Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I don't know how many of you have been following this story about it shows that good old Oxford University is as much of a snake pit of jealousy and intrigue as most big ad agencies. I don't have a dog in this fight and it seems that both sides had a case to make but man this is sure an embarrassment for the university.

Poetic Justice: Briton Says She Helped Taint Rival
Published: May 25, 2009
CAMBRIDGE, England — A historic month for women in British poetry turned sour on Monday when the first woman in 301 years elected to Oxford University’s prestigious chair in poetry resigned and admitted what she had previously denied — that she had played a part in a covert effort to taint her main rival for the post with old allegations of sexual impropriety.

Jloy Alonso/Reuters
Derek Walcott, 79, was the main rival of Ms. Padel.
Ruth Padel, 63, was chosen only 10 days ago for the Oxford post, which is regarded as second only to poet laureate among the formal distinctions for poets in Britain. Two weeks earlier, Carol Ann Duffy, 53, became Britain’s first female poet laureate, a post formally created in 1668.

Ms. Padel’s admission that she sent e-mail messages to two reporters last month alerting them to allegations of sexual harassment against her main rival for the Oxford post, the Nobel literature laureate Derek Walcott, was a stunning turn in a saga of skullduggery that had opened a bitter schism in Britain’s literary world.

Just as much, it has scandalized the ivy-walled cloisters of Oxford, exposing a culture of jealousy and mean-spirited connivance at sharp odds with the university’s public posture of academic tolerance and reason.

In a resignation statement released to the news media on Monday, Ms. Padel said that she had acted “as a result of student concern” about the allegations of sexual improprieties, and that the information she had cited was already in the public domain. “I acted in complete good faith and would have been happy to lose to Derek,” the statement said.

The battle for the post was a matter of prestige, not money. Chairs at Oxford and Cambridge rank their holders at the top of the academic hierarchy, and Ms. Padel’s predecessors have included literary giants like W. H. Auden and Robert Graves.

But the chair draws a salary of barely $11,000 a year and requires nothing more of the holder than three public lectures a year.

During the campaign for the post and after her election, Ms. Padel, a great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin, insistently condemned the smear tactics that led Mr. Walcott, 79, to withdraw from a contest he had been favored to win. Mr. Walcott, born in St. Lucia, has spent much of the past 30 years commuting between his home on Trinidad and his teaching duties in the United States, and it was those duties that led to the allegations of sexual misconduct.

Ms. Padel’s resignation came the day after two national newspapers, The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph, published articles detailing the e-mail messages.


for the rest go here:


Martin Edwards said...

Oxford dons have long been famous for their scheming. Macchiavelli and the Borgias would all have felt at home there - though they might sometimes be out-manoeuvered!

Brendan DuBois said...

What was it that Kissinger once said? That battles in the colleges and universities are so vicious because the stakes are so small?