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For staff


Writing almost four centuries ago, the poet John Donne declared: “Any man’s death diminishes me/ Because I am involved in mankind.” The unspeakably tragic loss of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt in the recent London Bridge attack, during which other colleagues and friends were also seriously injured, has shocked and saddened our community. It has hurt us deeply.

Reading the countless tributes to Saskia and Jack has confirmed to me the profound and far-reaching impact that our students, our staff and our alumni have on society. The work Saskia and Jack were part of – the work they believed in – is transformational. It is also an example of our ability to build stronger and better communities, in Cambridge and far beyond, through the pursuit of education and research.

The spirit of the Learning Together Programme, of which they were part, echoes clearly across the collegiate University. It springs from an indomitable belief in the power of education as a force for coherence and connection in an increasingly complex and fractious world. I see it as I visit faculties, departments and research centres. It is there in our labs, lecture theatres and combination rooms. Indeed, it is one of the greatest privileges of my role to witness at such close quarters a community so engaged in the process of understanding and improving the world.

At a time of sombre reflection, I wish to emphasise the shared purpose that binds us tightly as a community. Over the past year, that sense of ourselves as a cohesive University community has sometimes been challenged. I think, for instance, of those EU staff and students struggling with the uncertainty of the country’s still-unresolved relationship with the European Union. And I fully acknowledge the feeling, so clearly articulated in the countless letters and emails I received during this latest period of industrial action, that this University and others must do more to support their staff.

This has been a challenging year for many in the collegiate University – and a heart-breaking month on which to end it. It has been comforting to see how, at a time of tragedy, we have all taken strength from each other. Far from diminished, our community is strengthened in its resolve to do what is right.

My condolences and deepest sympathies remain with the family and friends of Saskia and Jack, and with our colleagues at the Institute of Criminology who have been so deeply affected by the attack. I ask that we do not let the manner of Saskia and Jack’s deaths eclipse the manner in which they lived their lives – and helped others to do so. As we prepare for the holiday period, let us instead remember the values they embodied.

I wish you a restful break.

Professor Stephen J Toope

The Vice-Chancellor


19 December 2019