So, the plot thickens (sickens):
Ruth Padel, Oxford's first female professor of poetry, attempted to fend off calls for her resignation today, just a week after she was elected to the post. The demands came over claims she alerted journalists to allegations that Derek Walcott, her rival for the post, had sexually harassed students. She had previously denied involvement in the so-called smear campaign.
In an email to the Guardian today, Padel defended her actions, claiming she had no idea that it would become such a furore.
Walcott, a Nobel laureate, was believed to be edging ahead of Padel in the campaign until the accusations of sexual harassment made against him by former students at Harvard and Boston universities were aired again in the national press. The weekend before the election was due to take place, dossiers containing information about the allegations, and photocopied pages from a book on the subject, The Lecherous Professor, were posted anonymously from London to Oxford academics. Three days later, Walcott withdrew from the race, saying that it had "degenerated into a low and degrading attempt at character assassination" and "I do not want to be part of it."
Padel, who is just over a week into her tenure, has consistently maintained that she played no part in the smear campaign, saying at the time that "neither [my campaign managers] nor I mentioned Walcott's harassment record and had nothing to do with any behind-doors operation", and claims "to revere his work"." I had absolutely no wish to see him humiliated, and I'm very, very sorry he pulled out."
Interesting choice of words.
I'm sure the folks over at WOMPO will be in a tizzy over this.