Students and academics defend Dr Gopal in face of Daily Mail attack

Image credit: Churchill College

Dr Priyamvada Gopal, Reader in Anglophone and Related Literature at Churchill College has been labelled in the Daily Mail as a "prolific internet troll who uses social media to bombard peers and public figures with vitriolic (and, on some occasions, racist) abuse".  In the article, Guy Adams not only accuses Dr Gopal of "trolling" Oxford professor Nigel Biggar, but also accuses her of reducing Cambridge Classics Professor Mary Beard to tears.  Professor Beard has condemned the Daily Mail’s use of her disagreement with Dr Gopal in their "thinly disguised racist hatchet job".

Dr Gopal is no stranger to backlash for her views – during a recent public disagreement with Professor Beard, she stated that "I and almost every other woman of colour I know - deal with constant verbal aggression, if not worse". More recently, in response to accusations of racism in the Daily Mail, Gopal has pointed out that "if a middle-aged senior white male Fellow at my college had been the subject of a hatchet job in the press, they would have issues a statement in his support within 24 hours".  Her assessment was that "that the rules are different for me is not a revelation".  Oxford have stood by Professor Biggar after he published the aforementioned article, stating that "we absolutely support academic freedom of speech".

Since, Churchill have released a statement in support of Dr Gopal, expressing the following sentiments:

"In response to the recent article in the Daily Mail referring to Dr Priya Gopal, the College continues to maintain the crucial importance of free speech. This was made clear in its comments both to Professor Biggar in January, when he first complained about her use of language, and when approached for comment by the Daily Mail on Wednesday. The College is not Dr Gopal’s primary employer, but its position on this front is, and always has been, absolutely clear. Furthermore we deplore personal attacks of the sort currently being directed at Dr Gopal, whether their origin is misogynistic, racist or personally abusive."  CUSU women's campaign have labelled this a "pathetic statement".

Adams’ accusation has been dismissed not only by Professor Beard and Churchill College, but also by the Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU) BME campaign and by FLY (‘Cambridge University's network and forum for women and non-binary people of colour’), among others.





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