Ruth Padel has submitted her resignation as Oxford’s Professor of Poetry, bowing to mounting pressure after it was revealed yesterday that she had had a hand in the smear campaign that lead to Derek Walcott’s withdrawal as a candidate for the post. [See our earlier post E-mails show that Ruth Padel was implicated in smear campaign against Walcott]. Walcott had been expected to be elected to the post until a smear campaign citing two allegations about sexual harassment (the most recent dating back to 1996) led to his withdrawal. Padel insisted she had not taken part in a smear campaign, but e-mails made public yesterday revealed that she had contacted journalists with a list of arguments against his candidacy, which included the harassment allegations. The publication of the allegations by John Walsh, a friend and supporter of Padel, in the Independent was followed by an anonymous dossier about the allegations being sent to about 100 Oxford professors and staff.
In announcing her resignation, Padel said that “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. I acted in complete good faith, and would have been happy to lose to Derek, but I can see that people might interpret my actions otherwise.
“I wish to do what is best for the university and I understand that opinion there is divided. I therefore resign from the Chair of Poetry. I hope wounds will now heal and I wish the next professor all the best.”
She added that she would make a full statement in person at the Hay Festival of Literature, in Powys, on Tuesday morning.
Eloise Stonborough, the secretary of the Oxford University Poetry Society, was glad that Oxford will have another chance to elect a person for the post. She said, “I am sorry that the election came to this but given the circumstances I believe that Ruth Padel has taken the honourable course of action in resigning. I am glad that we now have an opportunity to learn from the mistakes made during this campaign and to conduct the new election in a manner fitting to the important position of the professor of poetry.
“I look forward to finding out more about the potential future candidates for the post”, she added.