institutional failures.
Oxford’s own 2018 strategic plan states, “[w]e are committed to equality of opportunity, to engendering inclusivity, and to supporting staff and student wellbeing, ensuring that the very best students and staff can flourish in our community.” We challenge the University of Oxford to live up to this vision and to support staff and student wellbeing and flourishing both now and in the future by offering redress for its failure to do so regarding Professor Orchard’s past transgressions against their community.
More broadly, we hope that this will be a moment of real reckoning in our field. The 2015 survey conducted by the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship demonstrated that this is not an isolated problem, and the 2017 issue of Medieval Feminist Forum was entirely dedicated to analyzing Microaggressions, Harassment and Abuse within medieval studies and the academy in general. We call upon conference organizers and universities to commit to taking sexual predation and harassment seriously, and to develop new survivor-centered ways to respond to such behaviors.