Students React to News that Intern Pleading Guilty to Rape was Allowed to Continue Work on Campus

The author of an open letter to the university was "disappointed" with the Vice Chancellor's response.

The author of an open letter to the university was “disappointed” with the Vice Chancellor’s response.

I spoke to Imogen Horrocks, an undergraduate at the University who, after reading the article, was prompted to pen an open letter to the University:

“I think that there needs to be a review of safeguarding policy regarding these staff and their actions, and that if they have breached it, then yes, they absolutely should face disciplinary action.”

“I have no faith that the University has made sure this won’t happen again. Reading their statement that was released on 13 September 2019 there was no apology for their ignorance. I don’t feel they appreciated or acknowledged the severity of the situation and the scale of the risk that students were exposed to.

“I strongly believe that the two members of staff should face some sort of disciplinary action. The University should publicly address what those members of staff did and make them accountable for their actions. If they were aware of the investigation and allowed him to continue working on campus despite knowing this, I feel they should have to undergo some sort of safeguarding training or sexual assault awareness course to ensure that they don’t risk the wellbeing and safety of students or staff again.”

In October, the Vice Chancellor responded to the open letter commissioned by second year undergraduate Imogen.

The Vice Chancellor stated in his letter “I apologise unreservedly for the circumstances that led to Joseph McKeown continuing his internship”.

He continued: “I ordered a very thorough investigation and disciplinary action was taken. I am determined that we continue to look at ourselves hard, learn the lessons we can from this case, and work to prevent and – where we have to- respond to incidents of rape and sexual assault better in the future.”

The letter also detailed “changes to [the University’s] policies and procedures”. The open letter in full can be seen here.

Imogen said she was “really disappointed” with the response she received.

She continued: “I appreciated the acknowledgement of what was allowed to happen and that this was an important first step. But there was no proactive approach in the response. I was given a list of two things that have been implemented since and neither are helping to dismantle the rape culture at university of York.”

One student told me: “My reaction is resigned disappointment. The staff chose research excellence over the safety of its community, and I find that unjustifiable.

“To ignore this, and to justify his hiring based on his academic capability shows that these staff members either do not understand, or do not care about the impact of sexual violence on those affected by it, and reveals the callousness and severe lack of empathy behind their motivations in hiring him.”

Many students say they are not confident that the University has taken significant steps towards changing their policies.

Archaeology student Victoria told me that the university “need to be more transparent in telling us what they’re doing.”

Vision also contacted the University of York, asking about the disciplinary action that had been taken against Krauss and Wilson.

The University said they were unable to comment on individual cases.

A University of York spokesperson said: “As soon as we were made aware of the circumstances, which was after the internship ended, a thorough investigation was launched and disciplinary action was taken.

“The academics confirmed they were not aware of the guilty plea at any point during Joseph McKeown’s time working at the University and that they provided the references in good faith. 

“We have apologised unreservedly for the circumstances that led to Joseph McKeown continuing his internship.”