Lecturer goes on strike over ‘racist’ staff at King’s college

Priyamvada Gopal
Priyamvada Gopal

A leading academic has gone on strike against tutoring students from King’s College London after its staff members allegedly refused to address her as “Doctor”.

Priyamvada Gopal, a Cambridge University fellow specialising in post-colonial literature, described the incident as part of “consistently racist aggression and profiling” from porters at King’s College.

She declared on Twitter, after the incident on Monday (19), how she told one of the porters: “Please address me as Dr Gopal”, to which he responded: “I don’t care who you are.”

The 50-year-old academic said it was not just a case of her arrogantly insisting on her proper title being used instead of the term “madam”, but that the term was being used mockingly and dismissively.

“He then launched into a tirade about how people treat him. 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,” she said on Twitter.

Gopal declared, “with deep regret”, that she had finally decided “on my behalf and of other people of colour at Cambridge University” to refuse to supervise any students at King’s College.

She added: “Enough is enough of the consistently racist profiling and aggression by porters”, adding that “hundreds of stories abound over the years…If you can’t be polite to me at the gate, I can’t do any work for you.”

According to The Times, students at King’s College have reportedly collected evidence from others. Sarah Jilani, a mixed-race Ph.D student at the college, said the porters’ behaviour was unacceptable.

“Not shocked, sadly. My parents visited recently and my (brown) father was stopped and asked if ‘you sir’ was ‘with them’ (me & my white) mother,” she said.

In Oxford, student newspaper Cherwell identified 14 incidents of “racial profiling” by porters, where non-white students were stopped and asked for identity card repeatedly while white friends were ignored.

King’s College said that it had investigated the matter and found “no wrongdoing on the part of our staff”.

“We categorically deny that the incident referred to was in any way racist. King’s College is a rich and diverse community, and take the wellbeing of its students and staff extremely seriously,” a spokesperson said.