Nearly 100 Cambridge academics urge sack of Toby Young in open protest letter

Nearly 100 Cambridge academics from across the university have lent their signatures to an open letter to the university vice-chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, calling for the repudiation of Toby Young’s appointment to the board of the Office for Students.

Lucy Delap, a fellow in History at Murray Edwards, posted a tweet yesterday, calling for Cambridge University academics to sign an open protest letter against Young and "help call out bigotry in public life". The tweet includes a link to open the protest letter to which any other staff may add their names to the list.

The letter of protest is supported with evidence of controversial tweets laced with homophobic, sexist, and otherwise derogatory remarks. Young has been reported to have described queer women as ‘hardcore dykes.’ More serious allegations have also emerged from his Twitter archives, including his deriving sexual pleasure from a video about the extreme poverty faced by Kenyan children. Since these allegations have emerged Young has deleted more than 50,000 tweets from his official account.

The letter sees this collection of tweets as ‘a pattern of commentary’, ‘vicious and belittling attacks on specifically named communities.’ It also points out the university’s commitment to equality in policies such as that of ‘Dignity at Work’, as well as the Chancellor’s own personal commitment to social equality and acceptance, alleging that not moving to repudiate Young’s appointment would be ‘a de facto legitimisation of the culture of sexual harassment and gender inequality.’

The Prime Minister herself has defended Young’s appointment, stating she would not reverse the decision. She has, however, stated that she is ‘not at all impressed’ with his comments and that ‘he will no longer be in public office’ if he continues to make such remarks.

Young’s self-confessed lack of experience in academia, besides his public persona, has also been a concern for many. The Department of Education has defended his appointment, stating that they are ‘interested in hearing from applicants who have knowledge of or experience in one or more areas…not limited to higher education.’

This has not quelled the worries of Cambridge academics, nor those across the country. The recent Change.Org petition ‘Sack Toby Young from University Watchdog Post’ addressed to Theresa May has, at the time of writing, reached over 198,000 signatures of its 200,000 goal.

Dawn Butler, shadow secretary for women and equalities, hopes to ‘find a way to secure a parliamentary debate on the issue’, while Conservative MPs such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have criticised the furor. Either way, the heated public reaction towards Young’s appointment shows no sign of stopping.

Signatories of the letter so far include Owen Saxton, a teaching fellow in physics at Murray Edwards; Emma Spary, a teaching fellow in History at Corpus Christi; Arathi Sriprakash, University Lecturer in Sociology of Education; and Anna Bagnoli, fellow in Sociology at Wolfson.


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