Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church Oxford: a further update

The October issue of The Critic has this article by Jonathan Aitken describing the events at Christ Church Oxford: Low panic at high table

Four years after a handful of disaffected dons began their abortive plotting to oust Dean Martyn Percy, the college’s charitable foundation has so far spent at least £3 million of its funds on legal, PR and other dispute-related costs. It has also thrown away another estimated £3 million of lost donations because a number of wealthy past and present philanthropists, including Christ Church’s greatest benefactor Michael Moritz, are withholding any future gifts until the toxic Tom Quad antics have ended.

No such end is in sight. The latest bulletin to alumni has coyly skated over the news that the Employment Tribunal, one of the half dozen courts, tribunals, or regulatory bodies currently engaged with investigating or judging aspects of the college’s legal quicksand, will not even begin hearing its Christ Church cause célèbre until 2023.

During these shenanigans the college’s academic results have nosedived. Christ Church, which used to be one of the regular leaders of the all-important Norrington Table, has this year come almost bottom in 34th place out of 37.

Far from any self-examination for the teaching and lecturing disappointments that must be partly responsible for this debacle, the self-congratulatory dons on the governing body have just proposed a handsome increase in their salaries and allowances. Only one member, a non-academic, dared to oppose this largesse and walked out of the meeting after strenuous opposition…

Do read the entire article.

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Froghole
Froghole
15 days ago

I don’t deny the strength of Mr Aitken’s case, but time was when Christ Church failed to perform especially well in the Norrington Table relative to its resources, in start contrast with its sister college at Cambridge, Trinity. The likes of Charles Stuart were then keen to educate the ‘landed elite’, who naturally yielded a goodly brace of thirds or even ‘gentlemen’s fourths’, when such degree classifications were available before to 1968. However, Mr Aitken has also been in the news this week himself for other reasons: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2021/oct/06/jonathan-aitken-paid-for-book-kazakh-autocrat-leak-suggests. Nazarbayev is actually a figure of very considerable consequence (and was a… Read more »

Porson W.M. Jebb
Porson W.M. Jebb
Reply to  Froghole
14 days ago

Yes. In the eighties my Doktorvater, a Student of the House, said his theory was the older undergraduates influenced the younger ones with their liking of fox-hunting and London nightclubs. ‘We should take a break from admissions for four years,’ he said, ‘to clear them out and start again.’

‘After that,’ he added, ‘if results are no better, we’ll know the rot is in the woodwork, and we’ll have to burn the place down.’

Gilo
Gilo
15 days ago

Appearing in the West End soon..

The Church That Goes Wrong

A theatre of the absurd satire. Interchange Church with Diocese/Cathedral/College.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
15 days ago

A pithy analysis by Jonathan Aitken of the whole saga from day one. The 64K dollar question is what action, if any, will the Charity Commission take to put an end to this. 

As usual, the lawyers get a bashing. People forget that it is the ‘client’ who decides to plough on. I don’t expect HM to intervene. She would (I suspect) say that the courts are already seized of the matter, and they must be allowed to adjudicate.  

James Pratt
James Pratt
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
15 days ago

I am not sure what the ethical rules are for lawyers in the UK, but in the US lawyers who bring frivolous claims before the courts can face sanctions, both financial and suspension or revocation of license, as have some of the lawyers pressing the former President’s attempts to overturn the election. From the Rules of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts: RULE 3.1: MERITORIOUS CLAIMS AND CONTENTIONS A lawyer shall not bring, continue, or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  James Pratt
14 days ago

To be clear, and Father Ron below appears to have misunderstood this, there have been no claims in the Courts to my knowledge except Martyn Percy’s own claims in the Employment Tribunal where this scenario clearly doesn’t apply – there is no suggestion that he or his lawyers have run up legal costs. The proceedings he has faced, in which the costs have been incurred (on both sides) were brought by the Governing Body and Members of the Cathedral Chapter (a Christ Church internal disciplinary tribunal) and the Church of England (Clergy Disciplinary Measure) respectively. Currently a further Christ Church… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Susannah Clark
15 days ago

I’m a relative of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll). My gt grandfather was at Christ Church too. His children played at Dodgson’s and he gave them ‘horsy rides’ on his knees, as my granny always told me. I always regarded Christ Church as really special (at least to me). I know there will be people who say: Martyn Percy and Christ Church should just settle, and Martyn should move on, because this thing has gone on long enough. (Martyn has certainly suffered enough – it’s been a cruel process in my opinion.) But I don’t agree. That’s exactly what his critics… Read more »

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
Reply to  Susannah Clark
15 days ago

Random Dodgson, a “vile and worthless” sinner, unworthy of the priesthood …via Google, and Wikipedia, that postmodern route to understanding … Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle. I can’t go back to yesterday – because I was a different person then. Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English). If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. ‘But I don’t want to go… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
15 days ago

One wonders what the students at Christ Church Oxford, are thinking about the current spat still going on between the ‘Magnificent Seven’ (Dons on the governing Board) and the Dean of Christ Church? In a time where charitable sources are stretched for many causes – including an expensive education at a reputable Oxford University College – no wonder former donors to Christ Church are questioning the use of their money on charges against the Dean/Head of House that have been proved in the courts to be spurious? The lawyers involved, of course, are loving this – access to a seemingly… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
14 days ago

Father Ron: Frivolous and vexatious litigation is readily struck out by the Courts on application by the party on the receiving end of it, but these proceedings aren’t in the Courts. They are internal tribunals of Ch Ch and the Church of England respectively.

Father Ron Smith
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
14 days ago

Thanks, Rowland. That makes the situation even more reprehensible.

Flora Alexander
Flora Alexander
14 days ago

It’s a minor point (and I am an admirer of the Dean) but, having taught students and also observed the university experience of my children, I’m not totally convinced that poor performance in the Norrington Table can be ascribed to this preoccupation of some of the governing body of the college.

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