Cambridge don sparks racism row by refusing to supervise King’s College students

Priyamvada Gopal, 49, says she will no longer supervise students from King’s College because of alleged racist behaviour by porters who call her ‘madam’ instead or ‘Dr’

The University of Cambridge have hit back at an outspoken academic who branded all white porters racist for calling her ‘madam’ instead of ‘Dr’ because she isn’t white.

Priyamvada Gopal, 49, said earlier today that she will no longer supervise students from King’s College because of  ‘consistently racist profiling and aggression by porters’.

Dr Gopal told her 20,000 Twitter followers she is taking the stand ‘on my behalf and of other people of colour’ calling the situation a ‘festering sore’.

She said: ‘I repeatedly asked them to address me as “Dr Gopal” and repeatedly failed to get them to address me as anything other than “madam”.’ 

The academic, who teaches in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge, says that Kings’ porters treat her differently because she is not white.

But King’s College have hit back at her claims, saying there was ‘no wrongdoing or discrimination’ from its staff.

A King’s College spokesperson said: ‘We have investigated the incident and found no wrongdoing on the part of our staff.

‘Every visitor was asked to show their card during the course of that day, as the College was closed to everyone except King’s members.

‘Non-members such as Dr Gopal were asked to take alternatives routes, around the College. This was a matter of procedure, not discrimination.

‘King’s College is a rich and diverse community, and take the wellbeing of its students and staff extremely seriously. We remain committed to being an inclusive and welcoming environment in which to work and study.

‘We categorically deny that the incident referred to was in any way racist.’

In an extraordinary thread on Twitter said the porters would not speak to 'white men' like they speak to her

In an extraordinary thread on Twitter said the porters would not speak to ‘white men’ like they speak to her

Critics on Twitter have reacted negatively to her Twitter tirade, with one saying: ‘Being called madam is not disrespectful’.

Another said: ‘You could try to look at someone or some statement without seeing class, colour, race, ethnicity or gender’. 

She responded to these claims by saying: ‘Any POC [person of colour] who has been referred to as ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’ by a police officer in the USA when pulled over knows pefectly well that they are not being used as polite honorifics when combined with a certain tone’. 

In one tribute to the porters a former student said they are the ‘life and soul’ of Cambridge’s colleges and have ‘enough to cope with without being accused of racism’.

But others sent the academic messages offering her ‘solidarity’ and supporting her stand. 

Dr Gopal’s latest battle is part of her wider battle against alleged racism at Cambridge.

Describing one incident alleged to involve a senior porter she said she told him: ‘Please address me as Dr Gopal’, to which he allegedly responded: ‘I don’t care who you are.’ 

Dr Gopal claims the unnamed man ‘then launched into a tirade about how people treat him’.

She said: ‘I am sorry but my brown body isn’t taking the hit for that. He’d never talk like this to actual white men who behave badly’. 

On another occasion she claims she was targeted at a black and minority ethnic event because she was allowed a parking space, calling it ‘my fave Kings porter story’.

She said she was ‘made to get in and out of my car THREE times to park exactly as he wanted me aligned’ and said he was ‘seething already with hostility when I got there at my being allowed to use a space’.

She claims there have been produced hundreds of incidents. 

Dr Gopal says she has had supportive comments from people at Kings including one person who contacted her to ‘apologise on behalf of the students of the college’.

Justifying her decision not to supervise any Kings English students going forward she said: ‘I apologise to any future students affected but it is more than time to address this long festering sore. Until and unless it is, I will not do any more work for Kings’. 

Dr Gopal says that King's College bosses' denial about her claimed is 'classic nopology'

Dr Gopal says that King’s College bosses’ denial about her claimed is ‘classic nopology’

Dr Gopal, a vehement supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, is an expert in colonial and postcolonial literature who become well known for her outspoken views.     

She is a prolific user of Twitter, having posted more than 17,000 tweets in the past seven years.

This year Cambridge academic Mary Beard posted a photograph of herself in tears on Twitter after she was accused of being a ‘colonialist’.

Professor Beard, 63, said she believed that disaster zones made it difficult to sustain ‘civilised’ behaviour after it emerged Oxfam aid workers had been using prostitutes and even carrying out sex attacks on children.

But after a torrent of abuse she said she felt ‘assaulted’.

Dr Gopal responded by accusing her of ‘patrician casual racism’

She added: ‘This kind of thing is the *progressive* end of the institutional culture I have to survive day in day out’ and adding that ‘Cambridge desperately needs a Breaking the Silence on racism. About time and beyond.’

She was also involved in a high profile row with eminent Oxford don, Nigel Biggar, after he wrote an article for The Times arguing that, while British colonialism spawned several atrocities, its consequences were not exclusively bad.

Dr Gopal then posted several dozen tweets and Facebook comments about his Times article, making often highly personal remarks.

She also accused him of being a ‘white supremacist’ whose writings are ‘outright racist imperial apologetics’.