Our appreciation goes to Prof. Ian Watson (Censor Theologiae), Prof. Geraldine Johnson (Senior Censor) and Prof. Dirk Aarts (Junior Censor) who are succeeded respectively by Canon Prof. Sarah Foot, Prof. Dirk Aarts, and Prof. Kevin McGerty.
As we look ahead to the new term, reflecting on the last brings with it a range of emotions. Above all, we can be especially proud of how our students and staff, academic and non-academic, adapted to the inevitable disruption and challenges of a chaotic public health picture. Tutors and students explored new ways of teaching and learning through a mixture of remote and in-person tutorials, with the balance between the two having to shift in response to our ever-changing circumstances.
In addition to the challenges the pandemic presented to teaching, it transformed the research activities of our academic staff. Some could immediately turn the focus of their work to address Covid and the challenges it brought. These included of course our medics Prof. Sir John Bell, Prof. Stephanie Cragg, Prof. Sarah Rowland Jones, Prof. Richard Wade-Martins and perhaps most famously, Senior Associate Research Fellow Prof. Dame Sarah Gilbert, co-leader of the team that developed the Oxford-Astra-Zeneca vaccine. You may also have seen reports about the excellent research of Dr Robin Thompson, an epidemiologist who began tracking Covid-19 literally days after it was first reported in Wuhan in 2019.
Others in our academic community however saw the pandemic force their research into a state of limbo, cut off from access to essential material for their work. This is particularly devastating for researchers in the early stages of their career, and so we are happy to report that Christ Church has been able to offer its Junior Research and Career Development Fellows an additional year of support.
The contribution of our non-academic staff during this period has been immense. They consistently went beyond the call of duty to meet the needs of students, both when they could be in residence, and when they could not. Student well-being and mental health has been a huge focus for us all and will continue to be as we enter 2021/2.
You too have been instrumental in our response to the pandemic. The Covid Support Fund, to which so many alumni have generously given, has made a real difference to those students most affected by the pandemic, including the funding of bridging programmes to support students whose schooling was most interrupted before they come up to Christ Church. Your donations are always invaluable when it comes to our outreach and access work, but particularly so given that young people from less well-off backgrounds have been amongst the most adversely affected by the last 18 months.
We also wanted to take this opportunity to update you on the status of the Dean. The current situation is a source of great pain and frustration to us all. It will be even harder to comprehend for those of you looking on from afar, especially through the lens of public speculation and, at times, disinformation.
The Dean voluntarily withdrew from his duties last November, following an allegation made against him. An independent investigation into the allegation was commissioned; this allegation is now being addressed under the relevant House procedures. We are sure that you will understand that due confidentiality is essential in such a matter.
In addition, the Dean has made a number of employment tribunal claims against Christ Church, which the House is defending. Sadly, these will now not be heard in court until 2023. It had been anticipated that, through mediation, a much earlier resolution could be reached but unfortunately the current phase of mediation was halted by the independent mediator earlier in the summer, after several months of negotiation.
Christ Church remains committed to a full review of its governance structures in due course, but this cannot take place until the Employment Tribunal has concluded. We understand there may be frustration at the amount of time these various processes are taking, but they must be allowed to run their proper course. In the meantime, Governing Body is continually reviewing and updating our policies and procedures to support the smooth running of Christ Church.
Finally, but most importantly, we want to thank you all again for the help and support you provide to the House, financially or otherwise. The pandemic has caused some of you to give for the first time, joining the many who donated regularly before. In whatever way you are able to support Christ Church, we, and above all our beneficiaries, remain extremely grateful.