1. How it all started

In a well publicised and notorious case, Christ Church College medical student Lavinia Woodward stabbed her boyfriend in December 2016. Because no welfare provision was available in the College that day, the Dean, Martyn Percy, had to take charge of the situation.

Following this, and wanting to clarify safeguarding procedures within the College, the Dean called a meeting in early 2017 at which he asked for the job descriptions of the Censors, a changing set of officials involved in the running of aspects of the College’s academic and domestic life.

Senior ex-Censor Emeritus Professor David Hine led work on this, but was clear with fellow members of an unofficial ‘ex-Censors’ group’ that he opposed the Dean’s call for greater clarity relating to roles and responsibilities. The group of people involved in responding to the Dean’s requests for proposed changes was expanded to include Canon Professor Sarah Foot; the Treasurer, James Lawrie; and Karl Sternberg, an alumnus and member of Christ Church’s Governing Body with a background in financial services.

It should be mentioned that the ex-Censors’ group has no official existence in the College’s statutes, by-laws, or Christ Church’s wider formal governance arrangements. 

By the summer of 2017 and after initial skirmishes about safeguarding, the Dean asked the College’s Salaries Board to review his salary, together with the remuneration of two other College Officers, including that of the Treasurer. 

The Board had twice reviewed the salary of the Dean’s predecessor; however, the ex-Censors’ group decided that a review of Martyn Percy’s salary must be opposed at all costs, with Karl Sternberg leading early moves to push for a vote of no confidence in the Dean.