Cantab talks to BBC Woman’s Hour about decolonisation debate

Sophie Dickinson 26 October 2017
Image credit: Lola Olufemi

Lola Olufemi, CUSU Women’s Officer and co-signer of an open letter asking for a discussion about decolonisation within the English Faculty, was today (26th October) on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

Olufemi was the target of online abuse yesterday after appearing on the front page of the Daily Telegraph, accompanying an article that incorrectly suggested she wanted to “get rid of black authors.” The Telegraph issued a correction today which stated that “the proposals were in fact recommendations. Neither [academic staff] nor the open letter called for the university to replace white authors with black ones and there are no plans to do so.”

Presenter Jenni Murray asked her about her experience. Olufemi said she felt “dismay and disbelief” that she was “made the story rather the work that has been occurring for years.”

She went on to explain that the large photograph of her on the front page seemed to “incite abuse and hatred, and make me into a figure rather than focusing on the work of the group.”

Olufemi said there was “support from people who thought this was harassment”, but also that her “social media was flooded with racist and sexist abuse”, indicative of a wider trend of “particular types of hyper-visible students targeted by the press”

The proposed changes, she explained, are “not a prescriptive list”, rather that there are “so many people we could be studying, and therefore we need a culture shift, changing the way we value the canon”

Olufemi finished by mentioning that the press coverage of the decolonisation debate had overshadowed the recent launch of the Breaking the Silence campaign, the University’s new policy on sexual harassment and misconduct.

The open letter requesting discussion of decolonising the English Tripos can be found here.