Students at the Oxford Middle East Centre have reacted in anger to the University's response to the mounting accusations of rape against Islamic professor Tariq Ramadan, accusing senior figures of acting "as if nothing had happened".
Ramadan is currently being investigated by French authorities over two allegations of rape, sexual assault, violence and harassment. Ramadan has described the allegations as a "campaign of lies" and said he is suing the alleged victims for "slander".
Since the first allegation of rape surfaced two weeks ago, the professor has reportedly taught a seminar in Oxford and been seen "laughing" with faculty members.
In response to requests from students, senior figures in the faculty held a meeting on Tuesday "to address implications for student welfare arising from the allegations".
The faculty told students they intend Ramadan to continue to both tutor and supervise on his return to Oxford from Qatar – although students may ask for another faculty member to be in the room if they wish.
At the meeting, held at St Antony's College, several students expressed anger at the "lack of communication" from the University, claiming they had heard of the allegations by "word of mouth" without any acknowledgement from the department.
Director of the Middle East Centre Eugene Rogan repeatedly apologised to students for taking ten days to respond to the allegations, blaming the delay on the fact that the controversy was happening in another country with a different legal system.
Rogan reminded students: "It's not just about sexual violence. For some students it's just another way for Europeans to gang up against a prominent Muslim intellectual. We must protect Muslim students who believe and trust in him, and protect that trust."
Many staff members encouraged those present not to speak to the media about the furore. Professor Rogan told students: "We can't tell you what you should say. But I encourage everyone to use their moral judgement about how they voice their concerns – not to victimise the women who've made the allegations or the men who've been accused ofthings they've not yet had the chance to defend themselves against."
One postgrad said: "There should have been a more open and frank discussion with female students about how to make them feel safer," she said. "Women won't come forward here and say how they feel."
A number of students expressed concern about Ramadan continuing to teach and be present in the faculty. One claimed that immediately following the first allegation, Ramadan was seen "walking and laughing in the hall as if nothing had happened."
Head of humanities Karen O'Brien told students that Ramadan is still a supervisor, but his doctoral supervisees could have individual discussions about how they would like their supervisions to proceed.
She stressed that their priority was that the students' education could continue uninterrupted, adding:"The situation will be kept under review. We can't prejudge outcomes."
A Middle East student told Cherwell: "Frankly, I'm shocked by how badly the University has dealt with this incident. While Professor Ramadan must be assumed innocent until proven guilty, this does not excuse the absolute lack of communication between the Middle East Centre and affected students.
"This story broke two weeks ago. At very least, we should have received an email [from the faculty].
"Also disappointing is how Professor Ramadan was allowed to teach MPhil students as usual last week, despite these serious allegations having been made."
In a statement to Cherwell, Eugene Rogan said: "Tuesday's meeting was focused on addressing student welfare issues emerging from the allegations against professor
Ramadan, to ensure the Faculty responded to student concerns as we move forward."
He added: "The Faculty has been in contact with all of Professor Ramadan's supervisees to arrange meetings to discuss their concerns and wishes.
"The University acts to ensure that its welfare services and support systems are readily accessible; its harassment and sexual assault reporting systems are confidential, totally supportive and clearly understood. We have arrangements in place for confidential discussion of individual anxieties and for any questions related to immediate personal safety, and graduate student supervisory arrangements will always be responsive to the concerns of the student."