The Daily Telegraph has issued a clarification after accusing a black woman of "forcing" Cambridge University to add black and ethnic minority writers to its English literature curriculum.
Lola Olufemi, the women’s officer at the uni's student union, was on the receiving end of abuse after her photo appeared on the front page of the national newspaper below the headline "Student forces Cambridge to drop white authors".
The university later put out a statement saying that no changes to the curriculum were set to be made, and Olufemi told BuzzFeed News that the Telegraph article was "factually inaccurate as no concrete changes have yet been made".
Priyamvada Gopal, a senior lecturer at the university's faculty of English, previously told BuzzFeed News that she felt the Daily Mail and the Telegraph took a "fairly innocent, responsible, letter from students to stir up a racial panic".
The Telegraph has not responded to several of BuzzFeed News' requests for comment. In a statement to BuzzFeed News a Daily Mail spokesperson said they have not received any complaints about the print article in the final edition of yesterday’s Daily Mail, which differed from the Telegraph article.
"Amendments to MailOnline’s article, which differed from both newspaper articles, were agreed with Cambridge University after the Daily Mail approached them about a possible follow-up story," the spokesperson said. "The article in today’s Daily Mail – about which we have also had no complaint – includes Cambridge University’s position," they added.
After the Telegraph released its clarification, Gopal told BuzzFeed News that she felt the Telegraph had "deliberately" missed the point. She said she was also surprised that they didn't do more as the university had threatened to make a formal complaint.
"I think that the statement is very weak and refuses to take responsibility for the fact that it unnecessarily and dangerously racialises the situation," she said.
People on Twitter pointed out that the clarification did not include an apology. Gopal said: "There's no point in an apology if you're not going to acknowledge what it is that you have done".
And on Thursday the Telegraph published a follow-up article under the headline "Cambridge University 'decolonisation' row spreads to host of other courses".
Gopal had not read the article when BuzzFeed News had reached out to her and so could not comment. However, Rianna Croxford, a recent graduate in English literature from Trinity Hall Cambridge, said the new article describes the students as activists, which is incorrect.
"We are not activists," she told BuzzFeed News. "What we are suggesting is reasonable, pragmatic and beneficial to all students. At the bare minimum,
it means including an open-ended question on race on the 30 question exam paper
to accommodate wider interests."
Croxford was one of 150 signatories of an open letter calling for the English literature faculty to "decolonise its reading lists and incorporate postcolonial thought alongside its existing curriculum". She praised the university for showing a "united intellectual front from the students, faculties and leading academics".
Gopal also told BuzzFeed News that she was asked by the Telegraph journalist who had written the piece whether she would write a comment piece for them giving them the other side of the story.
She agreed to write the piece, but only if she could criticise the Telegraph's coverage of the situation.
"[The journalist] said 'no, I can't let you do that'", Gopal said. "This is the thing, they claim to be about free speech but she said she couldn't guarantee that my piece wouldn't be touched, and she wouldn't let me criticise the Telegraph."
Fiona Rutherford is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Fiona Rutherford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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