Corpus Christi JCR voted to rename its ‘Fraenkel room’ yesterday evening, in response to allegations of sexual harassment made against the benefactor who the space was named after.
In a meeting on Sunday night, a majority JCR members mandated the president and Equal Opportunities officer to “lobby the college to change the name of the Fraenkel room” and remove Eduard Fraenkel’s portrait from the room.
The JCR also approved a boycott of the existing name, ruling that JCR committee members should now refer to it officially by a “neutral name” until negotiations with college were concluded. Some members suggested the use of the name “Corridor Room.”
The motion passed with 35 votes in favour, one vote in opposition, and a single abstention.
Baroness Mary Warnock, a prominent philosopher, accused classical scholar Eduard Fraenkel of sexual misconduct toward female students whilst he was Professor of Classics at Corpus. The allegations were made in her memoirs, published after Fraenkel’s death. Despite her allegations against him, Warnock continued to praise Fraenkel as a great scholar.
Freya Chambers, who proposed the motion, told Cherwell: “The Fraenkel room is used frequently by female students — it is even used to host Women’s Welfare tea. In light of this we thought it was vital to change the name of the room and to remove the photo of Frankel from the wall. The allegations of sexual harassment against Fraenkel are not a secret and should not be ignored.”
Shahryar Iravani, the Equal Opportunities officer and seconder of the motion, said: “The JCR’s decision to condemn Fraenkel will be taken by the JCR president and Equal Opportunities officer to the college’s president and welfare staff, to lobby them to change the room’s name officially within equalities meetings in Hilary term.”
One member said in the meeting: “The priority has to be the feelings of current members.”
The allegations about Professor Fraenkel, who died in 1970, have previously caused controversy. In 2006, Cambridge professor Mary Beard claimed that “any academic woman older than her mid forties” was likely to have an ambivalent reaction.
She continued: “It is impossible not to feel sisterly outrage at what would now be deemed… abuse of power. On the other hand, it is also hard to repress certain wistful nostalgia.”