Ruth Padel: 'I've gone but I've done nothing wrong'

Academic reflects on lost poetry professorship as damning email confirms attempt to undermine rival candidate
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The Independent Online

Full details of Ruth Padel's attempts to discredit Derek Walcott during the election race for the chair of poetry at Oxford University emerged last night.

Speaking at the Hay Festival a day after resigning as Oxford's first female professor of poetry, Padel denied being involved in an anonymous smear campaign in which hundreds of Oxford dons received dossiers of historical sexual allegations against Walcott.

But the details of one of the emails that she sent to journalists can be revealed. In a misspelt missive sent from New York on 9 April, Padel notified a gossip diarist at the London Evening Standard that a book was available online which detailed sexual harassment allegations made against Walcott by two Harvard students in the early 1990s.

Padel said she had felt compelled to remind journalists of the allegations against her 78-year-old rival because female students had come to her expressing concerns that Walcott's past was being "brushed under the carpet".

An extract of the email reads: "ON the CHair, there is still no other nomination except (so extraordinarily) Derek W and me. But thye close on 29th April so another or others may well turnup... There is aupposed to be a book called The Lecherous Professor, which has 6 pages on Derek Walcott's two cases of sexual harassment, which might provide interestigfn copy on what Oxford want from its professors... ALl best, Ruth." Padel said: "I passed on in good faith the concerns of students. They felt the concerns had been brushed under the carpet by Walcott's supporters. The details were not news – they were in the public domain and as such, were subject of concern to the students."

Padel stopped short of issuing a full apology and denied having anything to do with the "insane and malicious" anonymous dossiers.

"I do want to apologise to him [Walcott]," she said, "but I cannot apologise for things I have not done and I have not done the campaign. I apologise for anything I have done that can be misconstrued as having been against him."

Padel said she had since received unpleasant emails. Neither she nor Walcott will stand again for the post.

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