Trinity College was planning on hosting the Clark Lecture yesterday, before it was cancelledKenneth Yarham

Trinity College’s annual Clark Lecture, scheduled to take place on Thursday, was cancelled after writer and activist Arundhati Roy withdrew from speaking at the event, due to the ongoing academic boycott following the college’s decision to leave the USS pension scheme last year. 

Roy was announced last month as the speaker for this year’s lecture. However, Cambridge UCU in a statement sent to Varsity, explained that Arundhati was contacted after the announcement, and informed about the local and national censure that the college is currently subject to. 

“We are pleased to report that, in solidarity with Cambridge UCU, Arundhati has withdrawn from this year’s Clark Lecture” the statement announced.  

Roy is joining over 560 academics continuing to boycott Trinity College, who are refusing to supervise Trinity students or engage in other work in support of Trinity’s teaching and research activities.

In the statement, Cambridge UCU stressed: “We are deeply grateful to her for this act of solidarity, and for the support she has expressed for our ongoing dispute with the college.”

“Arundhati’s withdrawal may just bring home to Trinity how far it has jeopardised its own reputation for learning and scholarship.” 


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Exclusive: Amid academic boycott, Trinity claims it cannot rescind decision to exit national pensions scheme

Despite the national censure, Trinity College has not given any signs of reconsidering the decision to leave the USS. According to Dr Priya Gopal, fellow at Churchill College and member of UCU, “Trinity's response has been further arrogance, the assumption that the boycott will peter out over time. Trinity has had to learn that integrity and moral insight cannot be bought.”

“Trinity must reverse its selfish and gratuitous move or accept isolation within the university and beyond. If they want to do it alone, then they must do so without the co-operation of many fine teachers, intellectuals and writers here and the world over.” 

At the time of Trinity’s decision to leave the scheme, UCU explained that the withdrawal would “not in itself affect the financial viability of USS… but it would undermine confidence in the Scheme, and might encourage other wealthy employers with small USS liabilities to withdraw, with potentially disastrous effects for the Scheme as a whole.”

Trinity College justified their withdrawal from the national pension scheme, saying it would “remove the remote but existential risk to the College arising from continued participation in USS”. 

Gopal told Varsity she is “appalled by and angry about Trinity's selfish and unnecessary decision to pull out of a scheme that relies on collective membership for collective welfare. It was an act of arrogance with no real fiscal justification.” 

The Clark Lectures, which started in 1888 and are organised and hosted by Trinity College, are an annual series of lectures delivered by English Literature experts. 

Trinity College, said it “regrets the cancellation of Arundhati Roy’s 2020 Clark Lecture. Ms Roy’s Clark Lecture 2020 will be published on the Trinity College website on 13 February.”

It was announced last week that academics will strike for 14 days in February and March, in which disputes will centre on the sustainability of the USS and rising costs for members and on universities’ failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.

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