The renowned historian David Starkey has been removed from a fundraising video for the University of Cambridge, after a number of staff and students claimed he was an “aggressive racist” and “sexist”. They are now demanding the campaign is completely scrapped and a “full apology” issued.
Professor Starkey is the world authority on Tudor history who has previously decried multiculturalism and described Britain as a “white mono-culture”. He featured in a recent video called “Dear World, Yours Cambridge” spearheading a campaign to raise £2 billion for the institution.
However, several members of staff at the English department, King’s College Cambridge, wrote an open letter condemning the move.
They pointed to an appearance Prof. Starkey made on BBC Newsnight in 2011, which they said demonstrated his “profoundly racist views”. He was being interviewed following the London riots, and clumsily said:
“The whites have become black; a particular sort of violent destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion.”
The letter also claimed that casting Prof. Starkey, who is gay, was “uncaring… in the eyes of other marginalised groups” such as “women” and “the working class”.
A spokesman for the University initially rebuffed the outrage: “We appreciate that he is an academic who has made controversial statements in the past.
“However, in the video, he was representing his affection for the University and its values (the positive impact of learning and research on people’s lives), which were made clear in the film.”
David Starkey banned from Cambridge University campaign by students who say he's sexist/racist. Universities should debate not censor him
— Andrew Pierce (@toryboypierce) November 19, 2015
Helena Blair, the ‘access officer’ for Cambridge student union, who also featured in the video, said that the University had “platformed someone who students deem to be aggressively racist” in a statement, claiming it “brings me feelings of extreme discomfort and anger” to featuring alongside Prof. Starkey.
She knew he was also to feature in the video before shooting, but says she only learnt about his “deeply problematic opinions” after it was published. She also claimed Prof. Starkey violated the “equality and diversity” policy of the institution.
Prof. Starkey told the Independent: “I did not put myself forward. I was asked to contribute by the university, which I love, and to which I owe a profound debt.
“In due course, the university will decide what is right, proper and expedient. I shall be happy to accept that decision. Of course, if it raises any question about the nature of academic inquiry and academic freedom, I shall reserve the right to comment freely but without recrimination.”