A Lecturer At Cambridge Spoke Out Against Irresponsible Coverage of Diverse Syllabus Suggestions

One of the wonderful things about freedom of speech is that it gives us the ability to use our voice to be an advocate for change and call out injustices. In the case of Cambridge University senior lecturer Priyamvada Gopal, she used her voice to call out reporters for twisting an open letter written by Lola Olufemi. What started out as an innocent open letter calling for an adjustment in the English literature curriculum at Cambridge to include more black and other ethnically diverse authors resulted in coverage from national publications that painted less than a pretty picture—and Gopal was not about to allow it to go unnoticed. 

The open letter, proposed by student Lola Olufemi and signed by 150 supporters, begins with the statement, "The following letter is the result of a meeting that took place amongst students about the need for the faculty to decolonize its reading lists and incorporate postcolonial thought alongside its existing curriculum." The full letter, which can be read in full below, goes on to explain their reasons for requesting a change to the curriculum to include more BME authors. 

An innocent reminder of how it all started, here's the original open letter to the Faculty: https://t.co/AImS7uOOvt

— Rianna Croxford (@The_Crox) October 25, 2017

When it comes to the media outlets who chose to initially cover this story, however, their stories conveyed a different idea. The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph were soon called out by Gopal, who claims that these outlets "intended to start a racial panic" with their framing of the story, BuzzFeed News reports.

Gopal spoke out in a series of Tweets and talked more with BuzzFeed News, expressing her thoughts on the irresponsible coverage.

"To me, it is actually staggering irresponsibility by the Telegraph and the Daily Mail to take a small-scale matter for the English department to consider and turn it into, what to me looks like incitement to race war," she told BuzzFeed. In one of her Tweets, Gopal urges the idea that this open letter was not something meant to be taken against white male authors.

Rianna Croxford, who was one of the 150 signatures, also spoke with BuzzFeed about the coverage.

"The interference of the media surrounding this issue [is] absurd," she said. "They should have no say in our curriculum—that's for the students and academics."

What started as an exercise of free speech by a student pushing for change in her school's curriculum ended up showcasing irresponsible journalism at its finest.