London’s Guardian newspaper reports that Oxford University announced last night changes to the centuries-old tradition of voting for its professor of poetry post, instead introducing processes that bring it something closer to the 21st century. The old rules allows any member of Oxford’s convocation, which includes all 300,000 or so Oxford graduates, to vote as long as they turn up in person on a given day. When Padel was elected in May, fewer than 500 people actually voted. Under the new proposal, everybody eligible will be able to vote online, or in person, over a longer period.
Oxford hopes to avoid a repeat of this year’s election which saw Padel quit after she was implicated in a smear campaign against her main rival, Derek Walcott. Walcott, a Nobel laureate, pulled out of the election when details of a sexual harassment claim made against him by a student at Harvard in 1982 became a dominant theme of the campaign. Padel admitted passing on material relating to this to two journalists. Oxford now hopes to fill the post, vacant since Sir Christopher Ricks finished his five-year term last year, by autumn 2010. But some believe the voting changes could make the election even more of a bun fight.