BREAKING: Uni’s controversial David Starkey fundraising video removed after public pressure

Elsa Maishman 18 November 2015

The Dear World… Yours, Cambridge campaign launch video has been removed from the University’s YouTube channel following protests from academics and students.

As of 6pm on Wednesday 18 November, the video featuring David Starkey, a Tudor historian who has previously made controversial remarks, was not available to view. 

Instead, a new video ‘What Does Cambridge Mean To You?’ had been uploaded featuring a number of alumni, including Clare Balding and Stephen Fry, discussing the personal impact of attending Cambridge on them. Starkey does not appear in the film.

This week, an academic who appeared in the original fundraising video denounced it and asked to be edited out. Dr Sarah Dillon, an English lecturer, made the request after learning of previous comments made by David Starkey, who fronts the video.

Dillon sent an open letter to the other people who appear in the video, including academics, students, and alumni Eddie Redmayne and Lily Cole, calling on them to make a similar move. 

Dillon’s letter stated that: “It has come to my attention that a significant number of colleagues, students and alumni have been deeply offended by the choice of historian David Starkey to front the campaign video, a man who has a well-documented and undeniable history of racism and sexism.”

Following the 2011 London riots, Starkey gained criticism for commenting on Newsnight that “the problem is the whites have become black … a particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture has become the fashion”.

Speaking to The Cambridge Student on the video, Starkey commented: “I did not put myself forward. I was asked to contribute by the University, which I love, and to which I owe a profound debt.”

A spokesman for the University’s Development and Alumni Relations said: “We are already re-editing the film for different launch events in different parts of the world, as we intended. The film has already been replaced online with another campaign film … We appreciate that [Starkey] is an academic who has made controversial statements in the past. However, in the video, he was representing his affection for the University and its values (the positive impact of learning and research on people’s lives)”.

An open letter was also launched this week by CUSU’s BME Campaign and Dr Malachi McIntosh, a King's fellow. It called on the University to remove the video and apologise for Starkey’s role. It had gained over 400 signatures by the time of printing.
The open letter had also stated that “In our eyes, Starkey’s presence both undermines and taints our daily efforts to function as a united community.”

Including Clare Balding and Stephen Fry, the new video features nine white men, four white women, one man of colour and one women of colour.

Emphasising the University’s diversity, the second person to speak, Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair of Arts Council England, said “You gave me the opportunity to mix with the brightest and the best, but not just with the brightest and the best, but with the brightest and the best from every conceivable background.”

CUSU’s BME Campaign denounced the video when it was released, stating “Although Dear World… Yours, Cambridge promotes the University’s access initiatives, these are set back by the inclusion of David Starkey in the video.”

Starkey has never apologised for the comments. He wrote later in The Telegraph that his statements had been distorted and that “[he] was accused of condemning all black culture” unfairly.

Helena Blair, CUSU’s access officer, who also appeared in the video, has commented that, unlike Dillon, she knew of Starkey’s role, saying: “I was informed of David Starkey’s involvement at short notice: I had not heard about his racist views … I welcome this campaign calling for the withdrawal of the video and the removal of David Starkey.”

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner issued a statement on the video's removal: "Just re-editing the video is not enough. My message to Cambridge University is please issue a full apology.

"The best university in the world must show it is open and welcoming to all and big enough to admit when it got things badly wrong."