English lecturer Dr Priyamvada Gopal was the target of a Daily Mail article on ThursdayLouis Ashworth

The Master of Churchill College, Professor Dame Athene Donald, has issued a cautious defence of College fellow and English lecturer, Dr Priyamvada Gopal, after she was the subject of a Daily Mail article on Thursday which Gopal labelled a “racist and sexist hatchet job”.

In a statement released on the College’s website, Donald made it clear that Churchill is not Gopal’s “primary employer”. She said that the College “continues to maintain the crucial importance of freedom of speech” and that “we deplore personal attacks of the sort, whether their origin is misogynistic, racist or personally abusive”.

Gopal criticised Churchill’s statement, saying on Twitter: “I note that the statement does not address the libellous charge that I am a racist. I repeat that it is vital for both university and college to either clear a person of racism or eject them.

“I would demand it of others: no reason for me to be an exception.”

Shortly afterwards, she added that the University and Churchill College would have “issued full, fair & *unambiguous* statements distancing themselves from Mail violence AND taking issue with charges of racism” if she were “white, centrist/conservative and ideally, a full professor”.

Gopal has been widely supported by student organisations and fellow staff at the University, including students at her college and the CUSU BME Campaign, which encouraged students to email the University, Faculty of English and Churchill College to call for them to publicly back Gopal. A statement of solidarity has now been signed by over 500 people.

Many academics and students have tweeted their support for her, using the hashtag #FreeSpeechSoWhite, alleging that the Daily Mail’s stance is hypocritical given that it has repeatedly campaigned for free speech at universities but has appeared to question the right of an ethnic minority female lecturer to express herself.


Mountain View

Cambridge lecturer condemns Daily Mail over ‘racist and sexist hatchet job’

Yesterday, the University of Cambridge, Gopal’s primary employer, did not directly comment on the Daily Mail article following repeated requests by Varsity, but restated its position on freedom of speech. Today, it has issued a statement on behalf of Professor Martin Millet, head of the School of Arts & Humanities, adding that “we abhor personal attacks of the nature currently being directed at Dr Gopal.”

The article, entitled ‘How CAN Cambridge let this hate-filled don pour out her racist bile?’, highlighted tweets by Gopal directed at Oxford Professor Nigel Biggar, whose ‘Ethics and Empire’ project on colonial history has come under fire, in which she labelled his work “outright racist imperial apologetics”.

In January, Biggar complained about Gopal’s tweets to both Churchill College and the Faculty of English, but no action was taken against her. The University responded to Biggar at the time, insisting that it upheld the right to freedom of speech.