A Source of Irritation
Alma Mater College, Cambridge - has today formally announced that its Acting Deputy Head of Gender Facilities Management is to "step aside" pending further internal inquiries. The unprecedented move follows on from allegations that "as the person in overall charge, he/she/te/ze mishandled a number of student complaints regarding the size and quality of toilet tissue used in the gender-neutral restrooms adjacent to the College's Creche and Womens' Welfare facility".
Alma Mater said its Acting Deputy Head of Gender Facilities Management, Dr Maurice Oxford, made the move voluntarily while the College considers its response to the issues raised in a report published by Sloth Media [motto We may be pedestrian but then we charge by the hour] last week. Dr Oxford has form: only last year he/she/te/ze was reprimanded by the College's JCR for purchasing non-carbon neutral oil for the College's oil-fired central heating system.
The College's website revealed earlier this week that allegations of deliberately installing hard and shiny single-ply man-sized tissues in the lavatory dispensers were made by three females and had been registered more than a year ago. Two women chose to lodge formal complaints against Dr Oxford citing "chafing, scraping, consequential residue and embarrassing lateral overlap". Dr Oxford denied the allegations. The Sloth Media investigation has prompted more than 12 students to sign a letter to the Master and former Chief Druid Dr Hawthorn Stragglybeard raising concerns over how sanitary and personal hygiene misconduct allegations are dealt with at both the College and the University level.
The letter, written by Ama Mater Students' Union Women's Campaign, said colleges were "inadequately equipped" to tackle such issues. It called for "a centralised system that allows these cases to be dealt with by independent external experts, not conflicted members of staff from the same college". The College denies that in accepting an endowment for the San Izal Senior Research Fellowship it "was scraping the bottom of the barrel" or that it had put its members in a position of "some discomfort" as a result. Nearly 300 students have also signed an open letter to the University's Central Purchasing Division criticising its response to the allegations over Dr Oxford's purchasing policy. The so-called "Deep, Not Crisp, But Even" Soft-Tissue Campaign is, its supporters say, gathering momentum.
In a statement, Alma Mater's Master and former Chief Druid Dr Hawthorn Stragglybeard said a panel of "unconflicted fellows with completely clean sheets" will issue an interim report on March 2 on how it should respond to the [t]issues raised by the Sloth Media investigation. In an internal email, the University said: "The University takes its disposable sanitary products responsibilities extremely seriously. It regards the welfare of its students and, in particular, their vulnerable places as its highest priority. At the present time, Dr Oxford has voluntarily and temporarily stepped back from his/her/te/ze's purchasing role and we can assure everyone that the size, quality and environmental impact of toilet tissue remains very high on our agenda - very much more so than any legal requirement to teach or research. We hope this will make our students feel more comfortable [no pun intended]".
A spokesperson for Dr Oxford said: "Dr Oxford believes he acted with integrity and followed appropriately hard and fast sanitary advice throughout the various internal processes. He/she/te/ze rejects any suggestion that he/she/te/ze behaved improperly and is appalled that what should have been confidential procedures have been made public". "We will get to the bottom of this", he/she/te/ze said.