Book blogs all across the interwebs are abuzz with news of Ruth Padel’s resignation from the post of Oxford professor of poetry only nine days after she was elected. Her resignation came yesterday after claims that she was the anonymous source that tipped off journalists about allegations that her rival, Derek Walcott, had sexually harassed students.
An article from the Guardian quotes Padel’s statement last night, upon her resignation:
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.
The New Yorker‘s Book Bench blog comments on the supposed gender war that many academics and writers believe is driving this drama:
The accusations from both camps (and, yes, that would be Men v. Women) have been pointed. A male Oxford professor called for Padel’s resignation by saying, “We now have proof” of a smear campaign against Walcott “led by a gender-based faction determined to have a woman in the post.” The poet Clive James defended Walcott thus: “What male teacher is going to escape a sexual harassment case? All you’ve got to do is stand there, and you’re sexually harassing them.” After Padel resigned, the novelist Jeannette Winterson opined that “Oxford is a sexist little dump.” The poet Jackie Kay didn’t mince words: “The old boys have closed in on her. It would not have happened to a man, and I am very sad.”