Why Oxford's First Woman Professor of Poetry Resigned

Why Oxford's First Woman Professor of Poetry Resigned
HTML clipboard

So why exactly did Ruth Padel, the first woman to be elected Oxford's professor of poetry in its 301-year history, resign from her post barely nine days after being elected on May 16?

Padel, a descendant of Charles Darwin, was elected to the post when Derek Walcott, the favourite to win the election bowed out of the contest after an anonymous letter campaign against him.

Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, the other contender, had lost to her 129 - 297 in the election, the results of which were announced on May 16.

She was due to succeed Christopher Ricks, the current professor of poetry, on October 1, but after offering her resignation, she insisted that she had played no part in that anonymous campaign against Derek Walcott.

She went on to say that it was "deeply troubling" that people might think the emails she sent were a part of that campaign.

In a brief press conference at the Hay Festival of Literature, she did admit to sending two emails to journalists she was in contact with, but she insisted that the information regarding Mr Walcott in those emails was " already in the public domain" .

"It was naive and silly of me – a bad error of judgement. I can of course see that people can misconstrue these two isolated emails of mine as part of a larger campaign I had nothing to do with," she added. "I do think I was very silly to send those emails but I was trying in a misguided way to address student concerns," she said.

"I passed on in good faith the concerns of students. They felt the concerns had been brushed under the carpet by Walcott's supporters. The details were not news – they were in the public domain and as such were subject of concern to the students," she added.

"I was reacting day by day to things and there were too many things and I did not think it through. I was in touch with the students and they were concerned. I have had hundreds of emails of support and I have had other emails saying other things." 

But she stopped short of  admitting her role in the smear campaign against Walcott: "I do want to apologise to him, but I cannot apologise for things I have not done and I have not done the campaign. I apologise for anything I have done that can be misconstrued as having been against him. He's my senior colleague and I revere his work. When I first heard he'd pulled out I felt scooped out inside."

She said she took the decision to stand down from the post after learning that opinion in Oxford was "bitterly divided" but added, "I hope things can move on now and that wounds can heal and I hope the next Oxford Professor of Poetry is a woman."

She said she would not contest again. "People wouldn't believe in me. I'm not afraid of people, but I wouldn't want a faculty or a university to be divided. I care about poetry in that university and I don't think it would be helpful for me to stand."

London's The Evening Standard has now published details of an email, one of the two emails Ruth Padel has admitted to having sent, to one of its journalists, in which she refers to a book containing "6 pages on Derek Walcott's two cases of sexual harassment." The email -- littered with spelling mistakes -- was sent to Olivia Cole, a journalist on the newspaper's diary, on April 9:

"Hi Olivia,

"ON the CHair, there is still no other nomination except (so extraordinarily) Derek W and me. But thye close on 29th April so another or others may well turnup...

"THere is aupposed to be a book called The Lecherous Professor, which has 6 pages on Derek Walcott's two cases of sexual harassment, which might provide interestigfn copy on what Oxford wants from its professors.. 

ALl best, Ruth."

Next Story : Indian Student Charged with Raping 14 Year Old in Australia
Download the Outlook ​Magazines App. Six magazines, wherever you go! Play Store and App Store
Online Casino Betway Banner