This morning, Priyamvada Gopal, a senior English lecturer at Cambridge University, was targeted by the Daily Mail for tirelessly and consistently speaking out against racism in Britain, and the nation’s imperialist past. She was labelled as “Cambridge University’s top troll” by the Mail, who appealed to the University to take action against her.
FLY, Cambridge’s forum for women and non-binary people of colour, released the following statement:
We stand in full solidarity with Dr. Gopal, who is the latest target of the vindictive efforts of the right-wing media to curtail the freedom of expression of those who dare to question oppressive systems of thought. Dr. Gopal is a staunch advocate for people of colour on an institutional, national, and international level. She is a critical public figure, drawing attention to the racism, sexism, and classism that is endemic to the academic establishment as well as other spaces. At Cambridge, she has consistently been one of the strongest supporters of the student-led campaign to decolonise the curriculum. Time and time again, she has stood on the side of student activists, particularly students of colour, in dismantling structures of exclusion.
We call on Churchill College Cambridge, Cambridge’s English Faculty, and the University of Cambridge to uphold their respective commitments to progressive intellectual inquiry by making public statements in support of Dr. Gopal’s right to freedom of speech and expression, without fear of attack or reprisal. This commitment is long overdue: in the last year, the alt-right tabloid press has been relentless in its vilification and silencing of activists of colour, particularly Black student activists, as demonstrated through the targeting of Jason Okundaye, the former president of the BME Campaign and Lola Olufemi, the sitting CUSU Women’s Officer. By failing to protect and affirm the rights of faculty and students – particularly those from marginalized backgrounds – to exercise their right to responsible freedom of speech and expression, the university has failed to uphold its duty of care to the academic community. It has failed to uphold an ethic of intellectual integrity and critical inquiry. This failure extends to the failure to fully condemn and work against the Prevent duty, which is a threat to all students – especially Muslim students’ – civil liberties.
We affirm the rights of students and faculty members to engage in discussions about race, sexism, classism, empire, and colonialism. We reject the tactics of tone policing and silencing that have led to the disavowal of critiques of structural oppression. We will continue to work to resist violence and agitate for the transformation and liberation of the institutions within which we operate.
You can add your name to the statement here.