Ruth Padel, the first woman to be elected Oxford's professor of poetry, has resigned following claims she had tipped off journalists about allegations that her chief rival for the post, Derek Walcott, had sexually harassed students.
There had originally been three contenders. Walcott, Padel and Indian poet Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. After Walcott withdrew following a smear campaign, Padel expectedly went on to win the vote on May 16 against Mehrotra.
The Guardian reports:
Padel won the vote nine days ago. But in a statement tonight she said: "I genuinely believe that I did nothing intentional that led to Derek Walcott's withdrawal from the election. I wish he had not pulled out. I did not engage in a smear campaign against him, but, as a result of student concern, I naively – and with hindsight unwisely – passed on to two journalists, whom I believed to be covering the whole election responsibly, information that was already in the public domain."
She said she had acted in "good faith" and would have been "happy to lose to Derek, but I can see that people might interpret my actions otherwise. I wish to do what is best for the university and I understand that opinion there is divided. I therefore resign from the chair of poetry."
The Guardian also quotes "Amit Chaudhuri, a supporter of the campaign of Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, the remaining serious contender for the post":
"I feel bad for Ruth; and I also feel the professorship has been run dry in the worst possible way. One is left with no enthusiasm about the whole thing.
"Though I have had no opportunity to speak about this to my candidate, I am not sure whether he would want to try again, but we will see." He added: "When something gets involved in a publicity machine there is no saying where it will stop. It was Padel who instigated the publicity machine and it has gone completely out of control. It is very sad."
May 26, 2009